Country life is complicated when it comes to animals. Issues of animal welfare abound and not just the obvious ones around livestock for meat or other animal products (milk, eggs etc). Domestic animal welfare is also really important, as is native animal welfare.
I’ve just watched the neighbour’s dog chase a cow that was in the back paddock of their place; a place I’ve seen cows in before. The cow panicked and ran through a fence, I don’t know what the cow’s injuries might be but the fence had barbed wire, though they don’t say ‘as tough as cow hide’ for nothing. The dog that chased it is aggressive and territorial. It’s a real worry for us regarding our chickens, dogs, cats and us, as the aggression doesn’t abate and when we try to walk out of our front gate (pop to the shop, go for a bike ride, walk our dogs on leads) we are often confronted by it barking and snarling and baring its teeth.
So the welfare issue for this dog is that it is poorly trained, aggressive and territorial, no impulse control at all and liable to end up at the end of some farmers’ gun (not mine, I don’t own any firearms, nor am I a farmer). A well trained dog, with clear boundaries (metaphysical and physical), responsiveness to command and owners that behave responsibly are required no matter where you live. This dog is a danger to all the other animals and humans around it because the people it lives with have not bothered to train and condition it.
If it wasn’t so aggressive I’d love to pat it, become a friend It looks like it’s part ridgeback, a breed of which I’m familiar. Usually they’re big softies but this one is scary. I know everyone loves their dogs and thinks they are great, it’s the blindness delivered by engaging with dogs as family. I’m sure its family think it’s charming but I can tell you now, I worry about my safety when it is near me, which is too often for comfort these days.
I spoke about native animals too. Cats are some of the biggest predators around. Our cats are inside at night and now (given their age) inside mostly during the day. The tortoiseshell has never caught anything in her life and the tuxedo cat, while once a good hunter for rabbits and mice, has stopped all that malarkey now.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have cats around though. At least two big cats think that our land is their personal hunting area and we often hear them at night. We also hear possums, koalas, boobooks and barking owls. Heavens knows what else is out there (probably not much now) but this area was renowned for antechinus and quoll, to name a couple of less common native animals in this area. I’m not sure what the figures are for hunting perimeters for cats, I know it’s bloody huge sometimes though as is the number of small animals a cat can kill in one night.
Not all damage is done by feral cats. Domestic cats that aren’t kept in at night can and do have similar hunting instincts. It’s true that hunting does occur during the day but night time hunting is much more damaging to the Australian small marsupial populations which are mostly nocturnal.
Health issues for cats out at night are also a concern. Even in the country there are untreatable cat illnesses that are passed on by fighting, and fighting for hunting territory abounds. I think I’ve been a little ranty tonight. Look after your animals people. One more ranty thing. Get your domestic animals de-sexed – it’s better for them, it’s better for all the animals currently in shelters (waiting for new homes or dying from lack of them) and it’s better for the planet.