Mothers on isolated properties in the Flinders shire are being warned of the risk of being attacked by wild dogs following an incident in the shire last week.
Katie Casey, 33, was about one kilometre from her house on a property an hour north of Hughenden, with her 10-month-old daughter Paizley in a pram, when her miniature fox terrier was set upon by six dogs.
A decision to take the family’s American bulldog, Milo, on the late afternoon walk, may have saved the vulnerable mother and baby, when he took off after the pack and split it up.
“I had music playing, and was checking on the dogs because they like to explore,” Katie said. “I wondered whose dogs were there, then it registered – they were dingoes.”
Some of the stalking pack attacked Cheeky, the fox terrier, which Katie tried to protect, along with her baby.
“I had to get past them to get back to the house so I ran at them, screaming,” she said.
By this stage her baby was also screaming so she took her shirt off to wave around as another distraction, as well as to act as a sling to scoop up the mauled foxy.
“I got the fright of my life,” Katie said, after having run back to the house, nearly tripping and not knowing if any wild dogs were still following her, in her haste to reach safety.
“I’m so glad I decided to take the big dog as well.”
Milo returned home that night, beaten up but in a much better state than Cheeky.
Katie immediately sounded the alarm with neighbours, who also walk with small children, and said they were planning to ask the shire for a trapper to start work.
It was a move endorsed by Flinders shire mayor, Jane McNamara, who said it was imperative to get on top of problem dogs as soon as possible.
“It sounds like a mum teaching older pups to hunt, especially at this time of year,” she said. “If they’ve already attacked a dog, I wouldn’t be surprised if they hang around.”
She said it was terrible to hear that a mother couldn’t walk a baby and she urged the people concerned to contact either herself or the shire office, to see where the dogger was and get him to the location as soon as possible.
The Flinders shire had two trappers until the end of June, when a grant program ended.
“If we can get more evidence of activity such as this, it could go towards getting another grant,” Cr McNamara said.
As well as employing one full-time trapper, the shire pays a $40 bounty for scalps, and is part of the statewide 1080 baiting aerial campaign.
“I think we’re doing all we can,” Cr McNamara said. “We’re encouraging more to participate in baiting.”
Attack points to increasing threat: AgForce
AgForce North president Russell Lethbridge said the wild dog attack was very disturbing and shone a spotlight on the increasing threat wild dogs pose to humans as well as livestock.
“Wild dogs are estimated to cost the agricultural industry more than $100 million a year, while also causing significant stress and anxiety as producers worry about protecting their livestock, and now their domestic pets and families as well,” he said.
“Two decades ago, it was extremely rare to encounter a wild dog in the region and now it is a common occurrence.
“This latest attack highlights how important it is for all landholders to work collaboratively and with local and state governments using coordinated control methods such as baiting, trapping and shooting so we can bring wild dog numbers down and keep communities safe.”
Katie said the property owners she and her husband Logan worked for were part of the baiting program.
She wondered if wild dogs had gotten to know there was no bait close to the houses, for there to be such a concentration there.
“The grass was long and thick – they could easily hide in there.”
She said she’d heard of men being stalked while out fencing but nothing like this.
It will be a while before she’s comfortable walking by herself again.
“How relaxing would it be to go for a walk with a gun,” she said. “I guess I will have to have all the dogs with me.”
The knowledge that wild dogs can attack when a human is three metres away was an ongoing concern.
“They’re just not scared of us anymore,” she said.
Katie has since reported that Cheeky is recovering well, following treatment at the local veterinary clinic.