In Mission Beach, neighborhood dogs allowed to roam the streets by their owners threaten the agile wallaby population every day. Some dog owners ignore laws forbidding this practice and continue to expose native wildlife, as well as their own animals, to danger.
The loose dogs chase and scare all native wildlife, especially the mobs of agile wallabies in this area. As I mentioned in my last post, wallabies can die from myopathy brought on in highly stressful situations. In even worse scenarios, the dogs capture the animals and thrash them around. Sometimes they corner a wallaby in a garden or against a fenced in area before going in for the kill.
Because of the tremendous lack of owner responsibility, these dogs can become violent. People have seen them chasing after cars and children on bicycles. Some may say that the dogs are simply doing what is in their nature. However, when you become a dog owner (or take on the care of any domestic pet for that matter) you must train it to abide by rules to maintain the safety of your friends and neighbors. Who is to say that a dog who attacks a wallaby (for fun) will not attack a child (for fun) in the same way?
The shelter often receives calls from the community reporting a dog chasing and/or attacking a wallaby. Usually, the dog is long gone by the time we arrive, but the wallaby left freaked out of its mind. Like every incoming animal, Tanya examines it for injuries and then decides how to treat it.
Sometimes, like in this case, the wallaby has minor injuries and just needs a bit of time to recuperate before being released back into the wild. Other times the injuries are too severe and the wallaby is taken to the vet and euthanized.
In addition to injuries sustained by the dog attack, wallabies can run into fences or walls in their desperate attempt to escape. Depending on their surroundings, the wallaby could get caught up in construction equipment, gardening implements and other dangerous things as they try to flee. These obstacles can cause cuts and broken bones. The likelihood that the panicked wallaby will be hit by a car also increases.
If an agile wallaby lives long enough, it will probably endure more than one dog attack. This wallaby appears to have old bite wounds on its feet and legs as well as the fresh marks from today’s attack.
Wallabies are not the only animals in danger when dogs roam freely in the streets. The dogs themselves are at risk of being struck by a car when they are loose. They may dash into traffic on the road in their attempt to capture a wallaby. They may even seek out other dogs and engage them in fights for territory. Worse, they may for packs that patrol the streets as if they own them.
I am thoroughly confounded that dog owners allow their pets to wander around unsupervised, but it seems like an acceptable practice here. According to the Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s Animal Management website, it “aims to help people resolve animal management issues and has a duty to maintain a safe environment for everyone in the community and to ensure animals do not create health or safety problems.” But it seems like they’ll have their hands full if residents continue to allow their animals to run loose in the streets.
Members of the public can file a complaint if they see loose dogs in their neighborhood. By calling 1300 763 903, you can give a detailed statement and a law enforcement officer will investigate the incident. They will also keep you informed of the outcome of their investigation. This is a good way to keep your community safe.
After examining the injured wallaby, Tanya sprays her with tick and lice medicine and gives her pain killers to help numb the injuries. It will dull the pain and hopefully give the wallaby a bit of a reprieve and calm her down.
Throughout the examination, Tanya talks Brittany and I through the procedure. Like myself, Brittany is an animal lover. She often visits the shelter to help us out. She, and many others like her, are the future of nature conservation and animal rehabilitation. It’s amazing to see her interest and knowledge grow each time she volunteers at the shelter.
Besides learning about the injured animals, Brittany helps us during feedings. She’s already a pro at it but is eager to learn and do more. She and her dad have also rescued their fair share of injured animals and brought them into the shelter for care.
Many of the animals that come to us as a result of dog attacks could be saved if people would just keep their dogs in their yards. However, many homes do not have fences or walls surrounding their properties. I haven’t worked out the reasoning behind this yet – whether it is purely an aesthetic choice or maybe the cost is too high – but it’s common to see no physical boundaries around one’s property here.
However, there are other options available to people other than putting up fences. They can make a large dog run with a line along the back or side of their properties to give their animal enough room to roam but not enough to cause serious harm to others.
It’s hard to explain the attitude that people have toward domesticated animals and wildlife here in Mission Beach. It is ever-changing and, of course, differs from person to person. I suppose some people view dogs as dispensable property and wallabies as pests. Others are more conscientious pet owners and animal lovers in general. Despite this divide, I think there is room for both groups to compromise for the betterment and safety of the community.