family & Pets

Joanita Wibowo

“We’re losing our penguins”: Stricter penalties demanded after a spate of dog attacks

“We’re losing our penguins”: Stricter penalties demanded after a spate of dog attacks

Calls have been renewed to increase the penalties for the owners of dogs which injured other animals in Tasmania after a spate of attacks on little penguins.

Last Thursday, an attack in Wynyard saw 42 little penguins being mauled to death, sparking community outrage and an investigation by the Parks and Wildlife Service.

According to the ABC, this is the seventh attack on little penguin colonies in the past year, with the death toll reaching more than 170.

“It just seems that we barely forget about one dog attack and then there’s another one that happens almost straight away,” said Birdlife Tasmania convenor Eric Woehler.

“The Tasmanian community clearly has had enough … [Yet] we don’t see any real response in terms of changes on the ground.”

Wynyard Mayor Robby Walsh said he was devastated by the deaths, and that he could not do much aside from pushing for increased surveillance.

“We need physical patrols from rangers and community groups,” Walsh said.

“Whilst we want to help, we can’t interfere. It falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

“It’s a serious thing and I think the Parks and Wildlife need to work in some sort of assistance.”

Walsh also ruled out the possibility of installing dog-proof fences. “Once they get a taste of them, they’ll be back... even an elephant fence wouldn’t stop them,” he said.

“We can’t fence off the coast. The responsibility lies with the owners.”

Penguin Rehab and Release president Kathy Grieveson said more solutions, such as clearer exclusionary zones and fines, should be considered to help protect penguin sanctuaries from dogs.

“Every time we go down to the colony there are dog tracks all through them,” Grieveson told The Advocate.  

“If it means fining owners then... that seems to be the only thing that people take notice of – if it hits the back pocket.”

Under the current Dog Control Act, the owner of a dog which attacks a person or an animal to cause minor injuries can be fined up to $650. Serious injuries may attract a fine of up to $2,600.

Woehler said the penalty should be harsher. “Let’s make it about $1,000 as a starting point. We’re talking about $40,000 for what we’ve just seen on the last weekend,” he said. “We’re losing our penguins in Tasmania.”

In June, the Tasmanian Government said it would review and strengthen the laws, with more rangers being deployed to the danger areas.