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New WA Laws Allow Killing Dingoes With Explosives, Green Groups Claim

Environmental groups claim new laws allow dingoes to be killed using explosives, with calls for the public to take action against "abhorrent" changes to  biodiversity legislation in Western Australia.

The Biodiversity Conservation (Exemptions) Order 2018, tabled in the Western Australia state parliament on February 12, includes a series of exempted activities involving the management of dingoes in WA under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

One clause states that: "the activity of using a prohibited device or prohibited method in the taking or disturbance of a dingo is exempt from section 156(1) of the Act".

The prohibited devices and methods are listed in separate document, available online, that includes a crossbow or bow and arrow, a snare "likely to throttle, or cause suffering", and non-padded jawed leg traps.

Prohibited methods, which the clause in question appears to give exemption from in the case of dingo management, include "using, laying or spreading any explosive, poisonous, noxious or narcotising substance".

Image: AAP

The subsidiary clauses have been interpreted by various environmental groups to mean people in Western Australia are exempt from a $50,000 fine for killing, processing or exporting dingoes without permit or approval.

Humane Society International (HSI) described the exemptions as "indefensibly cruel".

"According to the WA government, methods of cruelty that would otherwise result in $50,000 fines... are perfectly legal when dingoes are the target," Head of Programs Evan Quartermain said.

"They need to tear these regulations up and go back to the drawing board."

The state's Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions told 10 daily the claims are inaccurate.

"The use of poisons and explosives is strictly controlled by other legislation and these methods cannot be used without the appropriate licences or authorities," a department spokesperson said in a statement.

According to the department, the provision that provides an offence for cruelty under a separate act -- the Animal Welfare Act 2002 -- still applies.

"Dingoes can be taken without a permit across the state, however dingoes cannot be disturbed or taken inhumanely," it said.

But despite this, the environmental groups still fear the laws may make it technically legal to blow up a dingo with explosives.

Under the act, dingoes are classified as the native species Canis familiaris dingo.

But this was the result of a public campaign  last September involving HSI and the WA Dingo Association, after WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson declared the dingo would lose its fauna status on January 1.

Dingo
Image: AAP.

"Having dingoes recognised as a native species in Western Australia was an important step for their conservation and welfare to be considered in law," Quartermain said.

"It's extremely disappointing that the Government has followed such a positive move up by elevating persecution and allowing extreme cruelty.”

Vice President of the WA Dingo Association Leigh Mullan said he was only made aware of the amendments by Greens MP Robin Chapple, who moved to disallow them on March 12.

"I'm disgusted that the Minister would write this into legislation after such an uproar from the public and the scientific community about removing the dingo's fauna status," he told 10 daily.

"It's abhorrent."

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Mullan claimed while dingoes are now classified as fauna under the Act, the native species should have the same protections as every other fauna it protects.

"If someone did this to a dog in a backyard, they would be thrown in jail and prosecuted. if it's a dingo in the wild, there seems to be no care for an iconic animals," he said.

The Dingo Association and HSI are now calling on the public's support to move MP Chapple's motion of disallowance through Parliament.

"That way, amendments can be made to protect all fauna, including dingoes, as was the intention of the act, whilst allowing the control of dingoes in pastoral areas where they're having a negative impact on livestock," Mullan said.

Featured image: AAP

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au