Nine sheep, most of them pregnant, have been mauled to death by a dog over the past four nights in Tapora.
As well as losing stock worth thousands of dollars, farmers Rodney and Julie Cotton have been left with orphaned lambs from slaughtered ewes that had recently given birth at their Burma Road property.
“Our ewes are very vulnerable, we’re in the middle of lambing,” Julie says. “It’s the cruelty of it – dogs always go for the neck. It’s a painful, slow death, and the problem is, once they get a taste for it, they just don’t stop.”
She believes the culprit to be a stray or possibly a pet that isn’t secured at night.
“You tend to find most farmers are pretty respectful and will kennel their dogs,” she says. “But our rural communities are changing, we’re starting to get a lot of people on smaller landholdings that aren’t used to living in farming districts and who don’t have the same sort of knowledge and respect level in terms of being completely vigilant with their animals.”
Pet owners often don’t realise a dog’s capacity to maim and kill stock, Julie adds, citing an example of a couple who visited their farm stay cottage from the city some years ago.
“They had a tiny little poodle, but in the space of a weekend it killed two sheep – a poodle. It becomes a game and they’re on the chase. It’s kind of like a kid in a lolly shop.”
She has reported the maulings to Auckland Council’s animal control officers, but thinks it is highly unlikely that they, or even she and her husband, will be able to trace the killer dog, as it prowls their 607 hectare property at night. And she warns that if they do spot the dog, they will shoot it on sight.
“This dog would have to have blood on its fur – someone’s got to know that their dog has been eating something it shouldn’t,” she says. “This is people’s livelihoods – it’s a form of stealing, and we’re having to wear it.”