Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Dingo Society Formed

Berenice felt Dingoes had many of the merits we attribute to our domestic dog companions and from the mid-1970s began an intensive campaign to debunk accepted dogma that Dingoes were savage, untrainable, contemptible and worthless.  

In this period, she trained several Dingoes in obedience (including off-lead work), eliciting from them more reliability than most get from domestic dog breeds. Two Dingoes topped their obedience classes.

It became obvious the efforts of one person alone would always be limited but at this stage, the authorities were poised to prosecute Berenice and forcibly remove her Dingoes. 

In July 1976 Premier Neville Wran stated he was horrified at the indiscriminate use of 1080 poison and contamination of wilderness areas saying, "this is a horrible way to die". He immediately, called for a Dingo Seminar to be held with the purpose of questioning its use and the practice of aerial baiting for predator control.

The announcement of the 'Dingo Seminar', was the impetus she needed to fulfil her dream.

Her goal was to form a group to continue and expand the work she had already started. As much as she and her family had struggled over the years, her commitment was such she mortgaged her property to finance the venture.

At 9 am the morning after the announcement she was on her solicitor’s door-step with news of her decision to form a Society.

No war was better organised, or more carefully planned, than her fight to improve the status of the Dingo. As in every war there are enemies, but there are usually supporters, too. Theirs was a totally hostile environment. Every person they came in contact with had to be won over, or at least put on neutral ground. One false move and the authorities had the power to enter her property, her very home, and destroy any animal they considered noxious. The local Moss Vale Pastures Board, in not prosecuting them, were put in an unenviable position. They knew they were under scrutiny always and the pressures at times were overwhelming.

It had to be a quiet revolution.

The same day, 15 July, she wrote inviting her supporters to become inaugural directors of the Foundation. Her invitees came from a cross section of the community.

Her letter outlined her vision and stressed the importance of the Board of Trustees be comprised of sincere and open-minded people with the aim of a better understanding of a much-maligned breed.

Her focus was based on her belief the Dingo would prove trainable and its unique talents could be developed for the betterment of society. The accent was very much on conditioning and training but an improved image for the Dingo was paramount.

The aim of the Foundation was if dingoes proved trainable they would graduate to tracking, bomb detection, drug detection and security work and, in Australia, could prove more suitable than European breeds.

The Foundation's headquarters would be at the Walters Kennels, “Wooleston” in Bargo.

The name she proposed for the Foundation was the Australian Native Dog Training Foundation of NSW.

Her recommended aims for the society were:

  • To promote the conservation of the Australian Native Dog in the wild.
  • To seek the granting of special licence to the Foundation for the training of the Australian Native Dog by selected individuals, the dogs to remain the property of the Foundation.

Their policies included protection of the Australian Native Dog throughout Australia; its removal from the list of vermin; to have all aerial baiting and indiscriminate trapping, shooting and baiting stopped; and to promote the tightening of laws governing the keeping of ANY dog with far heavier penalties for persons allowing their dogs to be uncontrolled at any time.

The word ‘training’ indicated their belief the dingo is not a true wild dog but the earliest feral dog. This was belief was based on Berenice’s theory the dingo was a domesticated dog of the aboriginal people, only becoming ‘wild’ due to white man’s ongoing campaigns against them. The original Constitution was drawn up by Berenice and Mr Caldwell.

On 13th November 1976 the inaugural meeting of the Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW was held at “Wooleston Kennels” and chaired by the first Society President Mr R Fahy.

Sweltering heat and a swarm of flies did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of the 21 dingo supporters who gathered at the historic meeting in Berenice’s home. Nor did the possibility of Dingo Destruction Board officers entering the property to seize and destroy the 40 dingoes present who had been boarded out to “foster owners”.

In her address Berenice expressed her hope she had invited a thinking group of people who would question and keep questioning any relevant data and no wild claims, based on past theories, would be made.

The Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW Limited (ANDTS) (later renamed Australian Native Dog Conservation Society Limited), was born.

In December both Mr Wran and Senator Tony Mulvihill agreed to be the Society’s co-patrons. These gentlemen had accepted the positions at a time when “Dingo” was most decidedly ‘a dirty word’.

Berenice’s property became the home of the “Merigal Dingo Education centre” later renamed Dingo Sanctuary.

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