Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Dingo in need of help: Extract from the future biography of Berenice Walters

In 1976 the dingo had even less rights than today. The opinion of the lawmakers was it should not exist and if it did it should be exterminated. In late 1976 the case of a little dog picked up as a stray was brought to her attention. The following is an extract from Berenice Walters’ biography I am currently writing. ***

It is strange but true a stray dog can be hanging around the local Post Office, ignored by all; or it could, be happily playing with the school children at the local school. As a stray it is rightly picked up by the dog catcher. But it is just a lost dog. Label that friendly, lost animal a “Dingo" and it immediately assumes the proportions of a rabid wolf to the general public. 

Berenice received a call about a dog picked up in the Fairfield area. The dog-catcher had labelled it a Dingo. The next morning, she received an urgent call to saying an order had come from the Chief Secretary's Office to stop the release of the dog. It was to be destroyed without further question because it was a noxious animal.

At the time there was no way to prove 100% a dog resembling a Dingo was truly a Dingo. The same animal in black and tan resembling a Kelpie was labelled a Kelpie.

Berenice was filled with sadness to see the tiny, yellow, male dog. He was just a dog along with the dozens of other dogs penned; a nice clean, friendly fellow. He could just as easily been described as a cross Basenji. Why could he not have been treated the same as his kennel mates. He was just a dog, possibly a child’s much-loved pet. 

She considered the whole affair nothing less than a witch hunt. Pushing aside her concern about embarrassment she might cause Fairfield Council or the Chief Secretary's Department by showing interest in the dog, she saw it as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the unfairness of the law.

If there was any hint a dog may have Dingo blood it had no rights and was to be put down immediately. The Council, and the Chief Secretary's Department did the only thing they could as the law stood. She thought it wry there were other dogs with Dingo blood in their veins, but they were not Dingo in colour and they were considered perfectly respectable. They were Australian Cattle Dogs.

The dog should have been treated like any other lost dog. If his owner claimed him then he should have the right to be released. No way should he be given special treatment and no way should he be released to a wildlife park. He was unsound and a poor sample whatever his breed. She hoped if he was claimed he would be dealt with as an unclaimed stray, not as a noxious animal.

The case gave her an opportunity to show the general public how the law had been twisted to annihilate a part of our National Heritage. It was another native animal condemned because of the whim of a minority of the population with no consideration for the future. Again, archaic laws were shown to be unjust. Laws brought about by superstitions and fears from the Middle Ages; fears of the unknown, the wild dog. 

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