Dear Auntie Thistledown

I’m in a little bit of a pickle. My dog, Porkchop, hunts pests (rabbits, possums, and feral geese) on our property.

In Home Block6 Minutes

I’m in a little bit of a pickle. My dog, Porkchop, hunts pests (rabbits, possums, and feral geese) on our property.

I thought this was all environmentally friendly good fun for my hound. However, I’ve recently looked on Facebook and the local community group is incensed by sightings of a “slinky white dog attacking defenceless geese” on our road.

The people there are encouraging each other to ring SPCA and animal control about it. I suspect it was Porkchop that they are referring to, although I’ll be damned if I know what slinky means in regard to him. Porkchop looks like he regularly eats a whole goose.

I haven’t broken any rules have I? Should I just tell them that it’s just me and Porkchop doing our bit for pest control?


Harried Hound Hunter

Triple H,

I heartily advise against any form of communication. Should someone try to bring you into the conversation, then say something that sounds deep such as “there’s no such thing as a defenceless goose”. Nod wisely and then coolly walk into the sunset chewing slowly on a toothpick.

Social media is a pantomime and, if you have to, you want to play the role of a sage bystander who says one witty line and then exits like a cool dude. Nobody is actually going to call the SPCA because they don’t really care. People who care ring the SPCA instead of posting on Facebook.

Does the SPCA even care? Well, the SPCA is not thrilled about the use of dogs for hunting. They advise against the practice on the grounds that it presents some risk of injury to the dog. They are also “opposed” to sticking pigs for similar reasons. They don’t love hunting when its sole purpose is for human entertainment. And they are “concerned” about the use of crossbows and lead ammunition. So, whatever you do about the pests, know that the SPCA is disappointed in you.

But, as long as you/Porkchop are not willfully or recklessly ill-treating the animals being hunted, then you are not breaking any laws. As someone who spent her childhood on ponyback watching Beagles shred hares, I have to imagine that the threshold for ill-treatment is pretty high. Much higher than Porkchop dispatching a goose.

I looked into cases where the SPCA have successfully prosecuted hunters with dogs. The behaviour described was well beyond the pale for even the most hardened hunter. In one case, a person posted videos of themselves restraining wild goats while encouraging their dogs to rip chunks off them for more than five minutes at a time. One of the goats was dragged (by a human) via its already broken leg during the process. That’s some effed up stuff from a particular kind of person who doesn’t come along very often.

It seems unlikely that you and Porkchop are that kind.

Here are three things you could do to lift your game, should you be interested.

First, keep it discreet. Stay away from the roadside or other boundaries to avoid upsetting the urban folk who don’t have farmwork to distract them from the pains of modern life. They are looking for something, anything, to froth about on social media. Let it be power cuts and lost mail, rather than you.

Secondly, quickly dispatch any pests Porkchop maims but doesn’t kill. Carrying a hunting knife is a decent idea. Refer to the first piece of advice and don’t stab geese near twitching curtains.

Thirdly, the Department of Conservation (DOC) states it is fine to hunt on designated DOC land with dogs (with or without an accompanying firearm). I imagine that they are even more okay with you remaining on your own property for the hunting. They do, however, suggest a native bird aversion programme if your dog is likely to encounter species such as kiwi or whio.

That’s all.


Aunty Thistledown

P.S. Animal control won’t care, Animal control never cares.

  • Cali Thistledown lives on a farm where all the gates are tied together with baling twine and broken dreams. While she rarely knows what day it is, she has a rolodex of experts to call on to get the info you need. She’s Kiwi agriculture’s agony aunt. Contact our editor if you have a question for her