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THE MORNING LEAD

Dogs used in illegal hunting pose danger to the public, expert warns

A Noteworthy investigation exposes the underground world of dog-on-wildlife fighting and the dangers posed by the pets conditioned to attack.

BRED TO KILL – these are the horrifying images of dogs being used and abused in illegal hunting networks in Ireland.

The pets are being forced to fight protected species such as badgers, where the wild animals are mauled to death, and the dogs left with catastrophic injuries.

Noteworthy can reveal how some cruel owners are even cashing in on the brutal injuries – by selling on severely scarred pets for a higher price based on their ability to attack, kill and survive.

Others are being bred, with pups sold on the killing capability of their parents.

The revelations have caused revulsion from canine experts who warn that dogs being used in the cruel activity not only pose a risk to other animals, but also to the public.

“Allowing dogs to kill, and continuing to selectively breed dogs by how successful they are at killing will always continue to put the public at risk,” dog behaviourist Nanci Creedon told Noteworthy.

The warning comes after a series of dog attacks in Ireland including the fatal attack of Limerick woman Nicole Morey, killed by her restricted breed pets earlier this month.

WARNING: This article contains graphic images of animal cruelty

badger baiting 2 A dog is filmed tearing at a badger, a protected species in Ireland. Facebook Facebook

Noteworthy, the crowdfunded community-led investigative platform from The Journal, supports independent and impactful public interest journalism.

Badger baiting filmed for social media

Noteworthy uncovered dozens of distressing videos and images of dog-on-wildlife attacks recorded in different areas of the country.

One included a clip of seven dogs tearing apart a badger as a number of men can be heard jeering on.

In other footage, a lurcher type dog is filmed as it tries to shake the grip of a badger which has locked on to the canine’s face.

Separate images show bloodied and exhausted dogs posing next to the lifeless bodies of badgers. 

One mobile phone picture shows a young man hovering over a dog, and a dead badger cub.

Under the Wildlife Act, it is an offence to kill, injure or capture the protected species with offenders facing hefty fines and even prison.

Other videos in which dogs appear to have sustained serious injuries include one which shows a small terrier dog goaded into the cage of a captured mink.

As the wild animal fights back, the dog howls in pain as it continues the attack.

The distressing two-minute footage, filmed in the Co Donegal area earlier this year, ends after the dog manages to pull the mink from the enclosure and shake it to death.

baiting3 An image posted to one Irish hunting social media group showing a young person holding up a dead badger after a dog attack. They have face disguised their face with an emoji. Facebook Facebook

Wounds to mouth, face and limbs

Other images uncovered by Noteworthy show dogs with serious injuries sustained in fox hunting.

Like mink, hunting foxes is legal in Ireland and neither are a protected species, with the mink first introduced into the country in the 1950s for the purposes of fur farming.

Supporters cite the kills as a form of pest control. 

The fight between dog and fox is often brutal, with dogs suffering serious facial injuries as a result.

These wounds, which include serious tears to the mouth, ears and limbs, are often snapped by owners and posted to secret pro-hunting social media groups with boasts about the kill.

An injury from a badger is seen as one of the most savage, and images of bloodied dogs are met with praise from other illegal hunters.

Dogs that are unable to fight off a badger or fox, are usually put up for quick sale in the “chat” facility of the group, regularly used to upload images of illegal activity.

One man from the west of the country said he wanted rid of his rottweiler dog as “it wasn’t wicked enough” in hunting.

Another individual was giving away his terrier type dog because it was “green”, a term used in the hunting world for a dog that is incapable of killing wildlife.

image5 A dog filmed in the grip of a fox bite as the wild animal fights for its life. Facebook Facebook

Hunt-to-kill dogs pose public danger

After viewing some of the footage uncovered by Noteworthy, Creedon – one of Ireland’s leading dog behaviourists – said those involved in the “feral” activity were putting dogs, animals and people at risk.

“When a dog is forced into an aggressive situation where another animal is likely to cause the dog damage, the dog will quickly learn that the best way to survive is to fight back, or next time bite first, and continue to bite and shake until the other animal dies,” she said.

“This information is critical for the dog’s survival, so this information is stored in the amygdala of the brain – responsible for keeping the dog alive.

“Information here is very hard to re-learn. Dogs that have been put in fighting situations may then be quicker to bite, and continue to bite and shake if put in threatening situations in the future.”

Referring to the tragic case of four-month-old Waterford baby Mia O’Connell, killed by a dog in 2021, Creedon said the risks posed by dogs to humans increase when it is involved in such hunt-to-kill activity.

“We horrendously lost baby Mia in Waterford after she was attacked by a dachshund/terrier mix who was originally bred for hunting. 

“The sound of a newborn baby’s cry can sound extremely prey-like to all dogs, and when looking at dogs who are originally bred to kill prey, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise why a newborn baby triggers predatory responses in dogs.”

Speaking about those involved in the activities uncovered by Noteworthy, Creedon added:  “Putting a dog in a situation like this is absolute animal abuse by the definition of the law by causing unnecessary suffering and should see heavy punishment.”

image3 One video posted on social media shows a man opening the cage of a captured mink before a dog enters and attacks. As the animals fight, both are heard yelping in pain. Facebook Facebook

Hunting group condemns images

We also approached Ireland’s hunting, shooting and conservation body to comment on the distressing images.

In a statement, the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) described the illegal hunting shown as “reprehensible”.

“We would ask that as you are investigating any such alleged Illegal activity to ensure that you draw a clear line of distinction between what is a legal legitimate activity and those that are illegal,” a spokesperson said.

NAGRC said the “legal control of foxes/ mink and other generalist predators” is used to protect animals such as sheep during lambing season, as well as vulnerable ground nesting birds like duck, curlew, snipe and pheasant.

“Proper balanced predator control is key to managing predation and must be carried out within the confines of the law and follow best practice,” they added.

“NARGC has guidance and provides training and advises on how best to undertake this key activity.”

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), responsible for enforcement of wildlife legislation, said any “associated activity” with the disturbance or capture of protected mammals and persecution is “strictly illegal”.

A spokesperson told Noteworthy that it regards badger baiting “as a cruelty to both the badger and the dog”.

“The practice of ‘badger baiting’ is a harmful and serious offence, where the animals, are dug out of their setts and captured by people to be used to fight with dogs.”

They added: “Any associated activity with the disturbance or capture of protected mammals and persecution in such activities such as badger baiting is strictly illegal.

“Offenders on summary conviction are liable to a Class A fine (€5000) under Section 74 of the Wildlife Act.”

The NPWS added that animal welfare is a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

 

image4 Image taken from a video posted on an Irish pro-hunting social media group showing 6 dogs tearing a badger apart. A number of men can be heard goading the dogs on. Facebook Facebook

Surge in dog bite hospital admissions

In December, it was revealed how dog bites had soared by more than 50% in a decade.

Of the 3,158 patients receiving treatment between 2012 and 2021, over 1,200 were children bitten by dogs.

The research, carried out by the Department of Agriculture, University of Limerick and National Health Intelligence Unit, found that over 80% of those requiring hospital treatment were emergency admissions.

The figures were released just weeks after Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys announced measures aimed at tightening dog control laws following a spate of dog attacks.

These include the doubling of on-the-spot fines and giving dog wardens more power to issue multiple fines at once if they encounter an owner who potentially breaches a number of regulations in the Control of Dogs Act 1986.

However, the Government has faced calls to bring in more measures, including a ban on certain breeds including the XL Bully, following more attacks this year.

Earlier this month, 23-year old Nicole Morey was killed following a dog attack at her Limerick home just hours after celebrating her birthday.

She had been mauled by at least one dog on the restricted breeding list.

 

Is inaction on wildlife crime further threatening vulnerable species?

By Patricia Devlin of Noteworthy

Over the past number of months, Noteworthy has investigated wildlife crime as part of our WILD NOT FREE series. More articles will be out next month.  

Noteworthy is the crowdfunded investigative journalism platform from The Journal. This project was proposed and funded by our readers alongside significant support from our investigative fundPlease consider contributing here:

What’s next? We want to investigate the illegal and unregulated exotic animal trade. Help fund this work >>