Welfare Concerns

The welfare problems for hunting dogs as well as the welfare problems for their prey and the misery which they cause the victims was highlighted in a recent court case.

Just some of the problems associated with hunting with dogs:-

The Hunting Dogs

  • Veterinary care of dogs.
  • How will dogs that can no longer hunt be destroyed?
  • Housing Facilities
  • Indiscriminate breeding for the ultimate winner
  • Dogs injured by the prey.
  • Dogs injured during the chase.
  • Treatment and care of diseased dogs.
  • Assurance that nutritional needs of dogs are met.
  • Unacceptable methods of encouraging dogs to hunt (dogs are known to be starved prior to a hunt).

The Hunted Prey

  • Injuries to non-target prey and prey that escapes.
  • The spread of diseases (e.g. rabies).
  • Method of the kill.
  • Stress myopathy (a major killer of wildlife particularly in captivity) with regard to non-target species and target species that are not captured.
  • Season that hunters will be permitted to hunt.
  • Not only are the dogs known to be unselective in the species, but also in gender and age of the prey, thus affecting the gene pool of the natural selection process.
  • Dogs are not efficient killers – dogs rip at their victims and pull pieces out of them while they are still alive. (A farmer witnessed an Oribi doe and her two twins ‘being torn to shreds by a pack of hunting dogs’. (KZN University)
Hunting Dogs
Hunting Dogs
Hunting Dogs
Hunting Dogs

“Sian Hall, an academic who has been studying the traditional hunting dog over the past 11 years, has found that a large percentage of dogs used for hunting purposes are in an exceptionally bad condition being undernourished, mange-ridden, tick infested, worm infested and generally not cared for.”
NSPCA Report, February 2002

And perhaps we also need to ask why those people in the know about these and similar situations do not report animal abuse to the nearest SPCA or even the NSPCA.

Fair Game?

Not only do these “professional” hunters have the advantage of telescopic sights and high powered rifles, but the prey animals (regardless of whether this has been permitted by the Department of Nature Conservation) are also run down by a pack of animals which can collectively outpace, outrun and trap them.

Let’s become subjective rather than objective for a few minutes and pause to reflect (we know for a fact that animals feel emotions such as fear and terror): imagine if you will the terror that the prey animal feels as it is hunted by a pack of baying dogs and is cornered, possibly too exhausted to run any further, perhaps sensing death with no chance of escape, perhaps resigning itself to its fate. Then being ripped to pieces with chunks pulled out of your body while you’re still alive. Imagine if you will, that was you.

Is this a fair hunt where the prey animal has a really good chance of escape and all the skills and efforts of the hunter are put to the test? We certainly don’t think so.

Traditional Hunting

Hunting with dogs today should not in any way be confused with traditional dog hunting the latter having fallen by the way in its original form, the traditional hunting dog being known by Zulus as isiqua. Back then, hunting was controlled to ensure sustainability, for example:

  • A hunter or tribe member had to get the permission of the traditional leader and ancestors before a hunt was permitted.
  • Hunting during the summer months was only permitted for special circumstances such as when skins were required for pregnant women.
  • Some areas were reserved for the King only, whilst the products of certain species, such as elephant and ivory, or feline skins, first had to be sanctioned by the King.

“To treat animals with respect is not merely a 20th and 21st century western (post-industrial) mental construct. The much celebrated Eliah Shembe, the founding prophet of the largest African church movement in KwaZulu Natal also advocated that dogs and other animals be treated well. For instance, Eliah Shembe imposed penalties upon followers who were cruel or callous to domesticated animals.” (Papini 2002)

“John Myaka who grew up in the traditional hunting idiom, once went on a taxi* hunt, and has vowed never to do so again. He remains haunted by the cruel death of a lactating duiker on that occasion.” KZN University

*Taxi hunt is the term used to describe illegal hunters who get into taxis en masse with their dogs and find areas to hunt indiscriminately. Taxi hunters have been known to place bets of more than R60,000 on the outcome of a hunt. It is a corruption of traditional hunting.

Sports Hunting versus Traditional Hunting for the Pot

Traditional hunting for the pot is just that. A man (women were forbidden to hunt) with two or three dogs would go out and hunt what he needed for food, not for the adrenaline rush in a killing. When the dogs brought down the prey he would club it to death so that suffering was reduced albeit not eliminated.

By contrast, sports hunting with dogs takes place under the guise of tourism and dealing with problem animals. Whether it takes place legally or illegally is irrelevant; the prey animal is caused enormous stress and usually injured by the dogs plus a large number of non-target species die as a result of the stress of being hunted and caught inadvertently.

Bio-diversity and South Africa

In an interview with the Chairperson of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Dr John Ledger in 1998, he claimed that their standpoint was that hunting with dogs poses the greatest threat to the biodiversity of Africa.

In fact, some traditional healers claim that hunting with dogs will deplete species such as the reedbuck and eland, important in traditional religion. As one healer said, “Our ancestors will become poorer”. (Sangoma Elliot Ndlovu)

An article in the South African Journal of Science, in August 1996. Quoted figures which showed that over a period of a few years, the hunt club of the Orange Free State, known as Oranjejag had killed a total of 87,570 animals, of which 70% (60,340) were non-target species. (NSPCA Report, February 2002)

The documented proof shows that the Blue Crane and crowned crane species have declined by 90% over the past ten years, due to the indiscriminate use of dogs. (KZN University) (From NSPCA Report, February 2002)

Consequences for the dogs

Dogs that are used to poach on farms, conservancies and game reserves find themselves caught between a battle of two warring factions: the poachers or hunters on the one hand, and the farmers and conservators on the other.

Dogs cannot be blamed for what they do. They are trained to perform this function and their loyalty lies with their masters. They do not know about restricted areas or laws concerning the protection of game, nor are they aware that they are trespassing.

However, they are the ones that must pay the highest price.

It is well worth noting that there are times when dogs have been introduced onto farmlands by their owner-hunters and at a later stage, being underfed, will go back to that farm, under the impression that this is acceptable since they have already been taken hunting there by their owners, and hunt down domestic livestock, inflicting tremendous harm and pain, at a great cost to farmers.

The dogs do not know what they have done is wrong.

For further information on hunting dogs:

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