Ace the kelpie retired from working life when he turned nine.
Ace the kelpie retired from working life when he turned nine. Toni Somes

Barking mad over regos

DOG registrations seem to be driving everyone barking mad, including Mayor Ron Bellingham and council officers.

After copping considerable criticism for implementing the State Government's legislation to register all non-working rural dogs and all cats, Cr Bellingham yesterday pleaded for a commonsense approach.

A scathing letter, particularly critical of the fact retired working dogs now need to be registered was printed in yesterday's general meeting agenda.

"No-one is particularly happy with what's going on out there," Cr Bellingham said.

He said there was good reason for registering town dogs and, to some extent, cats, but he saw no practical reason for registering country dogs and cats.

"The State Government makes the bullets and actually fires them, but we get the blame," he said.

"Bluntly I've had just about enough of it."

Ratepayers will have just about enough of it too, when they learn the cost to council of registering de-sexed animals far outweighs the fee paid by the owner.

Planning director Ken Harris said because of pressure from groups like RSPCA, council had to lower the cost of registering de-sexed animals to promote responsible pet ownership.

He said the $25 fee would barely cover the cost of sending a receipt to the owners, never mind the staff time involved in taking details of fur colour, address and microchips.

"Ratepayers are picking up the cost," he said.

While "genuine" working dogs remain exempt from registration costs, under new State Government regulations their older counterparts have not been so lucky.

Council is currently encouraging all primary producers to list - at no cost - all working dogs and register all non-working or retired dogs.

Mr Harris said listing working dogs was simply an effective method of matching owners and animals if the dogs went astray.

But he said all other dogs must be registered under new regulations in the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008.

"There has been some confusion over what defines a working dog, and the simple answer is that it's basically a dog employed by a primary producer, as defined under the Act," Mr Harris said.

"So, a business guard dog, a pig dog, or a dog that is living on a farm and used for ratting, for example, do not meet the definition of a working dog under the Act."

The Act defines a working dog as: usually kept or proposed to be kept on rural land; by an owner who is a primary producer or a person engaged or employed as a primary producer; and where the dog is kept primarily for the purpose of droving, protecting, tending or working stock; or is being trained to do so.

For working dog enthusiast Jack Dwan the entire concept, especially the new rules enforcing the registration of retired working dogs, was "crazy".

"Once I would give away my older dogs when they got a bit past heavy work and I'd pension them off to a dairy farm or somewhere that wasn't as taxing," he explained.

"They still had a bit of work left in them, but who is going to want to take them now if it comes with a council registration cost?

"Rural people are doing it tough as it is: they really don't need this.

"And what is the point?"

A council spokeswoman said the move was instigated by State Government changes and brought the former Warwick Shire Council area in line with Stanthorpe where both rural and urban dogs had had to be registered prior to amalgamation.

Cr Bellingham has asked the council to look more closely at the legislation to see if there was any latitude in it for those in rural areas.

For details on listing your working dog, or registering your non-working or retired working dog, contact council on 4661 0300 or 4681 5500, or visit www.southerndowns.qld.gov.au.



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