In a report published on Wildlife Research today, a group of environmental researchers have proposed that imposing a levy on domestic dogs, potentially through dog food sales, could secure long-term funding to support efficacious non-lethal management of dingoes, feral dogs and their hybrids impacts.
Authors Henry Brink, Brad V. Purcell, Mike Letnic, Hugh S. Webster, Robert G. Appleby and Neil R. Jordan, work for a range of employers, including the Arid Zone Research Centre, Alice Springs, NT, Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW, Griffith Univerisity, University of NSW, and more.
They say the average cost to owners for each companion dog is estimated at $2452 each year, and with 4.2 million dogs registered, that equates to about $10.3 billion spent on pet dogs annually.
Working out how much is spent on dingo and wild dog control is trickier.
"The direct economic costs of dingoes in Australia are difficult to quantify precisely, with there being various estimates in circulation," the report said.
"Estimates, including efforts to control dingo impacts, range from $175m per annum, to $250m nationally."
An Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre report estimated that dingoes, referred to as 'wild dogs' in the report, cost Australia at least $48.5m per year in livestock losses, disease spread and control efforts in 2009 while an Agforce report estimated the cost of wild dogs on the Qld grazing industry alone in 2008-09 at just over $67m. More recent estimates put the annual cost in Qd alone at no less than $100m.
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"The cost of the national dingo-barrier fence currently approaches at least $10m annually to maintain, but protects a sheep-farming industry on the other side that was reported to be worth $4.66b annually in 2008-09," the report said.
"More recently, the 2014 National Wild Dog Action Plan stated that 'estimates of the impacts on the Australian economy from production losses due to predation on livestock, disease transmission in livestock, and the costs associated with control conservatively range from $48m to $60m annually'.
"Clearly, there is great variation in the estimated costs associated with dingoes and their management in Australia, and great variability in the methods used to quantify costs, including here, with little certain, except that dingoes and dingo management have significant costs."
The researchers say landowners and state governments are spend at least $30m to limit the density and distribution of dingoes, feral dogs, and their hybrids, while $10b is spent on pet dogs.
"We suggest that a modest conservation levy on the sale of pet dogs or dog food, or both," the report said.
"A modest levy could generate $30m annually, funding the development of non-lethal dingo-management tools without compromising existing management practices while new tools are investigated."
The report estimates that a 1.2 per cent levy on the one-off animal sale or a 0.6pc levy on domestic dog food could raise $30m or more each year or at least match the estimated $27m spent on dingo management by state agencies.
"Such a levy would harness humanity's affinity for dogs to fund both management of the negative impacts of dingoes and their conservation, allowing wider enjoyment of the positive impacts that dingoes appear to be able to bestow," the report said.
The authors likened it to third-party insurance being mandatory even for careful drivers.
"Applying a levy to all dog owners may also be justified on the basis that at least some 'wild dogs' are, to some extent, domestic dogs gone wild," the report said.
"Perhaps more importantly, dog owners may already be inclined to support such a scheme.
"Research has shown that pet owners tend to view wild animals more positively, with pet ownership apparently correlated with subsequent concern about the welfare of wild animals."
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