The use of dogs in pig hunting poses significant welfare risks to both the pig being hunted and the dogs involved.
Hunting pigs with dogs involves the dog flushing out the pig and chasing it until it is exhausted or cornered. When the pig has been ‘bailed up’ (the pig remains stationary facing the dog), the hunter moves in to either shoot the pig at close range with a firearm or kill it by stabbing in the heart with a knife (called ‘sticking’).
Pig dogs are usually large mixed-breed dogs. In NSW, lone hunters are permitted to use a maximum of three dogs, while groups of hunters can use up to five dogs. The methods used to train pig dogs can be inhumane, including setting dogs onto confined pigs that have been captured specifically for this purpose.
The regulations concerning hunting pigs with dogs vary between states and territories. For example, in Victoria, dogs may be used to ‘point or flush pigs’ but not to ‘attack or hold pigs’. However, in NSW, dogs are permitted to be used for ‘locating, holding or bailing pigs’. The holding (or lugging) of pigs is likely to result in higher levels of injury and distress to the pig and also cause more injuries to the dogs.
Regardless of whether dogs hold pigs or not, hunting of pigs with dogs is inherently cruel and unnecessary. Chased pigs will experience fear, panic and distress, and for those that are killed by sticking, death will be painful and prolonged (compared with those that are shot).
If the hunter plans to stick the pig rather than shoot it, dogs are used to hold (or ‘lug’) the pig by the ears while it is being stabbed. Sticking a pig to kill it is inhumane because it does not cause instantaneous death: it takes some time for the pig to lose consciousness from lack of oxygen to the brain following destruction of the heart. This method is also unnecessary – pig hunters should instead ensure they use an appropriate firearm to kill pigs humanely with an accurate head shot.
Although pig hunters vehemently defend their sport and would like the public to believe that their dogs do not maul or attack pigs and their dogs do not get injured (they claim that the protective chest plates and collars prevent this), there is plenty of video, photographic and direct evidence that reveals the true nature of pig hunting.
Pig hunting dogs often suffer from severe injuries and do not always receive prompt and adequate veterinary attention. Sometimes the wounds sustained by dogs during pig hunting are fatal. Veterinarians working in areas where pig hunters are active attest to the number of pig hunting dogs who are presented for treatment: this number is likely to represent only a proportion of dogs actually injured. A recent Australian study has identified other risks to dogs associated with pig hunting including heat exhaustion, poisoning, vehicular trauma, snake bite, and accidental shooting .
Some hunters admit to castrating male pigs or removing their bottom tusks (often done by bashing them with a rock) to make the top tusks grow bigger, or removing the ears and tails of pigs before releasing them, so they are ‘more of a challenge’ for their dogs to catch the next time. They also purposely do not take small pigs or sows thus ensuring ‘sport’ for future seasons. These actions are cruel and in direct opposition to effective pig control.
There is no substantiated evidence that recreational hunting of pigs with dogs is an effective method of managing feral pig populations . In general, pig hunters only kill a small percentage of the population, disperse pigs through regular disturbance and hunt on relatively small, easily accessible areas. In addition, many aspects of pig hunting involve significant cruelty and would breach animal welfare legislation.
The RSPCA opposes recreational hunting, or the act of stalking or pursuing an animal and then killing it for sport, due to the inherent and inevitable pain and suffering caused.