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Domestic dog attacks on sheep in the urban fringe areas of Perth, Western Australia

Jennens, Garth (2002) Domestic dog attacks on sheep in the urban fringe areas of Perth, Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In common with many cities, Perth, Western Australia has a problem with domestic dogs attacking livestock, such as sheep on its urban fringe areas. The current study used multiple sources to document 1479 attacks on livestock on 1105 properties by 1900 dogs across eight metropolitan local authorities over a three-year period. The hypothesis that dog attacks on sheep are poorly understood by the community and continue as a result of inaction by local authorities, dog owners and livestock owners, rather than being an unavoidable predator/prey interaction, was supported. The predatory behaviour of domestic dogs and the anti-predatory behaviour of sheep were observed to be similar to that of wild canids and ungulates respectively.

The reluctance of local authorities to prosecute offenders and enforce by-laws meant that there was little voluntary compliance by dog owners to control their dogs. It therefore, became necessary for livestock owners to protect their livestock; however, most failed to take effective preventive measures.

Wild canids predominantly attack the head and neck of prey animals, whereas in contrast, domestic dogs may attack any part of a sheep. Examination of injury sites, in conjunction with information collected from other investigative techniques, assisted with the identification of the breed, size and number of dogs responsible. To overcome difficulties in locating a dog not sighted attacking, tracker-dogs were trained to follow the attacker's scent back to its home. The majority of dogs (60%) lived within 200 metres of the livestock they attacked and used the same route to and from the property on subsequent attacks.

A single or pair of owned dogs from the same household, belonging to 14 breeds were primarily responsible for attacks. Poor management by dog owners on inadequately fenced smallholdings enabled these dogs to wander unnoticed from their properties. Although most dog owners accepted evidence of their dogs' involvement, few accepted blame and most were surprised that their "friendly" pet could attack livestock. Unless dogs were destroyed, relocated or contained by their owners they were likely to attack again.

It is concluded that dog attacks occur commonly in urban fringe areas; however, with appropriate management of dogs and livestock these can be minimised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Supervisor(s): Clark, William
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