Shepparton commuter upset after seeing dogs being abused

By Daneka Hill

A Shepparton commuter has spoken up after observing incidents of animal abuse two mornings in a row.

The commuter, who wished to remain anonymous because of her prominence in the community, said the incidents shocked her.

The first occurred on Wednesday, June 22 at the intersection of Balaclava Rd and Wyndham St.

Beside the road the commuter saw a man hit a light-coloured fox terrier-type puppy with his hand.

“I honked my horn at him because it is quite confronting to see, it was quite aggressive,” she said.

“I nearly did a U-turn and confronted him in person, but I couldn’t get across the road.”

The second incident happened the next morning where Wyndham St crosses the Broken River.

On the bridge footpath a different man was seen shouting at and hitting a large, black dog with grey whiskers “like it was quite old” the commuter said.

“I saw it twice in two days. Two random blokes with two different types of dogs in two different spots in Shepparton.

“It is so disturbing to see. I’ve never seen it before.”

The commuter believed the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic had contributed to the incidents.

RSPCA Victoria saw incidents of intentional acts of cruelty increase by 16 per cent when comparing the March to May period this year with March to May in 2019.

In June, RSPCA Victoria said the increase was possibly caused by lockdown-driven stress and by the recent rise in domestic and family violence.

RSPCA Victoria’s head of inspectorate Terry Ness said the links between animal abuse and domestic abuse were complex.

“However, numerous studies have confirmed that in households experiencing domestic violence and abuse, where companion animals are present, there is also a high probability of animal abuse,” Mr Ness said.

DogTech Goulburn Valley owner Averil Coe condemned such actions.

“I think it is very sad, but it doesn’t surprise me — everybody is under enormous stress and pressure at the moment and it’s not just domestic violence which goes up,” Ms Coe said.

When asked if people were reaching out for dog training and obedience lessons post-lockdown, Ms Coe said they’d seen a “big increase” in Shepparton.

“People have been very eager for classes, there has been a big up-tick in interest.

“I would like to think that people would reach out for help in these situations, because there are some very impressive dog trainers in Shepparton.

“If we want this behaviour to change, we need them to be aware there are other ways.”

Shepparton Vets practice manager Katrina Kim-Worley said there had been no observable increase in animal abuse locally, but admitted the abuse described by the commuter flew under the radar of vet clinics.

“The abuse cases we get are more long-term neglect,” Ms Kim-Worley said.

“I’d also like to point out that people can observe things and assess the situation incorrectly — sometimes a dog lunges at an old lady and an owner has to do their best to control the situation by using force.

“You just don’t have the full perspective unless you’ve seen the whole incident.”

Shepparton Animal Rescue said anyone who witnesses animal abuse should report the incident.

It is an offence to wound, abuse, beat or torment an animal and anyone found guilty can face fines up to $41,305 and 12 months’ imprisonment.

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