Brendan Slattery still remembers the day he took aim and shot — with a pistol — a wild dog that had systemically picked off 123 of his lambs.
“It took me nearly five weeks to get him,” the grazier recalls.
“Every morning for five weeks I headed off at half past four up the paddock with the rifle and the pistol.
“[I’d] sit there in the scrub or whatever and believe me, the day I got him was probably the most satisfying day I’ve had.”
WARNING: graphic image below
Running sheep on Nardoo, a 160-hectare farm near Inglewood, close to the Queensland-New South Wales border, means the threat posed by predatory wild dogs, pigs, and foxes is constant.
But Mr Slattery and other graziers have been left angry and bewildered by a recent spate of refusals by the Queensland Police to renew Category H firearm licences.
The 2017 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) specifically precludes the use of Category H firearms for primary production purposes.
However, historically in Queensland, these types of licences have been issued for use on large properties to destroy sick and injured animals and prevent the animal’s prolonged suffering while the owner returned to the farmhouse to access a longarm (fired from the shoulder).
Now, after 18 years of lawfully operating his registered pistol on the farm, Mr Slattery has been ordered to hand it back.
“Old mate there in Brisbane said to me, ‘We’ve just got to get the guns off the streets’ and I said to him, ‘Well that might be right but this gun has never been off Nardoo, never been off the property.”
Primary producers failing to pass ‘genuine need’ test
There are almost 2,500 licensed concealable firearms in Queensland, issued on a ‘case-by-case’ basis after vigorous scrutiny and vetting by Queensland Police weapons licensing.
This includes handguns to be used for sports target shooting at an approved pistol club, or for occupational purposes including training, security, and rural uses.
Police Minister Mark Ryan declined to be interviewed but a spokesperson for his office explained he had no role in operational decisions.
In a statement, the Queensland Police Service said court and tribunal decisions in Queensland and other states were providing greater clarity to authorising officers in refusing Category H licences.
Weapons Licensing also determined whether applicants derived the majority of their income from the farm and whether the property in question was of such a nature that concealable firearms were required to carry out humane destruction of stock that may be injured in remote parts of the property.
Graziers lament loss of weapon in war on wild dogs
Graziers say their battle against devastating wild dogs will be even harder after being ordered to hand back their handguns.
But for graziers such as Mr Slattery, the refusal to renew permits represents a devastating blow in the war against wild dogs.
Jammed between two forestry plantations 43 kilometres out of Inglewood, Nardoo is by no means a big farming operation but it has been a part of Mr Slattery’s wife’s family since the 1880s.
He remembers a time when “there were sheep all the way from Inglewood to Goondiwindi” but these days, it is a far more lonely vocation.
Mr Slattery’s voice trembled with emotion as he described the trauma of discovering the maimed and hopeless victims of wild dog attacks.
“If they’d ever seen a ewe trying to walk back to its flock, you know, with its stomach dragging behind ’em … it just makes you feel so …” he said, unable to complete his sentence.
He would like the authorising officers to look beyond their own desks and consider the harsh realities of farming.
“Get out of there and have a look at the real world; they obviously don’t have a clue,” he said.