Dogs barking but no proof

MAN’S best friend is in the news, on an almost daily basis.

Dogs attacking people, young and old.

Dogs mauling guide dogs for the blind in suburban shopping centres.

Dogs fouling footpaths, beaches, parks and walking trails.

Dogs living in terrible circumstances at semi-rural puppy farms run by unscrupulous human beings.

Still more dogs being exploited by ruthless dogfight organisers running vicious combats in Coalfields bushland.

Or perhaps not.

Exasperated Hunter police officers are adamant that they can’t find a skerrick of evidence that the fabled Lower Hunter dogfights are anything more than figments of fertile imaginations. Aided by 21st century social media.

The disappearance and mysterious death of a two-year-old Rutherford bulldog named Tank set tongues wagging and fingers tapping on keypads, circulating and amplifying accounts of strange caged vehicles prowling the streets.

Burly dognappers were rumoured to have knocked down fences to lift away gladiators for fight-to-the-death battles.

It’s a plausible story.

A quick internet search reveals many recent accounts of disappearing dogs linked to alleged dogfighting rings, with similar stories surfacing across Australia. From Devonport, Tasmania, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and from Caboolture on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, come almost identical stories of missing dogs – almost always ‘‘fighting’’ breeds – spirited away for alleged use as blood-bait by organised rings of criminals backed by black gambling dollars.

But seldom can hard evidence be found. The police may be ‘‘inquiring’’. The RSPCA may have ‘‘strong suspicions’’.

Indeed, the RSPCA website declares that ‘‘there are many dog fighting rings in Australia,’’ adding that ‘‘these are often associated with gambling activities and other illegal practices such as drug dealing and firearms’’.

But no names are named, few arrests are made, the proof remains elusive and the alleged gangs stay incognito.

It’s a certainty that dogs go missing.

The reason why, however, remains a mystery, ensuring that the rumours of high-stakes criminal dog fighting rings will keep circulating, perhaps forever.

Our fading skills

ONE of the Hunter’s great competitive advantages has long been its big population of skilled workers. The great industries of the past left a legacy of technical expertise in a great variety of fields that has been slow to fade.

But fading it is, however, and every cancellation of a technical college course hastens the process of loss.

Boat-building and metallurgy may be the next casualties of relentless cuts to the Hunter’s TAFE system, leaving two more gaps in the region’s training capability and heralding the demise of skills once close to the heart of the regional economy.

As the skills retreat, little by little, the Hunter loses some of the diversity that gave its workforce a national lustre.

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