Registration laws dog truffle owner

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Pickering Brook truffle grower Trevor Matthews is challenging the State Government's failure to recognise his truffle-detecting dogs as working animals.

Mr Matthews, who runs a 6.25-hectare truffle farm east of Lesmurdie, recently applied to Kalamunda Shire to have his four canines registered as working dogs.

"The shire won't recognise them as working dogs, even though I use them to sniff out my truffles," he said.

Kalamunda Shire chief executive James Trail said Mr Matthews' dogs would need to be registered as domestic animals.

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"The shire is happy to register the dogs but unfortunately they do not meet the requirements of working dogs under Section 15(5) of the Dog Act, which refers to dogs used to drove or tend stock," he said.

"The main difference is that this makes him exempt from a discount on the registration cost."

Mr Matthews has to pay up to $30 annually to register each dog. If his dogs were working dogs, he would be entitled to a 25 per cent discount.

Enacted in 1976, the Dog Act is enforced by the Department of Local Government.

A Department of Local Government spokeswoman said the Dog Act was due for review next year.

"But there is no intention to expand the interpretation of 'working dogs' currently within the Act," she said.

Mr Matthews challenged his local government to push for amendments to the Act, to allow provisions for truffle dogs.

"It is a folly that you should have stock in a truffle farm in order to run dogs to circumvent the legislation brought about 30 years ago," he said.

"The policy needs to change. We asked the Kalamunda Shire to approach the State Government to initiate changes to the legislation, but it refused."

He said the Manjimup Shire had a more flexible approach to dog registration. Several truffle growers in that district had dogs registered as working dogs.

Manjimup Shire co-ordinator of ranger and emergency services, Todd Ridley, said these growers also owned livestock.

"If you've got a dog living on a rural area that's used for the purposes of droving, there are provisions in the Dog Act to license that dog as a working dog," he said.

"Unfortunately, the Dog Act doesn't see truffle dogs as working dogs. We are not licensing truffle dogs as working dogs, because legally we can't."

Kalamunda Shire by-laws also stipulate that dog owners require special permission to own more than two domestic dogs.

Mr Matthews is in the process of seeking shire permission to keep four dogs on his property - as domestic animals.

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