Aurukun Shire Council’s animal control officer is caring for dozens of dogs. (Supplied: Aurukun Shire Council)
An emergency shipment of pet food is on its way to the Cape York community of Aurukun for up to 70 dogs left behind after hundreds of residents fled an eruption of violence earlier this year.
- A 37-year-old man was fatally stabbed in Aurukun on New Year’s Day, sparking rioting that saw residents flee
- Community dogs played a strong role in local kinship, and when starved may roam the township in packs
- A Cape York vet collected hundreds of kilograms of donated dog food, which is being shipped to the community
A 37-year-old man was fatally stabbed on New Year’s Day, sparking rioting that saw several homes set on fire.
Two teenagers, aged 17 and 18, have been charged with murder, while 23 people have been charged over the ensuing violence.
The Aurukun Shire Council said about 280 residents fled the township abandoning up to 70 dogs in the process.
Veterinarian Kate Smith, who provides fly-in fly-out services to Aurukun, estimated there were about 400 dogs in the community, and said about a quarter had been left alone and in need of food.
Aurukun’s camp dogs are an important part of the community, and the inspiration for its iconic wood carvings.
“Because the animals have been without food now for a few weeks, the [animal control officer] up there is trying to get treatments into them, trying to make sure the animals are looked after and fed, and united with their owners over time,” she said.
Cooktown-based SeaDog Vets services several Cape York communities and feeds the dogs “treatment sandwiches”. (Supplied: SeaDog Vets)
Dogs play role in kinship
Ms Smith organised an emergency dog food donation drive on the weekend and collected hundreds of kilograms to be shipped to Aurukun this week.
She said community dogs played a strong role in local kinship, and without their families they would be forced to roam the township in packs looking for food and causing problems for remaining residents.
“Providing these animals with food until their owners return is essential in Aurukun,” she said.
“It’s just something to get the community through the next few weeks while we let everything settle down and get everything back on track.”
Shipping company Sea Swift is helping deliver donated dog food to Aurukun. (Supplied: SeaDog Vets)
Aurukun Shire Council said about 30 dogs had since been re-homed with neighbours and other residents, while others were being cared for by the animal control officer.
Council chief executive Bernie McCarthy said the community had been “calm and quiet”, and that mediation was being arranged.
“Stability has been maintained, all services are operating… and the businesses are open as well,” he said.
But Mr McCarthy said some council staff were among those who had fled, and “a handful” had resigned their positions, saying they would not be returning.
He also expected some schoolchildren would miss the start of term next week.
“I’m always an optimist and I believe people will work through this issue, but I can’t speak for people that have been affected in the recent incident — hopefully a majority of people will return,” he said.
“All we as a council continue to do is hopefully, when the time suits them and they feel ready, we would love to see them come back to their own homes.”
Aurukun’s camp dogs are an important part of the community and the inspiration for its iconic wood carvings. (Supplied: SeaDog Vets)