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Working dogs may be affected by wind farms

A local veterinarian has reported a suspected case of a working dog living in close proximity to a local wind farm exhibiting unusual behaviour.

The normally active and keen-to-work dog has become sullen and reluctant to leave its kennel after a nearby wind farm started operation.

Veterinarian Dr Scott Shrive, from Hamilton Vetcare, said he examined a Kelpie working dog from a client that was quite concerned about the behaviour of the dog.

“It is usually very active, alert and an excellent working dog, and it has become very withdrawn and this is more evident when wind is coming from the same direction that the wind turbines are in,” he said.

“The dog is reluctant to come out of its kennel when the wind is coming from that direction – it won’t work, they can’t get it to work, it won’t even jump up on the vehicle, but on days when there is no wind, so when the turbines aren’t working, it goes back to normal, it comes out of its kennel it is happy to work all day like it normally does.”

Dr Shrive said the owners requested him to examine the dog because they had contacted the turbine company near their property and they had requested that a vet examine this dog.

“It was brought in to me to be examined just to make sure there is no underlying disease going on that might be causing this, a middle inner ear problem or something like that. I examined it and could find no underlying disease whatsoever it was a totally healthy normal dog,” he said.

The owner of the dog, who did not want to be named, said the dog was a five-year old Kelpie female which is kenneled 1.7kms from the wind farm which commenced operation about eight months ago.

“Four to five weeks after the wind farm started operation she started to show effects of abnormal behaviour, she was disobedient, wouldn’t jump up in the ute, ran sheep everywhere and that was the start of it.

“On the morning after winds from the direction of the wind farm had been going for most of the night we couldn’t even get her to come out of the kennel – she just lay on the floor and just lay there motionless.

“She has never behaved like this before, when she is lying on the floor of the kennel in the morning it takes nearly half an hour to coax her up, then when she gets outside she just runs mad, all over the place, it is like her brain is scrambled. She just runs crazy and then she will settle down and just be very quiet and if you take her away (from the wind farm) then she goes back to normal later on in the day.

“Since they have been turned off at night she has returned to normal. It seems to be when they go all night and the noise is just belting at her all the time,” she said.

The owner said their other dogs which are kenneled 2.5kms from the wind farm are not exhibiting the same symptoms but have started barking at night.

“They just bark at them all the time, all night. And they never used to bark at night, if they did my husband would go outside and tell them to be quiet and they would sit down, but now they won’t stop. It is only when the wind is blowing from the wind farm direction,” she said.

The owner said they had heard of another case of a dog near Cape Bridgewater which died.

“It had very similar symptoms to ours and it eventually died and they took the dog to Werribee for an autopsy, the only verbal comment I know of that is the people who performed the autopsy said they had never seen anything like it but exactly what that means I do not know.”

Dr Shrive said he had heard that there had been other similar cases but he hadn’t examined them himself. He believes it could be caused by low-frequency noise from the wind turbines.

“It’s hard to say but all the research tends to say that it’s this low frequency noise that we can’t hear and it’s been shown that it can affect the balance mechanism in the ear and dogs may be more susceptible to this.

“Maybe that’s why they are being affected in this particular way as in not wanting to come out of the kennel and not working. When they do manage to get the dog out of the kennel it just won’t work which is very out of character.

“So there is obviously something affecting the dog that is causing that behaviour – it’s anecdotal but the owners have said it happened when the wind was in a certain direction coming from where the wind turbines are. It is not proof but it is suggestive,” he said.

Dr Shrive said he would be interested to know if any other farmers were having similar problems or noticed anything like that.