Two Marlborough pig hunters have had animal cruelty charges for causing “unnecessary pain or distress” dropped by a reluctant judge. What they did wasn’t technically illegal at the time, so there wasn’t much of a choice.

A Facebook video from 2014, which brought the charges against Tyson Wairau Robson Thwaites and Fletcher Paul Johnson, surfaced in August 2014 and showed three dogs biting the pig on its face and body before it was killed several minutes later.

Had this happened a year later after changes to animal cruelty laws in May 2015, the men would’ve been found guilty.

“We’re looking at what we can do about it,” said SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen.

Thwaites, 23, and Johnson, 24, said they were training their dogs to hold pigs when the actual footage was recorded. This involves dogs biting a pig in areas like its ears to keep it from running off while hunters catch up.

“If hunters wish to train their dogs on live pigs they will have to do so with great care so as not to commit a criminal offence,” said Judge Morris.

“Mr Thwaites and Mr Johnson can no longer, in my view, train dogs in this fashion because they are at grave risk of a judge finding that the pig suffered unreasonable pain and distress.”

Training in this manner may not be ideal, because hunting is about getting the kill but doing it in a respectful manner. On the other hand, dogs can lend a big hand in catching an animal.

At the end of the day, pig hunters do this to feed their families. That may not be true for every single one of them, but plenty of them do. If you’re going to use dogs, you’ll obviously have to train them at some point.

The length at which you let the dogs hold the pig is up to each individual, but there’s a line when it’s gone on too long and the animal needs to be put down. Whether that hold lasts for 2 seconds or 2 minutes, someone will always have something to say. The easiest way to avoid any issues is pretty simple, though. Don’t record it and put it on the internet.

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