A Queensland puppy farm during a raid. Picture: RSPCA
The Queensland Government has moved to crack down on puppy farms, with an estimated 100 operators in the state, some keeping dogs and puppies in cruel, cramped, and dirty conditions.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Leanne Donaldson has introduced a bill into Parliament to legislate compulsory registration, standards, and guidelines for dog breeders.
“A compulsory breeder registration scheme that is supported by a public awareness campaign urging consumers to buy only from registered breeders will leave puppy farms nowhere to hide,” Ms Donaldson said.
Ms Donaldson said shutting down unethical puppy farms was a 2015 Labor Government election commitment and “the Government had undertaken extensive consultation including a public survey completed by more than 8,300 people and 95 per cent of respondents supported compulsory registration for dog breeders”.
But both animal welfare activists and pet shops say the proposed laws will not be effective.
Animal welfare activist Debra Tranter from Oscar’s Law, an organisation dedicated to abolishing puppy factories, has tentatively welcomed the Queensland Government’s efforts.
“Introducing a breeder registration system to Queensland is a good move, it’s a positive move forward,” Ms Tranter said.
But Ms Tranter said the legislation, while a step in the right direction, would not work.
“It will do nothing to help the dogs enduring life on legal puppy factories throughout Queensland,” she said.
“You can’t regulate this brutal industry. We’ve proven that with our fight for the last 20 years. Victoria has got the same legislation.”
The Victorian Government has flagged even stronger legislation for this year, restricting professional dog breeders to 10 bitches, limiting pet shops to selling dogs from shelters, and increasing money for enforcement.
Ms Tranter believes these additional measures will quash the puppy farm industry.
“By making all of these changes together, it’s resulting in the focus being on welfare, not profit,” she said.
But the Pet Industry Association’s chief executive, Mark Fraser, is not convinced the stronger legislation will eradicate cruelty in the industry.
“We’re all for legislation that advances animal welfare standards but the problem with Victoria [is] you can have a breeder with two or three dogs in atrocious conditions, or another breeder with 100 dogs in fantastic conditions,” Mr Fraser said.
“Also, if you shut down the retail outlets, more and more underground stuff goes online.”
Mr Fraser said the pet shop association adheres to the highest standards, with very few members found to have bought from puppy farms.
He believes there is a simpler answer to the problem.
“We’d love to see compulsory licensing for all breeders and all retailers,” he said. “At the moment, it’s a self regulated industry and it isn’t working.”
There is also concern puppy farms will simply move interstate to avoid the regulations.
What is a puppy farm?
- A puppy farm, also known as a puppy factory or puppy mill, is defined as an intensive dog-breeding facility operated under conditions that fail to meet dogs’ behavioural, social and/or physiological needs
- Puppy farms are usually large-scale commercial operations, but inadequate conditions may also exist in small-volume breeding establishments, which may or may not be run for profit
- It is a major animal welfare issue in Australia. The main welfare problems associated with puppy farms include but are not limited to:– Extreme confinement: in some cases breeding animals may never be allowed out of their cage to exercise, play, socialise, have companionship or even to go to the toilet
– Inadequate veterinary care and general care (grooming and parasite control)
– Unhygienic living conditions
– Inadequate and overcrowded housing conditions
– Frequent long-term health and/or behavioural problems in breeding dogs and puppies born in puppy farms