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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The puppy breeding business in Australia has faced serious opposition recently. Being considered the biggest animal welfare issue in Australia, puppy mills have gotten into the scope of many serious organizations – like RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), for instance. The strategy for improving the legislation in the sphere of the dog breeding business has been described in the RSPCA paper called End Puppy Farming: The Way Forward. According to the policy of RSPCA, laws must be amended in order to set up a regulatory regime that will ensure puppy farms will be dealt with accordingly and reputable puppy adopters will not support, intentionally or unintentionally, the operation of puppy farms (see http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-laws-are-necessary-to-stop-puppy-farming_508.html).
RSPCA offers a strategy based on six legislative elements:
- Breeder’s registration
- Compulsory microchipping of all dogs prior to sale before 12 weeks of age
- The data must bear the breeder’s registration number and the ID number of the puppy’s mother
- When a puppy is being sold, the information on the breeder’s registration number must be available publicly as well as be published if the sale is performed via advertisement
- Dog breeding must be subject to strict standards of conduct
- Courts must be empowered to issue prohibition and cost orders and declare interim ownership while legal proceedings are on
This strategy comprises six points partially spread out and not fully executed so far throughout the nation.
According to Animals Australia, Australia’s leading animal protection organization, “Minimum welfare standards for breeders are currently only in place in Victoria and NSW. And only Victoria and the ACT have laws that require breeders to be registered. In Victoria this only applies to breeders with more than 3 fertile dogs, or, for members of an ‘applicable breeding organization’ such as Dogs Victoria, to breeders with more than 10 fertile dogs” (http://www.animalsaustralia.org/puppies).
However, Animals Australia has elaborated on their own strategy for dealing with puppy mills. The strategy includes the following:
- Anyone who breeds cats or dogs (from a family pet, backyard, pure-breed or mixed-breed)
- An independent inspection on application for a permit and every one to three years
- Inspections based on compulsory standards, including limiting frequency of breeding and rehoming breeding animals
- Breeders pay for the Breeder Permit to cover costs of inspections, providing certification and keeping records
- Compulsory publishing of Breeder Permit numbers so consumers can make more ethical choices when looking for a new companion animal.
- Desexing of puppies and kittens before sale or transfer. All puppies and kittens are required to be desexed prior to sale or giving away at 10 weeks of age, unless the animal has a health problem or is being transferred to someone with a breeder permit.
Overpopulation is another impact that puppy mills inflict on the nation. Overpopulation results in too many representatives of one particular breed and such imbalance leads to the practice of animal euthanasia, which has become a necessary but highly criticized means of dealing with the problem of overpopulation.
Since June 2006, Animals Australia has sponsored the National Summit to End Pet Overpopulation that is held every two years. Delegates from all states and territories united their efforts to stop the killing of estimated 200,000 dogs and cats in Australia each year. The National Summit to End Pet Overpopulation presents the same key aspects that may reverse the process and eventually bring it to naught:
- Strict breeder legislation
- Independent inspections for the care and rehoming of animals and their litter
- Microchipping every dog and cat with a chip containing the information on its origin and the breeder
- Compulsory desexing prior to sale
- Recognizing the overbreeding as a real problem that needs to be dealt with
- A National Coalition must be formed
- Gathering into and coordination of one common national database
- Veterinary training to desex puppies at an early age
Another famous strategy targeting the anti-breeding legislation is the so-called “Oscar’s Law,” which is actually a non-profit volunteer organization lobbying for the complete eradication of puppy mills. The organization’s name originates from the story of a dog called Oscar, who was rescued from a puppy factory in central Victoria. After thorough care and proper reconvalescence carried out by veterinarians, Oscar was returned to the very owners of the puppy mill who were never charged with cruelty. On July 9th, after 18 months in captivity, Oscar was saved again. This re-saving has led to a review of Australia’s legislation concerning animal rights and thus “Oscar’s Law” has emerged (http://www.oscarslaw.org/).
Currently, the Oscar’s Law movement comprises the organization and a lobbying of a party aiming at several targets like the export of puppies and the Gwydir Puppy Factory, which with the assistance of the organization was refused the permit to operate completely in December, 2015. The factory was eventually shut down completely after more than 100,000 people signed a petition at Change.org. Unfortunately, according to Oscar’s Law, “There is currently no legislation in NSW that allows the seizure of dogs from illegal, non-compliant puppy factories, which means the Gwydir Puppy Factory dogs remain in these conditions indefinitely. The legislation designed to protect the dogs’ welfare has dismally failed them and instead protects the puppy farmer.” This is why the battle against the illegal breeders is still being waged.
Victorian Labor Party Efforts
In 2014 the Victorian Labor Party promised to restrict the number of dogs kept by breeders in Victoria to 10 if the party wins. In the interview to ABC, the opposition leader Daniel Andrews said the party was planning to go further; by the year 2020, all breeding facilities would possess no more than 10 dogs. Mr. Andrews also said that the rules regarding the operation of pet shops will be toughened in order to only allow the sales of dogs linked with registered animal shelters.
In April 2015 it was announced that the legislation promised by the Victorian Labor Party allows councils to seize animals from the breeder if he fails to register or is found guilty of animal cruelty. Jaala Pulford, the Agriculture Minister of Victori,a said that reforms would involve mandatory veterinary checks before and after every litter, making the puppy farm business demanding and less attractive. The subsequent legal onslaught on the industry brought 5 million dollars of funding provided by the government for the need of RSPCA’s special investigation unit. Further legal changes will come in effect in July 2016, when pet shop owners will be required to keep records of every dog sold from the store (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-20/new-law-changes-will-smash-puppy-farm-business-model/6405572).
See also our main article about puppy mills.