Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 March 2010) . . Page.. 1011 ..
MR SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Barr.
MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (3:28): I also want to talk about a second important issue, specifically domestic animals. Earlier I said that cats, dogs and other pets are not generally used as commodities and this was to distinguish them from agricultural animals, whose categorisation as a commodity means they are not protected by decent welfare standards. In fact, animal welfare laws are not adequate to protect cats and dogs and other pets from being treated as a commodity, as happens in pet stores. Pet stores are part of a profit-making industry focused on creating a demand for animals and benefiting from impulse buying of young animals.
What are the conditions of animals kept in these stores? How often are they exercised? Are they free to socialise? How long are they kept before being euthanased and how is this euthanasia undertaken? The Pet Industry Association of Australia has a national code of practice for animals in pet shops, but it is merely voluntary, which is not satisfactory. Just as we have seen with Pace Farm here in the ACT, having a voluntary code does not necessarily make an industry comply.
One area of particular concern is that there is nothing to prevent pet stores acquiring their stocks from intensive puppy-breeding facilities. These are usually called puppy farms. The term “puppy farm” sounds quite nice, but in fact the dogs are often bred in horrible conditions, solely for the purposes of sale and with little or no consideration given to their welfare. They are basically factory farms for dogs. These intensive breeding facilities appear to be relatively widespread. Taking legal action against them has proved to be fairly difficult due to weak regulations. The weak regulations are non-existent when it comes to stopping pet stores selling animals that came from these inhumane places. It is yet another sad situation where animals’ welfare is completely compromised for profit.
The ACT needs regulations that introduce mandatory and enforceable codes of practice for pet shops. This is a problem which has already been addressed with legislation in a number of European countries. In Australia, the RSPCA already promotes a code of practice for the sale of companion animals, but codes such as these need to be made mandatory. The Greens are calling for this now—it has been part of our policy for some time—and we are happy to act on this if the government does not in fact do so. These mandatory standards should include specific requirements in relation to stopping puppy farming, or intensive puppy-breeding facilities. As an example, the animals being sold from pet stores should only have been supplied from legitimate, registered breeders or suppliers.
I believe the government should, in fact, consider going further than this in its regulation of the pet industry. This is in recognition of the fact that impulse buying, promoted by pet stores, is a large problem leading to improper care and abandonment of thousands of animals each year. Last year, for example, in the ACT alone, the