Page 130 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2012

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discussion paper about broader companion animal issues, which I believe was first promised to be released by October 2010.

One of the issues that this bill covers is puppy farms or puppy mills. Puppy mills are commercial dog-breeding facilities which produce puppies for profit. The conditions in puppy mills have been compared to those of battery cage hens, as the breeding dogs are kept in cages or pens for their entire life, with the sole purpose of producing puppies for sale at pet shops, on the internet or even in overseas markets. These dogs can remain in cages for their entire life. Problems in puppy mills include over-breeding, lack of basic care or veterinary care, poor hygiene, lack of space and generally poor housing, lack of companionship, either human or canine, and lack of regard for animals’ behavioural needs.

While no puppy mill has been convicted in the ACT, we are still connected to this practice because many puppies sold in the ACT were bred in them. While the ACT has done nothing about puppy mills, other jurisdictions are acting. Both the coalition government in Victoria and the Labor government in Queensland are acting against puppy mills. The Victorian legislation includes significant increases in maximum penalties for puppy farm operators, including a ban of up to 10 years for those who are found guilty of operating unregistered puppy farms or breaching the code of practice.

I would note that there is an Australia-wide movement against puppy farming. It includes the RSPCA and a whole host of groups which have come up focusing on this issue; they also usually focus on rehoming animals which have been abandoned as a result of this cruel trade.

In the ACT there are many ways to sell companion animals and they are not well regulated. Pet stores do not have to report where they are sourcing their animals from. They are not subject to a mandatory code of practice as to how they keep and treat animals. They do not have to say how many of their animals are euthanased and, while desexing is mandatory for adult dogs and cats in the ACT, puppies and kittens are sold without desexing. They may then go on to breed in an uncontrolled fashion, thus perpetuating the problem. Pet shops can advertise as they please, often promoting impulse buying, and they can sell to children.

As well as in pet shops, animals can also be sold at markets and fairs and, according to animal welfare groups, these are places where some unscrupulous breeders do sell pets. Breeders can also advertise as they choose in newspapers, flyers or on the internet. An analysis of the Canberra Times showed over 5,000 puppies and kittens offered for sale annually in the ACT.

In the ACT, cat and dog breeders are unregulated and do not need a licence. There are no checks on their premises. We do not know the conditions in which animals are bred, nor do the sellers of animals need to microchip or desex the animals they sell. This combination of an unregulated breeding environment and unregulated selling is ideal for bad breeders looking to make a quick buck by breeding and selling animals, with their only motive being profit. The result of having animals bred or sold in these conditions is that animals suffer and often have mental and physical development

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