Page 564 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

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Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Justice, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform) (10.35): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

It is no great secret that Canberrans, and indeed Australians, love their pets. According to figures sourced from the RSPCA, Australia has one of the highest rates of domestic animal ownership in the world. Nationally approximately 36 per cent of households include a dog and 23 per cent of households include a cat. Obviously, then, a large number of Australian households consider at least one dog or cat, or both, are part of their family.

Multiple studies have found that there are many benefits to keeping an animal companion. These include positive impacts on the keeper’s health and wellbeing, instilling a sense of responsibility in children and increasing participation in community life. It is understandable, then, that there has been much concern in the community in recent years about the animal welfare issues associated with the intensive breeding of dogs and cats for sale in the pet market.

The intensive breeding occurs in what are informally known as puppy and kitten farms or factories. I would suggest that these would be better recognised for what they truly are: intensive pet breeding operations which have little concern for the welfare of the animals involved. The intensive breeding of domestic animals can give rise to serious welfare issues. Unscrupulous intensive breeding facilities impose inadequate—some would say squalid—living conditions on the animals involved, particularly female animals and their offspring.

Put quite simply, intensive pet breeding operations which treat dogs and cats only as money-making machines place the operators’ profit above their animals’ health and welfare. Life for a female dog or cat in an intensive breeding facility must have an impact on the wellbeing of the animal. It is known that in such operations animals are often permanently housed in empty pens, deprived of social interaction, exercise and responsible health care for their entire lives.

In an effort to increase profits for the operators, female dogs and cats are continually impregnated and bred as often as possible, sometimes every time they go into heat. This intensive breeding must put enormous pressure on the health of the affected dogs and cats, causing painful and potentially permanent damage, and jeopardising their ability to provide proper care for their individual litters of offspring.

According to the RSPCA, the intensive breeding of dogs and cats leads to a range of health problems for the animals involved—not only the mothers but also their offspring. Over and above the welfare issues involved with their mothers, the offspring from intensive breeding operations can suffer from hereditary diseases and acute and chronic birth defects.

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