Page 1058 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 24 March 2015

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Female dogs and cats in intensive breeding operations can have a very poor quality of life. They are often kept in inadequate conditions and treated purely as industrial breeding machines. To maximise their profits, some puppy and kitten farms use harmful drugs to cause their breeding animals to become pregnant as quickly as possible after they have had a litter. Female dogs and cats may be kept almost permanently pregnant, which of course places enormous stress on their bodies. As their fertility wanes and they become too old to produce commercially viable sized litters, they may be destroyed or abandoned.

There is harm, too, to the offspring bred in puppy and kitten farms. As a result of the poor conditions in which they are bred, the offspring are likely to suffer congenital defects, a weakened immune system and thus a shorter lifespan. They may also develop ongoing behavioural issues that arise from a lack of trust in their keepers.

This bill ensures that those seeking to breed dogs and cats in the territory will do so at appropriate intervals that do not harm their animals’ health or welfare. In order to do this the bill criminalises the intensive breeding of female dogs and cats and introduces new penalties for people who exploit animals in breeding for the pet market. The bill also creates a licensing scheme for dog and cat breeders which will allow for the inspection of breeders’ premises. Breeders will therefore need to be able to demonstrate that they are breeding their animals under adequate conditions.

Specifically, the bill amends the Animal Welfare Act 1992 to: insert an objects clause into the act; create an offence of recklessly breeding a female dog or cat contrary to a breeding standard declared by the minister; create a separate offence of breeding a female dog or cat contrary to a breeding standard declared by the minister, when done with the intention of making a profit or commercial gain; and explicitly provide that the minister may declare a code of practice on the breeding or selling of cats or dogs with heritable defects.

The bill also amends the Domestic Animals Act 2000 to create a breeding licensing scheme to be administered by the Registrar of Domestic Animal Services. To ensure compliance with the breeding licensing scheme, the bill creates a strict liability offence of breeding a litter from a dog or cat for profit or commercial gain without holding a breeding licence. Licensees will also be required to display their breeding licence number in any advertisements that they place for animals they have bred. That will assist Domestic Animal Services in conducting compliance checks.

The bill also creates other minor regulatory offences for licence holders, including failing to tell the registrar of a change of address and failing to surrender a breeding licence to the registrar after ceasing to operate a breeding business.

In order to ensure that the breeding licensing scheme protects animals but does not place an undue regulatory burden on legitimate breeders, targeted consultation was conducted during the bill’s development. As I mentioned in my presentation speech, consultation occurred with the Pet Industry Association of Australia, the ACT Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, Dogs ACT, Capital Cats, the Australian Veterinary Association, and the RSPCA, both the ACT and Australian branches. I again thank those organisations for their constructive and valuable contributions to the bill.

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