Submissions are due in response to the TASKFORCE Discussion Paper. A generic/template submission has been produced which is a collaborative effort from over 30 people very concerned with the high kill rate for companion animals in NSW. This generic version can be found here:
COMPANION ANIMAL WELFARE
Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [10.09 a.m.]: I move:
- (1) A select committee be appointed to inquire into companion animal welfare with the view to improving their welfare.
- (2) That the committee consider the following matters:
- (a) The number and cause of companion animals arriving in NSW shelters and pounds each year and their outcome, such as whether they get re-homed, re-united or euthanased;
- (b) The breeding of companion animals;
- (c) The practices associated with the sale of companion animals including from pet shops, markets, pounds, shelters, online, classifieds, or to the overseas market;
- (d) Mandatory desexing, including prior to sale;
- (e) The effectiveness and enforcement of the Department of Primary Industries’ companion animal policies, standards and guidelines;
- (f) The effectiveness of the Companion Animals Act and its application by local government;
- (g) The effectiveness of micro-chipping;
- (h) The treatment of companion animals travelling by airplane;
- (i) The impact of pet bans in accommodation including apartments, strata, retirement villages, and rental properties;
- (j) The impact of pet bans on public transport;
- (k) The existence and effectiveness of education programs on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of desexing;
- (l) Data collection by government and non-government agencies to inform and monitor companion animal welfare; and
- (m) Any other matter relevant to improving companion animal welfare.
- (3) That the committee consist of six members as follows:
- (a) Ms Clover Moore, who shall be Chair of the committee;
- (b) Three Government members; and
- (c) Two non-Government members.
- (4) That the members be nominated in writing to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by the relevant party leaders within seven calendar days of the passing of this resolution.
- (5) That at any meeting of the committee four members shall constitute a quorum.
This is a very significant issue. Animals are live, sentient beings. Pets give unconditional love and companionship. Pets teach us to care and nurture, encourage us to exercise and save the national health bill over $4 billion a year. How could a civilised society allow around 60,000 cats and dogs to be destroyed every year in New South Wales? The Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill 2008 I introduced would have stopped impulse buying of pets, resulting in fewer cats and dogs ending up in pounds and being destroyed. It also would have removed an outlet for cruel puppy farming and backyard breeding. My bill was rejected even though companion animal welfare is seriously inadequately addressed. During debate on the Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill the then Opposition, now the Government, called for more information and moved to defer the vote to establish a select committee to inquire into companion animal welfare. This motion now calls for that select committee to be established.
Thousands of people across New South Wales support this initiative. An open, transparent and independent inquiry is a vital opportunity for Parliament to improve the welfare of companion animals. The RSPCA has seized from puppy farms thousands of dogs in appalling conditions. These mass breeding facilities churn out puppies en masse while thousands of healthy animals are destroyed every year. The Pet Industry Association’s recent claim that it will sell puppies only from accredited puppies is welcomed, but there is no independent oversight or enforcement of the sale of pets, and many pet shops are not association members. Puppy farms will continue to sell pets through classified advertisements, at markets and overseas.
While most registered breeders are responsible, concerns have been expressed that some dog breeds have exaggerated physical features, such as overly large eyes or head, that cause breathing, walking, eye, skin, hip and back problems, and a lifetime of pain. Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney Veterinary Science Faculty, who worked on the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed, expressed such concern that a parliamentary inquiry was held in the United Kingdom. The New South Wales Parliament should consider mandatory desexing of animals. Unwanted litters account for a significant number of animals in pounds and shelters. A non-desexed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years, yet cats can be desexed as young as eight weeks. Non-desexed animals are more likely to show antisocial behaviours, get into fights or escape from their surroundings.
Many abandoned pets are not microchipped, including some from pet shops, despite legal requirements. Often the details for microchipped pets are out of date, making it difficult to link impounded animals with owners. Education is essential to achieve responsible pet ownership. The City of Sydney companion animal policy focuses on education and provides for free microchipping, dog obedience training, subsidised desexing and pet taxis for low-income earners. Not all councils do this and animal welfare charities do not have the resources to run large education programs on pet welfare. Governments should run statewide education campaigns to ensure a consistent message about animal welfare and care. Stray cats are vulnerable to attacks from dogs and people as well as health issues from lack of food, water and veterinary care, but councils have no rights or legal support to protect stray and feral cats as they are not defined in law. We need animal law reform to help councils rehouse stray cats and protect them from harm.
Last year two of my constituents lost their beloved French bulldog Kransky, who died at Sydney Airport from heat exhaustion while waiting to board a plane. Animal protection groups have told me similar stories. Parliament should investigate whether the Companion Animal Transport Agencies Code is sufficient to prevent a similar fate for other pets. Parliament should assess all animal welfare codes and policies to determine if they meet expectations. Code reviews are regularly overdue and often support industry interests over animal welfare needs. Shelters and pound practices vary greatly and good models need to be identified as benchmarks. The term “free to a good home”, for example, creates problems particularly for cats, with non-desexed cats having kittens and thereby adding to the number of unwanted pets.
The City of Sydney has a partnership with the low-kill Sutherland Shire Animal Shelter, where only dangerous or seriously sick animals are euthanased. Healthy animals remain at the shelter until they are rehoused, microchipped and desexed. New South Wales should aim to become a pet no-kill State. Blanket bans on pets in apartments, retirement villages and rental properties force many people to give up their beloved companions at a difficult time of their life. Apartments and retirement villages in New York, London and Paris generally allow pets. Similar bans on public transport make it difficult for people with pets to get to a vet or visit a friend, particularly if a low-income person does not have access to a private car. CityRail imposes a complete ban on pets being allowed on trains, but the State Transit Authority allows pets to travel on buses at the discretion of the driver. However, sometimes public housing tenants who are able to get to a vet cannot return home because they are prevented from taking their pet on the bus.
In cities such as San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and London it is normal for people to take their pets on public transport. The terms of reference for the committee I propose would include the collection of comprehensive data on pet sales, pound and shelter numbers to trace the origin of pets to assess any under-reporting. The Government set up the Companion Animals Taskforce in response to lobbying for this inquiry. A taskforce cannot replace an inquiry because it has strong industry representation and does not hold public meetings. With a taskforce we do not know what is happening. Many members in this place have said they are animal lovers, and I guess many of them will talk about their pets. Those who really care about animals will support this motion so that the Parliament can gain an understanding of the problems associated with companion animal welfare and make informed recommendations on this important issue. This motion is about establishing an inquiry, understanding the issue and getting to the facts. It also is about the Parliament making the right decision. Respect and compassion for animals are essential to a humane and just society. I commend the motion.
Mr DONALD PAGE (Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [10.16 a.m.]: Let me first acknowledge the longstanding genuine interest of the member for Sydney in companion animal welfare issues. In the time we have been together in this Parliament, which is 24 years now—
Ms Clover Moore: That is coming to an end quite soon, it is said.
Mr DONALD PAGE: We will see. That is the member’s choice. Over that time the member for Sydney has consistently demonstrated a very keen interest and concern about companion animal welfare. I thank her also for her comments on her motion, many of which have validity. Certainly, when I became the Minister for Local Government—I had not been involved in this area—and was briefed about the number of dogs and cats being euthanased, mostly in this State’s pounds, I was saddened and very concerned. For example, animals euthanased between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2011 totalled 13,661 dogs and 17,991 cats. These figures are disturbing indeed. As a result I met with the Minister for Primary Industries, who has responsibility under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, to see what the Government could do to try to address these issues. We agreed to put together a taskforce to investigate and address these and other issues facing the companion animal industry. In saying that, whilst I am very empathetic to the concern of the member for Sydney, we will not support the motion because a taskforce has been established, which is chaired by the very capable member for Charlestown, who is a veterinarian and has been doing great work with the taskforce.
The taskforce will provide advice on key companion animal issues and, in particular, on strategies to reduce the rate of companion animal euthanasia. As I said, the taskforce is chaired by the member for Charlestown, who is a veterinarian with vast experience and knowledge relating to companion animals. I am pleased that he agreed to chair the taskforce, as is the Minister for Primary Industries. The taskforce comprises representatives of the following organisations: the Australian Companion Animal Council, the Australian Institute of Local Government Rangers, the RSPCA New South Wales, Animal Welfare League NSW, Pet Industry Association Australia, Dogs NSW, Australian Veterinary Association, Cat Protection Society, and the Local Government and Shires Associations New South Wales.
The taskforce terms of reference are sufficiently broad to cover the issues the member for Sydney has raised in her motion. The terms of reference state that the taskforce will inquire into: euthanasia rates and re-homing options for surrendered or abandoned companion animals; the breeding of companion animals including the practices of puppy farms—it is a disgrace what is happening there; the sale of companion animals; the microchipping and desexing of companion animals; current education programs on responsible pet ownership; and any other high-priority companion animal issues that become apparent to the taskforce during its investigation. In response to the comment by the member for Sydney about the problem with the taskforce being that it does not have public meetings, I am assured by the chair of the committee there will be public meetings as the taskforce goes about its work.
The taskforce is currently finalising the draft discussion, which will be available for public comment in coming months. All interested individuals, groups and organisations are encouraged to make a submission when the discussion paper is released. After taking into account feedback on the discussion paper the taskforce will prepare a report by the end of this year which will provide recommendations for consideration by the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Small Business, Katrina Hodgkinson, and me as Minister for Local Government. Can I thank the chairman of the taskforce for the work he has done so far. I understand the draft discussion paper is ready to be presented. I thank the members of the taskforce, who have worked very hard, and also the two departments involved—Primary Industries and the Division of Local Government. I express my deep appreciation for the brilliant work of the officers from the two departments: Ross Burton, Angela Thompson and Vaughan Macdonald from Primary Industries and Janet Pengelly and Glen Colley from the Division of Local Government. The chairman of the taskforce has confirmed with me, as the responsible Minister, that these people have been nothing short of fantastic in the way they have contributed to the deliberations of the taskforce. We thank the members or the taskforce for their participation and the work they are doing.
I look forward to the discussion paper being made public and the community having their input into where we go from here. By the end of this year the recommendations will come forward from the taskforce for the Government to put into place. This is an issue of concern to me. I was raised on a cattle property, have been around dogs all my life and still own dogs. I am keen, as is the Minister for Primary Industries, to stop—I do not know that we can every stop—or reduce the number of unnecessary deaths that are occurring through euthanasia of our dog and cat populations. I look forward to the report coming back to the Government. Because of what we are doing as a Government we will reject the motion today but we appreciate very much the intentions of the member for Sydney in relation to raising these issues. The concerns of the member are shared by the Government.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY (Auburn) [10.23 a.m.]: I support the motion of the member for Sydney. It is a detailed, sensible motion. I acknowledge her work in this area for many years. The member is quite right, this is about a broad matter of respect for animals, how we treat our animals, and bearing in mind that thousands of animals, cats and dogs, are companions to many people in the State and across Australia. I acknowledge that the member for Marrickville, the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt, is in the House today. She has a keen interest in this issue. Many members on my side of the House have held a keen interest in the issue. As a former Minister for Local Government I am aware of the issues around companion animals and the high rate of euthanasia. The Minister will know that in my time I started some work around that issue. The high rates of pet euthanasia in New South Wales are horrific: more than 150,000 dogs and cats over the last five years have been euthanased in pounds across the State.
That is not to say that there is not a great amount of work going on with pet rescue shelters and the RSPCA. I note the work done over many years with regard to responsible pet ownership: the Safe Pets Out There [SPOT] program which appears to be a new program that is delivered in schools across the State. I think that has gone a long way to teaching young people about responsible pet ownership. Those young people are then teaching their parents. Despite all of that work it is clear that there still remains a great deal of concern around these issues that the member for Sydney raises. I am aware and clearly understand, having heard the Minister of the taskforce that is in play at present, but I am concerned about the following matters. The Companion Animals Act has not been reviewed for many years. It has been amended to include tougher dog laws with higher penalties, but I do think the Companion Animals Act needs to be reviewed to look at the broader issues that the member raised. The taskforce terms of reference do incorporate some of the concerns of the member for Sydney but they do not go into broader issues such as the impact of pet bans in accommodation including apartment, strata, retirement villages and rental properties, and the impact of pet bans on public transport. If we are going to look holistically at companion animals the issues on the agenda—those put by the member for Sydney and many animal welfare advocates—need to be looked at in a broad way. The Opposition will support the motion. I ask the Minister to elucidate how the public inquiry will work. A taskforce, from my recollection, is a little different: it reports publicly but does not necessarily take evidence publicly in the same way a parliamentary select committee would, with cross-examination possible.
An important person involved in animal welfare died yesterday. Kath Gazzard set up a project called Pets for Older People. That program was about rehousing pets for people who were socially isolated or needed to go to palliative care. I note her good work and I will speak of her another time. [Time expired.]
Mr ANDREW CORNWELL (Charlestown) [10.27 a.m.]: In May 2011 the member for Sydney gave notice of a motion regarding the establishment of a companion animal inquiry. While I appreciate the member’s longstanding interest in the area, the motion is not supported. The Government does not support this motion because it has been superseded by the Government’s proactive approach in the area. In the middle of last year the Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Don Page, and the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson, established the companion animal taskforce. The taskforce met through the second half of last year and into this year to produce a discussion paper that examines the matters the member for Sydney has raised in her motion.
A select parliamentary committee is not required because the Government has already acted in the area and therefore paragraph (1) of the motion cannot be supported. This motion should not be supported because the terms of reference for the companion animal taskforce are sufficiently broad to cover all of the areas of concern raised by the member for Sydney. The taskforce has examined all issues relating to euthanasia rates and unacceptable breeding practices such as puppy farming. I can assure the House and the member for Sydney that all of the issues covered at items (a) through to (m) in paragraph (2) of the motion have been considered by the companion animal taskforce. This Government is acting in a complete and comprehensive manner that is not offered by the motion put forward by the member for Sydney.
Paragraph (3) of the motion deals with the make-up of the committee. The member suggested that she should chair the committee that would consist of three Government members and two non-Government members. This part of the motion cannot be supported because the make-up of the Companion Animal Task Force is superior to the suggestions made by the member for Sydney. As opposed to having six politicians considering matters of this importance, the task force has a cross-section of stakeholders who have come together to produce a discussion paper that is comprehensive and groundbreaking. On the task force we have the RSPCA, which brings with it some 130 years of corporate knowledge in the area. We have the Animal Welfare League, which brings in excess of 50 years at the coalface. We have the Cat Protection Society, which brings in excess of 50 years experience. We have the Australian Veterinary Association, which represents a profession with more than a century of animal welfare as its core business.
The task force also has members who represent dog breeders and industry who not only bring corporate knowledge but also a passion for animals and a genuine desire to improve outcomes for companion animals. We have representatives from local government and council rangers, the people who deal with some of the heartbreaking situations that unwanted companion animals face. And, finally, we have been supported by the fabulous departmental staff from the Department of Local Government and the Department of Primary Industries. Whereas the make-up of the committee suggested by the member for Sydney may offer opinion, the Companion Animal Task Force offers expertise. Therefore, paragraph (3) of the motion should not be supported.
The member for Sydney has demonstrated passion, and I commend her for that. But the motion cannot be supported because, thanks to the leadership of Minister Page and Minister Hodgkinson, the Government has taken the lead in this area. Our brief is broader, the make-up of our task force is superior to that suggested by the member, and our work is virtually complete. The discussion paper is due to be released in the first half of this year; and, in line with our commitment, it will be. I thank all members of the task force for their expertise and their desire to improve outcomes for companion animals. The member for Auburn raised a number of other issues. I assure the member that we have taken an holistic approach. We will have public consultation once the discussion paper is released, because that is exactly what it is designed to do—to promote comment. We are seeking input from the public. Once that process is complete, we will be taking further recommendations to the Minister. I have appreciated the opportunity to debate the motion. But we have taken the lead, and therefore cannot support it.
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [10.31 a.m.]: I thank all members who have contributed to this debate. I trust they do so genuinely and honestly, because some issues remain about lack of openness and involvement of the public in the process to date. But I take on board the genuine comments by the chair and the Minister, who claim that the situation is “under control”. This is an important issue—a critical issue, in fact—because one of the points raised constantly by the member for Sydney over the 20 years or so she has been a member of this place is the inadequacy of action on animal welfare. I welcome the contributions of members of the Labor Party on this issue; unfortunately, there was not significant action on this matter during its term in government. We trust that this Government will take some positive steps because, as a local councillor of almost 14 years and mayor for several years, I have been very concerned about the level of euthanasia of companion animals. As another member discussed, the department released in August last year the numbers: 150,000 dogs and cats euthanased in pounds over the past five years. That is absolutely unacceptable. It is a disgrace.
The number of animals euthanased in pounds can be easily remedied. A range of steps can be taken. We have heard some of those today, but they include issues that have been raised, for example, in the Australian Capital Territory, in a bill that is before its Legislative Assembly outlining some possible reforms. The bill, introduced by The Greens, has been discussed with other parties in good faith. The bill proposes introducing mandatory licences for cat and dog breeders to ensure they meet proper standards of animal welfare; banning the sale of cats and dogs from stores and markets, with some limited exceptions; introducing additional requirements on the sale of animals; providing basic care information to all buyers; banning the display of animals in store windows; making it an offence to sell animals to children; restricting advertising; introducing a system of traceability; and mandating desexing of cats and dogs at sale—as part of a whole range of strengthening of animal cruelty provisions in the Australian Capital Territory. I encourage the chair of the task force to examine that proposal to see whether it will provide some useful information.
I support the motion moved by the member for Sydney because concerns are held about the make-up of the task force. As a solution, it is considered inferior to a select committee. Many members will have seen the newspaper article that generated a great deal of consternation about this issue, because the make-up of the task force is of significant concern. The Herald Sun of 7 March this year carried a report about the pet industry group president posing with a dead cat. That does not generate support and encourage people to think the industry representatives—who make money by selling companion animals—will have the best interests of animal welfare in mind. The article in the Herald Sun was very disturbing for many people; it caused a lot of concern in the community. People contacted my office and said, “Are these the people looking at animal welfare in the community?”
Genuine concern has been generated because the minutes of meetings of the task force are not available to the public, and there have not been public discussions. Those are legitimate concerns—not political or tactical concerns designed to attack the Government, but genuine concerns about the type of outcome that will come from this task force. The question is: If the industry is running this task force, what kind of an outcome will we get? So, of course, people are waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the submissions and comments on the discussion paper that will be distributed by the Government. I conclude by saying that animal welfare needs to be the focus of all issues. Animal welfare needs to be at the heart of a just and humane society, and that is why The Greens support the motion. We look forward to the Government’s discussion paper so that we can respond to it.
Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [10.36 a.m.], in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate. I am pleased that the Minister has said he finds the facts disturbing and believes the task force will address the issues; and that the chair of the task force assures us that that will be done. But I have to say that I have raised the issue of animal welfare continually over the years, and the Parliament has failed to respond. I find that failure distressing. We are known as the country that has the highest number of pets per person, and we are known as the country where the family pet is a national characteristic. Yet, compared with other countries, our treatment of pets is quite appalling. Successive governments and this House have failed absolutely to address the issue when I have raised it.
I say again that animals are live, sentient beings; they suffer both physical and psychological pain. Defending animal welfare should be a very important part of what we do. I believe the majority of people in New South Wales expect us to do that. There has been an absolute failure in this place to do so up till now. The Government says it will achieve reform through the task force. I welcome the fact that the task force has been set up because that is better than nothing. But we do not know what the task force has done; it has not held any public hearings, and its minutes have not been made public. We are assured that it is getting on with the job. That is great, but we are keen to see what job it is getting on with, given the absolute lack of commitment to this area by government and opposition till now.
The task force includes members of the Pet Industry Association of Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association of Australia and the Australian Companion Animal Council. These are not animal welfare bodies; they represent industry interests. I share the fears and concerns of animal protection groups that the task force will produce recommendations that reflect industry interests and not animal welfare goals. That is why I wanted the inquiry. I believe—and fear, given my past experience in this place and the past experience of the people of New South Wales—that animal welfare needs will be watered down because of industry influence. That is what has happened time and time again. That is why I proposed an inquiry. In fact, I proposed the inquiry when the Coalition said in opposition that it agreed with the proposals in my bill but could not support the bill because it was going to have an inquiry when in government. But when I put forward the proposal for that inquiry now the Coalition is in government, it says the task force will deal with it.
I hope the task force does deal with it and that the task force has as its main goal improving the welfare of companion animals, because that has simply not been the case in this place.
I am sorry that the Government has not honoured its commitment to conduct an inquiry. Once the information was collected and presented it would be up to the Government to decide whether to accept the inquiry’s recommendations. But the Government has gone down the task force route, and I hope some benefits will come from that. I respect the RSPCA, which I work with closely at the City of Sydney, and I have worked with Tim Vasudeva of the Animal Welfare League and Katrina Vesk of the Cat Protection Society on animal welfare issues for a very long time. But I believe they are going to be very much up against industry bodies that have opposed outright regulation in the pet industry.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. C. Williams
Mr J. D. Williams
|Ms Cherie Burton
Ms Noreen Hay
|Mr Mike Baird
Mr Garry Edwards
|Mr Nathan Rees||Mr Geoff Provest|
Question resolved in the negative.
Companion Animals Taskforce (NOTE this is taken from the Department of Primary Industries website and does not necessarily reflect the views of Lawyers for Companion Animals or it’s Principal)
Please see update in NEWS tab
Recently the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Primary Industries announced the establishment of the State’s first Companion Animals Taskforce.
The Taskforce brings together leading animal welfare experts, members of the companion animal industry, and local government representatives. The Taskforce is being chaired by Andrew Cornwell, Member for Charlestown who is also an experienced veterinarian. The new Taskforce will investigate a range of companion animal issues including animal breeding practices and ‘puppy farms’, desexing, micro-chipping, and will consider initiatives to promote responsible pet ownership. The Taskforce will consult closely with pet owners, industry groups and the wider public to develop a Discussion Paper and recommendations for government.
The Taskforce will provide advice on the current companion animal legislative framework, and the means to best safeguard the welfare of our State’s pets. More information on the taskforce is available on the Division of Local Government’s Companion Animal Taskforce webpage.
COMPANION ANIMAL WELFARE INQUIRY (NSW) – Notice of Motion – Clover Moore
Earlier in 2011 Independent MP Clover Moore introduced a Notice of Motion into the NSW Parliament to hold an inquiry into the welfare of companion animals. This inquiry represents NSW greatest chance to investigate and address the issues listed below:
MS CLOVER MOORE to move—
That this House:
(1) Appoints a select committee to inquire on companion animal welfare with the view to improving their welfare.
(2) That the committee consider the following:
(a) The number and cause of companion animals arriving in NSW shelters and pounds each year and their outcome, such as whether they get re-homed, re-united or euthanised;
(b) Breeding of companion animals;
(c) The practices associated with the sale of companion animals including from pet shops, markets, pounds, shelters, on-line, classifieds, or to the overseas market;
(d) Mandatory desexing including prior to sale;
(e) The effectiveness and enforcement of Department of Primary Industries’ companion animal policies, standards and guidelines;
(f) The effectiveness of the Companion Animals Act and its application by local government;
(g) The effectiveness of micro-chipping;
(h) Treatment of companion animals travelling by airplane;
(i) The impact of pet bans in accommodation including apartments, strata, retirement villages, and rental properties;
(j) The impact of pet bans on public transport;
(k) The existence and effectiveness of education programs on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of desexing;
(l) Data collection by government and non-government agencies to inform and monitor companion animal welfare; and,
(m) Any other matter relevant to improving companion animal welfare.
A Parliamentary Inquiry into the welfare of companion animal issues as outlined above should be supported. The Companion Animal Taskforce should be supporting Clover Moore’s proposed Inquiry if they are serious about the issues facing companion animals in NSW. As of 14 February 2012 there has been no formal debate or vote on Clover’s proposal.
ANIMAL WELFARE TASKFORCE CANNOT REPLACE PUBLIC INQUIRY
The NSW Government’s announcement yesterday of a Companion Animal Taskforce responds to the strong community lobbying in support of a Parliamentary inquiry in to companion animal welfare proposed by Clover Moore.
“On 27 July I gave notice of a motion to set up a select committee to investigate companion animal welfare and recommend law and policy reform” said Ms Moore.
“Around 60,000 healthy cats and dogs are killed annually in NSW, while cruel puppy farms and backyard breeders churn out new pets for sale. Litters from pets which haven’t been de-sexed end up on the streets and in pounds, and unfair regulations force people to give up cherished pets when they move into apartments, retirement villages and rental properties.
“The proposed inquiry has strong community support including from animal welfare, rights and protection groups and has seen hundreds of people lobby their State MP” said Ms Moore.
“After years of inaction, I welcome the new Government’s acknowledgement that companion animals in this State are suffering and its commitment to improve welfare.
“But the Companion Animal Taskforce includes strong industry membership whose influence many animal welfare groups report has stalled past reforms” said Ms Moore.
“The inquiry I propose would be open and transparent and include public hearings. Industry would be able to make submissions, but Committee members would not be influenced by other interests like commercial gain.
“When in Opposition, Government members proposed a Parliamentary Inquiry in to companion animal welfare in response to my Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill” said Ms Moore.
“The Taskforce cannot replace an open and transparent public inquiry and I call on the Government to support my motion when it comes up for debate” concluded Ms Moore. (Media Statement by Clover Moore 16 August 2011)
ANIMAL WELFARE TASKFORCE (NSW)
In August 2011 the NSW Minister for Local Government, Don Page, and Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, have launched the State’s first Companion Animals Taskforce in response to recently-released figures which show that in the last five years, more than 150,000 dogs and cats have been euthanased in NSW pounds.
It is regrettable that no Animal Rescue groups were invited to be part of the Taskforce, despite some of these groups having extensive experience with animal welfare and companion animal welfare being what could be loosely termed their “core business”.
Animal lovers should be aware of what occurred in the ACT earlier this year when Caroline Le Couteur MLA tabled the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, which largely addressed companion animal issues. They should familiarize themselves with the Parliamentary debates relating to this Bill.
The Taskforce was established in August 2011. Why is the Taskforce waiting until the first half of 2012 to prepare a discussion paper and call for public submissions? Large numbers of cats and dogs are being killed in pounds and shelters in now. Companion animal welfare issues need addressing urgently now. Why isn’t the Taskforce supporting Clover Moore’s Parliamentary inquiry into the welfare of companion animals? It is doubtful that any meaningful reforms to companion animal welfare will be better served by the Taskforce than by the Inquiry into animal welfare proposed by Clover Moore.
A link to further details relating to the Taskforce can be found here:
PUPPY FARM AWARENESS DAY rally 18 September 2011
I was honored to be asked by Animal Liberation NSW to be a guest speaker at their Puppy Farm Awareness Day held in Sydney recently. Other speakers were: Clover Moore MP, Lord Mayor; Tim Vasudeva, Sydney Dogs and Cats Home and Monika Biernacki, Monika’s Doggie Rescue.
This discussion is targeted at those people who have very little knowledge about puppy farms to those who have been active in campaigning for their closure.
Some of the information that will assist those of you interested in learning about the laws regulating companion animals and puppy farms can be found in the book Animal Law in Australia and New Zealand by D CAO (chapter 6 deals with the Regulation of the Treatment of Companion Animals), RSPCA Australia Puppy farm discussion paper, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 2006 and the Animal Welfare Code of practice for the Breeding of dogs and cats.
The way I am approaching this discussion is to first talk about the laws relating to puppy farms in NSW. Then I will talk a little about enforcement of the laws. Then I will give some tips about how to record your reports with those empowered to enforce laws relating to puppy farmers and animal cruelty offences. And I will end by suggesting ways you can increase awareness of puppy farms.
What is a puppy farm?
This definition of a puppy farm I obtained from RSPCA Australia website
A puppy farm (also known as a puppy factory or puppy mill) is defined as: an intensive dog breeding facility that is operated under inadequate conditions that fail to meet the dogs’ behavioural, social and/or physiological needs. Puppy farms are usually large-scale commercial operations, but inadequate conditions may also exist in small volume breeding establishments.
What is wrong with puppy farms? Or why do people oppose puppy farms?
The main problems associated with puppy farms include: over-breeding (too many litters per female), in-breeding (mating close relatives), minimal or no veterinary care, poor hygiene, inadequate and crowded housing conditions and high mortality rates. Breeding animals may never be allowed out of their cage to exercise, play, have companionship or to urinate or defecate. Puppies born in puppy farms often have long-term health and/or behavioural problems as a result of the conditions they are bred in, poor maternal nutrition and a lack of adequate socialisation during the crucial first few weeks of life.
How are they sold?
Puppies from puppy farms are sold through the internet, newspaper ads, pet shops, sometimes at the puppy farm itself as well as being exported overseas. Puppy farms may also use a house as a ‘shop front’ to sell their animals from so you don’t get to see the poor conditions they breed dogs in. It is not known how many puppy farms there are in Australia, but with the advent of internet sales it is a growing national problem as is the popularity of designer dogs as a status symbol.
The law relating to puppy farms
In NSW the law relating to the breeding of cats and dogs is contained in the Animal Welfare Code of Practice which is administered by the Department of Primary Industries. Enforcement powers lie with the RSPCA NSW, Animal Welfare League and NSW police. Compliance with this Code does not remove the need to abide by the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, and any other laws and regulations, for example, the Local Government Act 1993 or the Companion Animals Act, 1998.
What you can do?
If you become aware of a puppy farm where the animals are being kept in conditions which contravene the Code complaints can be made to the RSPCA, AWL or the NSW police as these are the groups with enforcement powers. The by laws of local councils can vary from council to council. As I understand it there have been some councils who have provided assistance to members of the public who have complained about the conditions of dogs being kept in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. One puppy farm I am aware of where I understand there was a successful prosecution of the owner (of a puppy farm named “Kindee Kennels”) occurred in the Port Stephens area. In this case there was a staff member on the Port Stephens council who was very proactive and worked closely with the RSPCA in this case.
In this particular case I understand that the owner of the puppy farm had council development consent limiting her to a maximum of 10 dogs. However an inspection of the owners property discovered in excess of 100 dogs, which was a clear breach of the development approved by council.
When it comes to alerting authorities I would like to make the following suggestions. If you are dealing with for example a council or RSPCA and you make a complaint make sure you make your own file note of the discussion. If possible it is best to make a diary note with the time, date, person you spoke with, their title and details of the discussion. If you were given a reference number make a note of that as well. If you are able to, please send a follow up email. If you have to use one of those contact forms (on a website) and they do not provide an email copy for your records, take a screen shot before you press the send button. It is very important to keep paper trails and records of when complaints made for follow up purposes. I have received reports of allegations that some agencies are slow to take action so having your own records or notes is very important.
Why is there community opposition to puppy farms?
In addition to the poor conditions of the breeding dogs are issues concerning the sale of puppies in pet shops. And of course another major concern for many of you here today is the large number of healthy cats and dogs (estimated to be around 250,000) that are killed every year in Australian pounds and shelters. So while we have huge numbers of healthy animals killed every year in pounds and shelters puppy farmers and back yard breeders continue to churn out large numbers of puppies for sale.
I think it is important while we are on the issue of puppy farms not to forget greyhounds in this discussion. They are so often forgotten. They are also bred in significant numbers (estimated figures of around 20,000 greyhounds born every year in Australia) and I am aware of reports where the “surplus” of these animals are killed (for example I have heard reports that that some vets have a special room set aside to euthanise healthy “surplus” greyhounds) simply because these animals cannot run fast enough. There is also a market in China for Australian greyhounds and again the information I have is that welfare of Australian bred greyhounds sent from Australia that end up in Macao in China is not good at all. For further reading about “The darker side of greyhound racing” please refer to Chapter 6 of “Not every dog has his day” by Jane Duckworth
Puppy farms and back yard breeders are primarily the hidden business behind the cute puppy in the pet shop window. These puppies are not pure bred but are “designer puppies” and come with no pedigree (groodle, cavoodle, spoodle, beaglier, pugalier, spanatriever etc are not registered breeds). I was down in Melbourne in January this year and saw some puppies in a pet shop window selling for $1200. I asked about the parents of the puppies (i.e. if I could inspect the dogs and also the names of the breeders of the puppies). I was told “No I could not have details of the names of the breeders of the puppies or the parents of the puppies” due to “breeder discretion”. It is not unheard of for those in the pet shop industry to deceive consumers. Pet shop sales staff may mislead buyers by telling them they buy from ‘registered breeders’. It is important to ask whether these ‘registered breeders’ are in fact registered with any kennel or breeding association and not just registered with the local council.
The issue of selling live animals in pet shops is one in which deception is sometimes used to mislead consumers. What the consumer can’t see is the puppy’s mother and father often imprisoned miles away. These intelligent sentient beings are often not walked, socialised or given any love – they are simply breeding machines. The Codes of Practice under which many Australian puppy factories operate have minimal standards and checks and balances are often not in place. In many cases they are not reflective of what the community considers to be appropriate animal welfare standards.
In addition, the mothers of the puppies are often bred in “back to back” cycles, essentially trapped in a life of misery while they produce puppies for sale in pet shops. It’s not uncommon for female dogs as young as six months old to churn out litters for much of their lives. When they’re no longer able to breed, they are often killed. Animal liberationists have staged illegal raids on designer puppy farms and back yard breeders to document and obtain evidence as to the dogs’ living conditions. Many photographs and films of puppy farm raids are available for public viewing on the Internet. Perhaps the most shocking truth about puppy factories is that they’re operating right here, in locations all across Australia.
In June this year the RSPCA started a sticker campaign asking Pet Shops to prove that they don’t buy their puppies from puppy factories. RSPCA estimates that 95% of puppies sold in pet shops are produced in puppy factories or by backyard breeders. As part of their campaign RSPCA asked “Why do pet shops refuse to reveal the supplier details of their puppies? Privacy is not an excuse to not be transparent – what does your local pet shop have to hide?”
I am not sure how many of you are aware that this week the ACCC has moved to pursue companies over misleading labelling of chicken products.
This is it is a welcome move and I can see parallels between the issues relating to the advertising of chickens “free to roam in large barns” and certain pet shops putting up signs stating that they do not source or support puppy farms but then providing no details as to where the puppies originate.
Section 18 (1) of the Australian Consumer Law provides:
A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.
“Animals Australia think ‘Free to roam in large barns’ is a serious misleading of the community. It implies we have good animal welfare standards, which we do not.
“Consumers need confidence that any product labelled free range or otherwise, actually meets expectation in relation to animal husbandry standards,”
I believe the same can be said with regards to pet shops which display signs denying associations with puppy farms yet refusing to provide details of where the puppies originate.
In addition to animal welfare concerns, and concerns about possible misleading or deceptive conduct with regards to representations made by some pet shops as to where their “stock” originates, due to lack of record keeping I have concerns that significant amounts of tax free money is being made by some puppy farmers and back yard breeders.
In NSW today anyone who puts two dogs together can call themselves a breeder,”
There are little or no checks or balances and inadequate resources to enforce basic record keeping of dogs being bred. The breeding of all dogs needs to be tracked, monitored and controlled.
The RSPCA is lobbying for a national registration or licensing scheme so all puppies, regardless of how or where they are sold, can be traced back to the breeder.
In Qld a Pilot Program is being trialled by the Gold Coast City Council for a user pay breeder permit system. This requires residents who own an entire cat or dog, and breeds, or intends to breed, to hold a breeder permit. This aims to address the oversupply of cats and dogs as well as attempting to keep euthanasia rates to a minimum on the Gold Coast. Breeder permits are required for residents who breed from their pet, those who breed as hobby breeders and those who have commercial breeding establishments. If you breed or intend to breed your cat or dog you are required to obtain a breeder permit from Council and comply with the Breeder Code of Practice.
In my view a National Breeder Permit Scheme needs to be considered. Laws need to be introduced which require all cats and dogs to be micro chipped and every dog and cat should be able to be traced back to its original breeder.
Just as there are records kept for births, deaths and marriages of humans, I believe that appropriate, transparent, and fully accountable record keeping of births, death and matings of all dogs would, along with a National breeder permit scheme assist in identifying original breeders of unhealthy and surrendered dogs, dogs with genetic defects as well as patterns, trends and other indicators as to reasons why large numbers of healthy dogs find their way into pounds and shelters every year.
The keeping of fully transparent and fully accountable records for the sale of puppies and dogs would also prevent some back yard breeders and puppy farms from continuing to earn tax free dollars. My view is that apart from being an animal welfare issue the lack of regulation and record keeping means that many of these puppy farmers and back yard breeders fly under the radar and the Australian Taxation Office is being denied significant amounts of tax dollars from the sale of puppies.
Representatives from Animal welfare groups have raised concerns with regards record keeping of euthanized animals. I have been given examples of where an animal has been surrendered to a shelter and that animal has been euthanised yet there appears to be no records of this euthanasia occurring. There appears to be a deficiency in the accuracy of record keeping.
What can you do?
To increase awareness
Distribute postcards from RSPCA, Oscars Law or flyers from Animal Liberation. Can I suggest that you aim to give out at least one flyer/postcard per day. The following locations may be suitable places to leave postcards or fliers or to distribute postcards or flyers
At work – on a noticeboard
School -on a noticeboard
Social groups- noticeboard
You could also distribute the flyers via a Letterbox drop
Complain if Codes not being complied with (make records of all complaints). If you become aware of pet shops or puppy farms who re not complying with the relevant Codes make a complaint to the RSPCA, AWL or NSW police.
Make companion animal welfare a political issue. Make an appointment with your local State MP and tell them animal welfare issues are very important to you and ask what they are going to do to improve companion animal welfare in NSW. Follow up your appointment with a written letter or email outlining your concerns.
In conclusion, make your voice heard – as the dogs who suffer in puppy farms have no voice. And remember social justice movements are often the necessary catalyst to legislative change taking place.
There is increasing public awareness relating to issues surrounding puppy farms and back yard breeders
Gumtree on-line advertising does not support puppy farms.
Here is a excerpt from their website
Gumtree does not support advertisers from Puppy mills and is committed to removing any ads found to be practicing this sort of activity. Puppy mills, puppy factories, puppy farms; whichever term you want to use is an ongoing problem with the pet industry. These are places where breeders breed a wide variety of dogs under inhumane conditions and indiscriminately breed on a large scale for the purpose of selling and making a profit with little thought for the animals.
RSPCA Prove it campaign
In June 2011 the RSPCA started a sticker campaign asking Pet Shops to Prove that they don’t buy their puppies from puppy factories. RSPCA estimates that 95% of puppies sold in pet shops are produced in puppy factories or by backyard breeders. As part of their campaign RSPCA asked “Why do pet shops refuse to reveal the supplier details of their puppies? Privacy is an excuse to not be transparent – what does your local pet shop have to hide?”
Breed Specific Legislation in Victoria
“Following the death of four-year-old Ayen Chol on 17 August 2011, the Victorian government set in place a strengthening of its dangerous dog provisions. They included expanding the restricted breed definition to include cross-bred dogs and bringing forward an amnesty deadline set in 2010. The new provisions take effect on 30 September. Greater criminal sanctions for the owners of dogs that kill people are currently being implemented in Victoria.” AVA Policy Briefing Dangerous Dogs 22 September 2011
The problem with Breed Specific Legislation is where does it end? You wipe out the American Pit Bull Terrier and it’s crosses, what breed will be targeted next? There is nothing to stop the witch hunt from continuing with another breed when irresponsible dog owners don’t manage their dog correctly and another child is injured. The developments in Victoria are worrying and along with the media hysteria have resulted in dogs put down due as a result of the new legislation.
“Today for the first time in 20 years I am questioning if I still want to do this job. My staff and I are all in tears after having to put down our first Pit Bull under the new legislation. He had been dumped, by an owner who had put in the time for this magnificent dog to be friendly to all, shake hands and worse still licked my face with kisses as he passed. To all the friends that I have made in the shelter systems and council officers etc over the years, you have my thoughts with you as you too are forced to apply an unjust law. I have no issue with “bad dogs” and bad owners being labelled, but this is not the way to do it. To the unknown dog that now sleeps in the arms of my staff with our tears, may life make you look different next time because in this life that was your only flaw.” Dr Karen Davies (Vet), Direct Vet Services, (Point Cook) Melbourne, Victoria (30 September 2011)
BSL has been proven around the world to be a failure in all key areas of performance and does not stop dog bites in the community. Such legislation should be opposed. A science based animal management model is one way to approach the complex social and animal welfare issues that surround dog bite prevention.
“Breed specific legislation results in punishing and ultimately driving away responsible owners of the targeted breed(s) while having little to no impact on the actual cause of problems, those using dogs for illegal or immoral purposes. Instead of enacting BSL, communities should be more aggressive in enforcement of dangerous dog, anti-fighting, and anti-cruelty statutes. More emphasis must be placed on owner responsibility, as the majority of attacks are due to owner neglect or mistreatment. Targeting the actions and non-action of owners will be more effective and sensible in realistically decreasing dog attacks.” Sara Chisnell-Voigt Legal Counsel UNITED KENNEL CLUB, INC.
NSW report into Breed Specific Legislation
In 2002 Dr Kersti Seksel was commissioned by the NSW government to report on its breed specific legislation. Dr Sekel concluded
“that breed alone is a poor indicator of aggression towards humans and that as a consequence there is no clear evidence to justify discriminating against particular breeds within legislation. This is irrespective of whether the legislation aims to ban the breed or to automatically apply the types of controls as applied to other dogs deemed to be dangerous to all dogs within the specific breed.”
(In Victoria) Pit Bull Terrier’s not registered by 29 September 2011 will be seized and put down.
Statement provided for the Breed Specific Legislation rally held in Sydney on
Lawyers for Companion Animals accepts that dangerous dogs of any breed that pose a threat to the community should be destroyed.
With particular reference to the breed specific legislation (The Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breeds) Act 2011) introduced into Victorian Parliament last month the main area of disagreement relates to the breed specific parts of the legislation, essentially the restrictions on Pit Bull Terriers.
The biggest problem is determining whether an animal is actually a Pit Bull or Pit Bull cross, or whether it is a cross involving other breeds. There are no reliable DNA markers for pit bulls (or Pit Bull crosses) and it is not possible to reliably identify a breed from a dog’s appearance.
There is no DNA test which can identify an animal as a Pit Bull or cross. Therefore under the new laws the determination can only be made on physical characteristics based on a visual assessment as outlined in the Standard. In effect, the legislation is targeting dogs of a particular appearance (rather than breed or temperament). Staffordshire bull terriers, and other dogs are being killed and will continue to be killed based on appearance alone. It would appear that the intent of the legislation is to target American Pit Bull Terriers, however other breeds are being adversely affected, in particular the American Staffordshire Terrier.
The problem with Breed Specific Legislation is where does it end? You wipe out the American Pit Bull Terrier and it’s crosses, what breed will be targeted next? There is nothing to stop the witch hunt from continuing with another breed when irresponsible dog owners don’t manage their dog correctly and another child is injured. Dog-bite prevention strategies should focus on public education and training of both dogs and owners. The problem of dog bites and dog attacks does not lie within a single breed or group of breeds. The problem ultimately lies with the individual owner, and that is where the focus of dangerous dog laws should be.
Lawyers for Companion Animals supports amendments to the Crimes Act so that dog owners are held responsible and accountable for the actions of their dogs. Dog attacks in the community are not a breed issue; they are a responsible dog ownership issue.
Lawyers for Companion Animals does not support breed specific legislation generally and has serious concerns about aspects of the Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breeds) Act 2011.
Animal welfare groups must be investigated: lawyer