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Australia: “Puppy Farms” Banned in State of Victoria

(Dec. 19, 2017) On December 15, 2017, the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, passed the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016 (Vic), which prohibits high-volume commercial dog-breeding operations, commonly referred to as “puppy farms” or “puppy factories.” (Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016, VICTORIAN LEGISLATION AND PARLIAMENTARY DOCUMENTS (last visited Dec. 18, 2017).) Victoria is the first state in Australia to ban such operations, and the Bill “delivers on the Government’s election commitment to stamp out puppy farms, reform pet shops in Victoria and improve traceability of online sales of cats and dogs.” (Press Release, Jaala Pulford (Minister for Agriculture), Getting it Done: Ending Puppy Farming Once and for All (Dec. 15, 2017), Premier of Victoria website.)

The Bill amends the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (Vic) (as at Sept. 30, 2017, VICTORIAN LEGISLATION AND PARLIAMENTARY DOCUMENTS). Its passage follows a parliamentary inquiry regarding the Bill as originally drafted, conducted in late 2016, to which the government responded in June 2017. (Inquiry into the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016, PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA (last visited Dec. 18, 2017); Government Response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016, AGRICULTURE VICTORIA (last updated June 7, 2017); Press Release, Jaala Pulford, Staying the Course on Puppy Farm Crackdown (June 6, 2017), Premier of Victoria website.) In addition to the hearings held as part of the inquiry, the government had further discussions with interested stakeholders, before re-introducing an amended bill in November 2017. (Press Release, Jaala Pulford, Getting it Done: Stamping Out Puppy Farms (Nov. 28, 2017), Premier of Victoria website.)

The Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, explained that,

[u]nder the new legislation, the number of fertile females [sic] dogs that a breeder can own and register with local council will be capped at 10. Only those meeting additional requirements will be approved by the Minister for Agriculture to keep an absolute maximum of 50 fertile female dogs.

Breeding members of cat or dog applicable organisations, such as Dogs Victoria, with 10 or less breeding females will be recognised as recreational breeders and can continue to abide by their organisation’s Code of Ethics (or equivalent).

Illegal breeders will have nowhere to hide and will no longer be able to funnel puppies and kittens through pet shops to unsuspecting members of the public.

As of 1 July 2018, pet shops will only be able to sell from approved sources (shelters, pounds or voluntarily registered foster carers) and there will be no more puppies in pet shop windows.

Traceability of cats and dogs will be improved significantly through the establishment of the Pet Exchange Register. Breeders, foster carers and members of the public advertising a cat or dog will enrol on the Register. (Getting It Done: Ending Puppy Farming Once and for All, supra.)

The limits on numbers of fertile female dogs will take effect in April 2020. (Puppy Farming Will Be Outlawed in Victoria, SBS NEWS (Dec. 15, 2017).)

Reactions to the Legislation

The passage of the Bill was celebrated by advocacy group “Oscar’s Law,” which lobbies for the prohibition of puppy farming throughout Australia. The organization is named after its founder’s toy poodle, Oscar, who was a stud dog at a puppy farm before being rescued. (Id.; Home, OSCAR’S LAW (last visited Dec. 18, 2017).) The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) also welcomed the new legislation, saying that the pet exchange register, which will allow animals to be traced back to their breeder, “is the most effective tool yet in stamping out the farms.” (Calla Wahlquist, Ending Puppy Farms: Are Victoria’s New Laws the Right Approach?, GUARDIAN (Dec. 18, 2017).) The register will come into effect from July 1, 2019, after which date “anyone who either breeds animals for sale or passes on ownership of a dog or cat either by selling or free exchange needs to register with the pet exchange and acquire a source number.” (Id.) The source number will be linked to the animal’s microchip.

However, according to the Australian Veterinary Association of Victoria, “the laws could have the unintended consequence of encouraging small-scale backyard breeders who do not have the experience of larger professional breeders, which could lead to negative animal welfare outcomes.” (Id.) Furthermore, it considers the limits on female breeding dogs to be an “arbitrary number,” and argues that “the number should remain uncapped but with the same strong new regulations and compliance measures in place.” (Id.) The RSPCA agreed that “[t]here’s no evidence that connects animal welfare to the number of breeding animals,” and that limiting the number of animals was simply a choice made by the government. However, it stated that, “at the end of the day, we think the focus should be on the jewel of the crown, which is traceability.” (Id.)