The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) has condemned the Companion Animals’ Amendment (Puppy Farm) Bill 2021, saying that it has “no basis on animal welfare”.

The Bill, introduced by the Animal Justice Party last week, seeks to eliminate regulated professional dog breeding by severely limiting the number of breeding dogs a breeder can have.

Furthermore, it seeks to prohibit the sale of puppies through pet stores that are not from a rehoming organisation. The Bill ignores that pet stores already have safeguards in place with current local Government codes of practice and traceability via microchipping.

A spokesperson for the PIAA told Pet Industry News (PIN) that eliminating puppy farms is a paramount aim of the Association, but this Bill has completely missed the mark.

“We are all for regulation. We are all about animal welfare but from an educated perspective, through consultation and working together,” said the spokesperson.

“This Bill seeks to eliminate regulated professional dog breeding which will cut the supply of dogs so dramatically that unregulated backyard breeders (accessed predominantly via untraceable online trading platforms such as Gumtree) will be the only sources of puppies.”

The Bill would seek to restrict breeders to a maximum of 10 breeding dogs and suggests that two or less breeding dogs would not lead to poor animal welfare outcomes, so these breeders need not be held accountable.

But the PIAA stresses that poor dog breeding practices can occur with any number of dogs, and that all breeders should be regulated equally, irrespective of the number of breeding animals.

“A puppy farm is defined by poor treatment of dogs, not the number of breeding dogs.”

The PIAA believes the only way you can eliminate abusive breeding practices (puppy farms) is to introduce a tiered self-funded dog/cat breeder license system – the larger the breeder, the higher the fees and more frequent the audits. Audits must be done by a third-party authority such as RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League (AWL).

Barry Codling, President, PIAA, is astounded by the lack of insight by the Animal Justice Party to introduce such legislation.

“It is obvious after three years of consultation into a similar Bill in Victoria that simply cutting the number of breeding animals is not the solution.

“Industry can see that there are improvements to be made but ensuring animal welfare will be done through auditing and licensing, not cutting out breeding entirely,” said Codling.

Australia has one of the highest pet populations in the world where 69 per cent of households own a pet of some kind, and demand is predicted to increase.

According to the PIAA, regulated pet shops equate to less than five per cent of all puppy sales, where unregulated online sales equate to more than 50 per cent.

The PIAA says that unnecessarily restricting breeders will force the pricing of dogs to be out of reach for the average Australian. And by prohibiting the sale of pure-bred puppies through pet stores would drive further sales online.

“Families in NSW will be forced online to choose family pets and take the gamble of being scammed out of thousands of dollars, choosing a dog from an unregulated breeder, and potentially ending up with a poorly bred dog with health or behavioural problems. They will then have nowhere to turn. This often leads to poor outcomes for the dog. It makes far more sense to offer families an auditing and licensing system, including assurances of healthy bloodlines, socialisation and support in rehoming animals if their circumstances change,” says Codling.

“What makes the PIAA really concerned is that this Bill also risks the ability of NSW families to have family pets. The much-loved occasion of bringing a puppy home and watching it grow up with your family could be lost for NSW families if this Bill comes into effect.

“Both the NSW and Victorian Parliamentary Inquiries into puppy farms recommended a tiered breeder and pet shop license system with stricter regulation. They both found that there is no benefit to welfare to ban pet shops and restricting dog breeders to 10 dogs. Perhaps it is time to listen to the experts and the regulators of the industry.”