The hearing for the proposed Companion Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms) Bill is set to take place today (Thursday).

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

John Grima, owner of Kellyville Pets and witness at the hearing, said that by limiting breeders to no more than ten dogs, it will increase the demand on backyard breeders.

“Backyard breeding will lead to worse conditions as there will be a lot more small breeders out there trying to meet the demand. And by capping the breeder to ten dogs, it means that breeders will have to be working another job and therefore can’t give their full attention to breeding.”

Hugh Gent OAM, President and Chairman of the Board at Dogs Australia, said the shelters and rescues that the AJP seek to endorse as their preferred suppliers of companion animals will be full of the puppies bred by rogue breeders.

“Rather than the eradication of puppy farmers, the AJP Bill will increase their presence and profits. It will erode the advances made in the health and wellbeing of dogs by breeders who breed to reduce heritable diseases, and follow strict breeding codes, as they will have given up breeding under the illogical, draconian, laws promulgated by the AJP.

“The result will be genetic emasculation of pure-bred dogs and families possibly, ending up with a poorly bred dog with health or behavioural problems,” said Gent.

The Bill also proposes the banning of puppies through pet shops, a sector that only accounts for five per cent of all puppy sales and, which Grima believes is the most transparent form of getting a puppy.

“An authority can go into a pet shop at any time, seven days a week, and look at the records that they are legally obliged to keep and trace breeders back to that point.

“Whereas at a breeder’s place, they can’t just walk onto the property, they have to get permission from the breeder and organise a time. They can’t come unannounced unless they’ve done something really bad and have a warrant to come and search the premises,” said Grima.

Grima said his customers expect them to have puppies in store and they come to Kellyville because of the level of transparency that they provide, and if that’s taken away then customers will be forced to go online and potentially be scammed or deal with a puppy farm and not know it.

“The best way to remedy the puppy farm situation is to license breeders and license pet shop owners and to improve codes of practice to be more in line with better welfare practices in breeding, because at the moment the codes of practice are not strong enough to stop some puppy farms from operating.”

The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) also believes pet shops should be able to sell puppies as they are more visible to both the greater public and the inspectorate for compliance to animal welfare laws.

“Pet shops are the first point of contact to new pet owners and should be endorsed to communicate to consumers on responsible pet sourcing along with ownership whether they choice to sell animals or not,” the PIAA said in a statement.

Both Grima and the PIAA pointed at the lack of clarity surrounding the term “puppy farm”, and that there is the need for a legal definition of the term that all stakeholders agree upon.

“The greatest failure of this proposed bill is that it fails to define exactly what a Puppy Farm is but proposes solutions based on the Animal Justice party’s agenda. The bill continues to regulate the entire industry through reductions of breeding and or the selling of animals based on an undefined meaning of Puppy Farms,” said the PIAA.

The most widely adopted meaning of the term is the RSPCA’s definition that a puppy farm is “an intensive dog or cat breeding facility that is operated under inadequate conditions that fail to meet the animals behavioural, social and/or physical needs”.

Grima said that despite the RSPCA’s definition, there are other groups and people who define a puppy farm as something else.

“There are groups that believe that a puppy farm is anyone who breeds a dog and makes money out of it, even though they may be breeding them in highly ethical conditions. Then there are those that believe a puppy farm is a place where dogs are being kept in squalid conditions, with no respect for the breeding dogs and are just purely there to make money.

“Some of the public think that a puppy farm is a nice place because it’s a farm and you breed dogs so it’s called a puppy farm. We need to create a definition of what a puppy farm is so we know who to hold accountable.”