Animal abusers and dodgy pet shops acting as fronts for cruel backyard breeders are among those targeted by a landmark new report into puppy farming in Australia.
The report, which was tabled in NSW Parliament on Thursday, could see breeders who sell dogs bred with harmful traits – which include popular breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs – forced to pay for expensive life-saving surgery.
The inquiry was established last November to examine a bill from Animal Justice Party MP and vegan bodybuilder Emma Hurst, who is seeking to tighten the legal requirements for breeders.
The Puppy Farming in New South Wales report included 18 recommendations including several seeking to close loopholes that unethical backyard breeders are exploiting in NSW.
Animal abusers and dodgy pet shops acting as fronts for cruel backyard breeders are among those targeted by a landmark new report into puppy farming in Australia (pictured, Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst, whose bill is behind the inquiry)
Ms Hurst said dodgy pet shops acting as a ‘front’ for puppy farms need to be forced to operate ethically or banned
One such loophole would ban anyone convicted of animal cruelty from running a breeding operation in NSW.
Ms Hurst says ‘pathetic’ laws currently allow this to happen.
In one case an Inverell man was allowed to continue running a breeding operation with more than 100 dogs despite being convicted of 18 counts of animal abuse.
Another loophole animal advocates want shut would stop anyone banned from breeding in another state from moving their operation to NSW.
Animal welfare advocates have slammed the cruel selective breeding for ‘cuteness’ in certain breeds, including French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels
‘This inquiry has exposed just how pathetic our current animal protection laws are – we are failing to protect companion animals from acts of abuse in NSW,’ Ms Hurst said.
‘We need to make sure anyone convicted of animal cruelty should never be allowed to run an animal breeding business.’
One of animal welfare advocates’ main aims is to move NSW closer to a partial ban on ‘baby-faced’ breeds, including some of Australia’s most popular dog choices.
The test that the AVA says should see a dog banned from breeding or being shown is whether its muzzle length is less than a third of its skull
They have slammed the cruel selective breeding for ‘cuteness’ in French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, for example.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) wants to see any dog with ‘a muzzle length less than a third of its skull length’ banned from being bred or shown because of the suffering caused to the animal.
‘We definitely need to be breeding harmful traits back out of these dogs,’ Ms Hurst said.
‘It’s gotten so out of control we now have animals that are suffering every day and something desperately needs to be done.’
Last week a backyard dog breeder flaunted his wealth on social media after selling dogs online for massive profits.
The breeder, named Anthony, films himself spreading literally thousands of dollars in $50 notes across a bed, before showing himself in designer clothes, all while encouraging others to start a dog breeding business.
He claimed to be making enough money selling Cavoodle puppies to fuel a $20,000-per-month lifestyle, which includes luxury cars, flashy overseas holidays and fancy dinners at expensive restaurants.
Maureen Elvy admitted to Daily Mail Australia she spent $200,000 on surgery to fix shocking health issues suffered by her French Bulldog Phoebe due to dodgy breeding practices
In Sydney, Cavoodle puppies – a mix of poodle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – sell for up to $6,000 each.
Ms Hurst said dodgy pet shops acting as a ‘front’ for puppy farms need to be forced to operate ethically or banned.
She acknowledged many chain pet stores have changed their model to sell rescue animals, but many have resisted and continue to sell animals bought from breeders.
‘There is a large possibility that a lot of the animals in pet shops have come from backyard breeders and puppy farms,’ she said.
‘We want that outlawed.’
Limits are needed on the number of dogs a breeder can have, found the upper house committee behind the report.
Mick Veitch, chair of the Select Committee on Puppy Farming in NSW, said there were more than 900 submissions to the inquiry and 6,000 responses to an online questionnaire.
‘There is no doubt that puppy and kitten farming at its worst is an abhorrent practice, with offenders largely operating underground,’ he said.
Why animal rights activists want puppy farms banned
‘Puppy farms condemn dogs to a life of cruelty in facilities where they are kept confined, often in squalid conditions, without socialisation, exercise or access to veterinary treatment.
‘These dogs deliver litter after litter until they are physically incapable of continuing and their puppies may have physical abnormalities or illnesses due to poor breeding practices or poor nutrition.
Although a smaller industry, cats in kitten farms also suffer from similar cruelty.’
– Animal Justice Party
The more dogs there were, the less likely it was a breeder could guarantee their welfare, the report found.
Ensuring the welfare of animals at industrial-scale breeding facilities would be impossible without imposing staffing ratios and socialisation requirements for the animals.
The report recommends the government introduce an extended liability scheme holding breeders responsible for congenital or genetic health issues arising in the first year of an animal’s life.
One devoted dog owner admitted to Daily Mail Australia she spent $200,000 on surgery to fix shocking health issues her pet suffers due to dodgy breeding practices.
Maureen Elvy’s French bulldog called Phoebe has needed spinal, airway and genital surgery, and regular immunotherapy costing $2,000 a treatment since she got the dog in 2017.
Stricter laws introduced in Victoria and Western Australia, and expected to be introduced in South Australia, had prompted larger breeders to relocate across the border, the inquiry heard.
‘The policy landscape across Australia is changing, and NSW communities, especially border towns, are being affected,’ Mr Veitch said.
‘The NSW government needs to act to address this impact, and to keep up with changed community expectations about animal welfare.’
Mr Veitch said people wanted assurance their pets had been ethically bred and well cared for before they brought them into their homes.
Owners of backyard dog breeding businesses have been overtly flaunting their wealth online – with animal rights groups concerned over their practices
Anthony (pictured) claims to be earning enough money from selling Cavoodle puppies to fuel a $20,000-per-month lifestyle
The committee was concerned people with animal cruelty convictions were able to continue breeding.
Potentially illegal and complicated breeding arrangements, where people return their pet to breed or deliver a litter, was another area where laws needed to be tightened.
If Ms Hurst’s bill does not pass, the committee recommends the government urgently introduce its own legislation.
Greater guidance on breeding arrangements, limits on the number of animals a breeder can have and the litters they can deliver, and increased funding for animal welfare organisations are among the other recommendations.
The trouble with brachycephalic or flat-faced dog breeds
The dogs have been selectively bred for cuteness – but suffer breathing difficulties and many other health effects as a result of exaggeratedly flattened faces.
Health impacts include:
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and vertebral body abnormalities.
BOAS affects the animal’s ability to breathe, exercise, thermoregulate, sleep, play and undertake other normal behaviours.
The vertebral body abnormalities occur through selection for a ‘cork screw’ tail, and can result in neurological issues.
The breeds of most concern for BOAS include:
- French bulldog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Boston terrier
- British bulldog
There is also concern over breeding for ‘corkscrew’ tails, which can produce spinal and neurological issues.