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Canberrans can stop puppy farms and backyard breeders with new bill

By Tammy Ven Dange - 17 March 2015 14

Puppy

A few months ago, a four-week-old puppy (pictured) was surrendered to RSPCA ACT. He was apparently an unwanted gift, and these owners were actually his third, which meant that this puppy would have likely been taken from his mother and litter mates right after he opened his eyes.

Named Curtis by the staff, one of my experienced employees took him home to foster him since he was way too young to be adopted. During the days he would hang out in the admin office, and at night he would live in a home with several adult dogs and cats.

However, not everything was well with Curtis. He was extremely “mouthy” as a young puppy, and while cute at this stage it was a warning sign. At seven-weeks, he went through his first behavioural assessment with our certified dog trainers. He failed – showing some serious signs of aggression and guarding which is unusual for a puppy of his age.

To give Curtis another chance, we decided to try another foster carer’s home. Curtis would spend his time there being mentored and trained by a different staff member and her adult dog.

A few weeks later, he had already grown to almost double his size proving our view that he would be a very large dog. He undertook a behavioural assessment again, and he was even worse.  This little puppy was soon to be a large adult dog with some serious aggression tendencies. It broke all of our hearts, but we knew that we could not rehome him and take the risk of him one day hurting a person or another animal.

Looking back on the life of Curtis, we did everything we could do to save him. What we couldn’t do was stop the original owners from selling him at such a young age via a classified ad. As a result, he did not have a chance to properly learn good dog behaviour from his mum and litter mates when he was younger.

Last month, Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury tabled a breeding legislation amendment to the Domestic Animals Act 2000. At the heart of this bill is the prevention of puppy and kitten farms in the ACT. While we do not have an obvious issue with such farms at the moment like other states and territories, it does act as a proactive measure to reduce the risks of it occurring in the future.

Nevertheless, what I am most interested about this bill is an additional mandate that breeders would be required to display their licence number in advertisements for puppies and kittens. Right now, the main problem with breeding in the ACT is that interstate puppy farms and backyard breeders are selling their animals at markets and through online classified ads.

While this would require the ACT Government to enforce this legislation, the main benefit of this part of the bill is that it is not dependent on limited government resources for it to work. In the future it will be that the advertising channels that would also need to monitor this to ensure that a legitimate breeder’s license is being displayed.

Furthermore, this bill will finally put the appropriate information in the hands of potential pet owners. No longer will they have to guess the origins of a pet since only the legitimate breeders would be able to sell in the ACT. And if the consumer demand for backyard breeders goes away, then the potential income and often deplorable practices of unrestrained breeding goes down.

The Breeders bill will soon be entering parliamentary debate. I encourage you to support this measure now, as well as in the future when and if it is passed. Not only will this put proactive measures in place to reduce the risk of puppy and kitten farms in the ACT, it will also give the consumers the information they need to make good decisions the next time they want to purchase a pet from a breeder.

Together, let’s eliminate the risk of more Curtis stories.

Tammy Ven Dange is the Chief Executive of RSPCA ACT.

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14 Responses to
Canberrans can stop puppy farms and backyard breeders with new bill
kyliesw 9:10 pm 30 Mar 15

I’m glad that this issue is being addressed. However, I’m saddened at the fate of this young pup. I have no doubt that a young dog could be trained by the right person with the right amount of dedication and consistency. It’s unfortunate that those who fostered him were not able to dedicate enough of their time (fostering is time consuming and difficult to provide devoted attention when you have other pets) … Pity that the “assessors” did not consider what this pup really needed – dedication, focus, commitment – and how that could impact his behaviour whilst he was still so young. Pity that there was no one out there suitable that could adopt him – but then again it appears that he wasn’t really given much chance! Pity that there are so many animals out there in need, and resources/funding stretched enough already.

frenzied1 4:31 pm 30 Mar 15

I would like to offer my opinion with this sad situation. This is my personal opinion as a long term dog rescuer not that of the group I am affiliated with.
I would have thought that your assessors would have known that during the period of 4-8 weeks or so is a crucial time that a pup with learn bite inhibition, he learns this from his mother and his litter mates. Poor Curtis was robbed of that crucial time with his family so would need to have been taught by his carers. I find it devastating that Curtis has been euthanased when he is still such a young pup and not given the chance to learn with training. I myself have had a 10 week old pup that was rescued from a bad situation that exhibited on his first night so quite savage food guarding as in his prior home he had had to scramble and fight for his food within 2 days we had remedied this guarding with simple training tricks.
I agree that puppy farms and backyard breeders should be stopped especially those that think that it is ok to take pups away from their mothers so very young. However I would hope that pups would be given more of a chance than deeming them not worthy at 12 weeks. So I hope that there are no more Curtis stories from both sides of the fence.

TFarquahar 6:10 am 30 Mar 15

Solidarity said :

There are a whole lot of bogans on Tysons who have a light-bulb light up when they see how much some puppies are sold for…

There are even posts from people saying “Does anyone have a purebreed pitbull* dog, I have a bitch on heat”

*substitute for every breed under the sun here

Perhaps if the legislation included a section regarding penalties on conviction that the offenders were de-sexed and mirco-chipped we would have the problem solved. Even better the plan to dart kangaroos with Implanon could be extended to Bogans and we would have a happier society with enormous social security benefits savings.

Antagonist 5:55 pm 20 Mar 15

I like what you are doing here, but it will only create a new problem. How do you stop people from simply going into NSW to get their new puppy from Gumtree – exactly as I did just 12 months ago?

carnardly 5:52 pm 20 Mar 15

Solidarity – that’s exactly my point. The just see the potential $$$$ and don’t give a flying figtree where the puppies end up. and if they can flog a $500 crossbred mongrel (not that there’s anything wrong with mongrels but i wouldn’t pay that much for one unless that included vaccination, desexing and giving it a chip on its shoulders) and at maybe 5 or 6 puppies a litter, its an easy $3000. But they’re not vaccinated or speyed or passed on responsibly.

that’s WHY they do it. sigh…

Solidarity 2:26 pm 20 Mar 15

There are a whole lot of bogans on Tysons who have a light-bulb light up when they see how much some puppies are sold for…

There are even posts from people saying “Does anyone have a purebreed pitbull* dog, I have a bitch on heat”

*substitute for every breed under the sun here

carnardly 11:38 am 20 Mar 15

go and look on all classifieds, tysons pages gumtree and the like. This might be the start but how the hell do you stop the irresponsible people flogging of undesexed kittens and puppies on every website in town. Indoor cat and kittens free to good home… err – i guess she got out one night… any critter has the potential to get out so why not prevent the problem in the first place. They flog them for $50 or give them away unvaccinated, still entire – even if they’re over the age and people see cute critters and take them home and the cycle continues.

The law has to be strengthened to put the responsibility back on the seller. Nothing over the age of 3 months leaves their hands without being fixed – and or at least paid to commit – ie paid for a desexing with an approved vet and given like a gift certificate that the new owner presents within a month or so. Paid for by the seller. And followed up on within the next month to ensure it does get done.

Responsible owners do this anyway – but the bogan owners who want a tough dog with balls, or don’t think its a problem their cat is out sowing oats every night are the ones we need to target.

I also know that there’s the subsidised cat desexing program on at the moment, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

With curtis above – there are a few related points.

one – yes – he was obviously removed from the little too young
two – how come he was bred in the first place – owners who hadn’t desexed their own dogs and either accidentally or deliberately bred curtis and his litter mates.
three – the fact that dogs of potentially dubious temperaments were ALLOWED to breed.

I bet curtis wasn’t free to good home either…It’s not fair on the bloody dogs. The owners of the parent dogs dont think its a problem, sit back and collect the dosh from backyard breeding. Ignorant new owners impulse take a new puppy of whoknowswhat origin and off they go to repeat the cycle again and again.

The best thing any owner can do for a pet is desex it before it ever leaves their hands.

khaleesi 10:42 am 20 Mar 15

I think the breeding legislation amendment sounds great…but is it actually going to be enforced? For example in the ACT we all pet cats and dogs must be desexed, except for a small number of cases where they are exempt.

This is a great law and yet the data shows that in 2013-2014 all of 12 infringements for keeping undesexed dogs and 1 infringement for having an undesexed cat were issued by Domestic Animal Services. This information came from an FOI request.

I might be too pessimistic but I fear any new legislation will be the same. Sounds great on paper, but then is never enforced and we are left with the status quo.

Tammy Ven Dange 8:05 pm 17 Mar 15

Pragmatix said :

Love your articles Tammy. Very informative.

Thanks! I’m very happy to give RiotACT readers more info about what we do, my views and the challenges that we face at RSPCA ACT. I’m currently planning some future articles too, but if you have something that you really want to hear about, let me know. I’m open to ideas.

Tammy Ven Dange 7:58 pm 17 Mar 15

KTB said :

I am repeatedly disgusted and amazed at the number of ACT pet owners who do not desex or register their dogs. We may not have a significant puppy farm ‘problem’ here but there is certainly broad opportunity for messaging about responsible ownership to be improved, preferably through significant fines or surrendering of animals.

http://the-riotact.com/canberrans-can-stop-puppy-farms-and-backyard-breeders-with-new-bill/143382/quote-comment-543599/#comment

Completely agree. I have actually proposed some programs to the ACT Government that will require a number of organisations like RSPCA ACT, TAMS, ACT Housing and even private vet clinics to work together to help some of these issues. No single entity can address these concerns alone.

The truth is that dogs are regulated far better than cats right now. Even the legislation is stronger. And it is actually unwanted cats and kittens that are a bigger challenge for us in the ACT. We are currently seeing the second and third wave of kittens this season – meaning that many mums have had a few litters already since spring. These guys are coming to us with weaker immune systems which is making it really hard to keep them healthy. Thank goodness for our foster care volunteers because we couldn’t cope with these incoming numbers without them!

Tammy Ven Dange 7:48 pm 17 Mar 15

Kalliste said :

My only concern after reading about the change is that people who aren’t licensed but breed animals anyway could then abandon them or they may be treated poorly.

What would something like this mean for pet owners whose pets end up having babies (because they didn’t get their pets desexed) and the owners aren’t licensed to sell them?

There are many ways that people can rehome such animals without selling them, especially at such a young age. At the RSPCA ACT, we routinely offer to look after the mum and bubs together until they are old enough to be desexed and adopted. Then, we will desex the mum for free and return her to the owner. This is for both cats and dogs.

Kalliste 5:23 pm 17 Mar 15

That’s so sad for poor little Curtis 🙁

My only concern after reading about the change is that people who aren’t licensed but breed animals anyway could then abandon them or they may be treated poorly.

What would something like this mean for pet owners whose pets end up having babies (because they didn’t get their pets desexed) and the owners aren’t licensed to sell them?

KTB 4:07 pm 17 Mar 15

Thank you Tammy for this sad insight into the outcomes of irresponsible pet ownership.

I am repeatedly disgusted and amazed at the number of ACT pet owners who do not desex or register their dogs. We may not have a significant puppy farm ‘problem’ here but there is certainly broad opportunity for messaging about responsible ownership to be improved, preferably through significant fines or surrendering of animals.

Pragmatix 10:58 am 17 Mar 15

Love your articles Tammy. Very informative.

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