A dead dog at a puppy farm in Armidale Photo: Supplied Debra Tranter, the founder of Oscars Law, has slammed the findings of the parliamentary inquiry. Photo: Penny Stephens
Animal Welfare groups have slammed the NSW parliamentary inquiry into puppy farms, claiming that the committee’s findings only repeat old recommendations and do not go far enough to address dangerous breeding practices.
The joint inquiry into companion animal breeding practices handed down its recommendations on Thursday, after a series of investigations by Fairfax Media and Animal rights group Oscar’s Law uncovered hundreds of dogs at several farms living in “inhumane and abhorrent” conditions.
Chief among the recommendations is a breeder licensing scheme. The NSW government failed to implement the proposal three years ago after it was first put forward by the Companion Animal Task Force.
“I think it’s ironic that recommendation one is just to implement previous recommendations,” said RSPCA NSW chief executive Steve Coleman, “We made it clear that a lot of this work has been scoped before we just need the government to implement it.”
The investigations revealed puppies from uninhabitable farms were being transported around the country to pet stores and sold on popular trading websites. At one farm a dog had been left inside a dog food bag to rot, while at another a vet report revealed a pregnant female terrier had been left unaided while her intestines had eviscerated.
The breeder licensing scheme would require dog breeders to register their operations and include the licence number with the sale of each puppy. The number would allow the puppy to be traced directly back to the breeder.
The committee’s chair, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, who has had four puppy farms raided in his electorate in the past year, said the move would empower consumers.
“Why do people buy free range eggs?” he said. “Because the community is becoming more educated and speaking with their shopping habits, we need to have the strong regulatory system to ensure people don’t buy puppies that are unlicensed.”
While Mr Marshall hopes that consumers will vote with their wallets, Mr Coleman said under current funding arrangements the RSPCA does not have the resources to be able to effectively police rogue puppy farmers throughout the state.
“It’s going to take additional staff and up to eight additional inspectors, which cost up to $120,000 a year each to be able to effectively visit these farms once a year at the very least,” said Mr Coleman.
Mr Marshall acknowledged that resourcing was “the elephant in the room.”
He called on fellow Nationals MP and newly-minted Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair to take on the committee’s recommendations and recognise that the government had to increase resources to combat puppy farming.
The inquiry also suggested that local council rangers could aid the RSPCA by being granted powers to inspect suspicious farms.
“That is the only major change I noticed,” said Mr Coleman. “Chances are they will know what’s going on and hopefully they will be able to take action.”
The founder of Oscars Law, Debra Tranter, criticised the committee for not recommending a ban on puppies in pet shops, a minimum staff to dog ratio, or a limit on the amount of litters a dog could breed.
“How can a puppy farm with two staff members and 300 dogs who are breeding for up to 10 years produce healthy puppies?,” said Ms Tranter. “We have proved that it is simply not possible.”
The NSW government has until January to respond to the committee’s recommendations.