Victorian Parliament Passes Bill Banning Puppy Farming

Wednesday 20 December 2017 @ 1.23 p.m. | Legal Research

Last Friday, 15 December 2017, the Victorian Legislative Council passed the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016 (the Bill). The Bill's passage means that Victoria is the first Australian state to completely ban puppy farming.

The Honourable Jaala Pulford, Minister for Agriculture stated in the media release 28 November, 2017:

“We’re getting it done and ending cruel and barbaric puppy farming.”

“We’re finishing what we started – delivering on our election commitment to end puppy farming, ban the sale of breeders’ puppies and kittens in pet shops, and better regulate the online sale of dogs and cats.”

Background to the Bill

In recent years, there have been a growing number of reports of abuse in puppy farms and pet shops. The Honourable Jaala Pulford stated in her second reading speech to the Victorian Legislative Council: 

"For the first time in Victoria, people looking for a furry family member will be able to validate whether their cat or dog comes from a legitimate source. The government remains steadfast in its commitment to reform Victoria's dog breeding and pet shop industries.

Many of you will have followed the story of Oscar, a small dog kept for breeding that was eventually purchased by Debra Tranter, a campaigner against the factory farming of companion animals.

Oscar had infected ears, dental disease and inflamed infected gums, his fur was matted, his skin covered in abscesses. Very much in contrast to the happy dog he is today.

Since 2010, a growing number of people have called on their elected representatives to shut down puppy farms, end the sale of dogs and cats from pets shops, and promote the adoption of our beloved pets through pounds and shelters.

Too many breeding dogs and cats have lived in unchecked squalor, and too many animals have been put down because they didn't have a home.

The community has sent a strong message to the government, and to all members of Parliament, that the appalling conditions experienced by many dogs in puppy farms is not acceptable."

The Bill, in its amended form, is the result of the tabling of the Inquiry into the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016 (the Inquiry). This inquiry, conducted by the Legislative Council Economy and Infrastructure Committee, considered an extensive amount of evidence and feedback from the public, veterinary groups, representative groups, pet shops, rescue organisations, animal welfare organisations, dog and cat breeders and local councils.

In addition to this inquiry, with the support of the Labor Government,, the RSPCA Victoria’s Special Investigations Unit has conducted 75 investigations, referred 53 establishments to councils for further investigation, and assessed more than 1,600 animals.

The history of the Bill and factsheets on the inquiry can be found on the Victorian Department of Agriculture website.

The Bill

The purpose of the Bill, as passed, is stated in section 1:

“is to amend the Domestic Animals Act 1994

(a) to regulate the number of fertile female dogs kept by breeding domestic animal businesses; and

(b) to further regulate the breeding of dogs and cats and the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops; and

(c) to provide for the registration of foster carers and single use permits to sell certain animals; and

(d) to further provide for the administration and enforcement of that Act and legal proceedings; and

(e) to provide for other minor and related matters.”

Importantly, under the amended Bill, as per the Department of Agriculture media release:

  •  there are limits on the number of fertile female dogs breeders can keep • pet shops are only able to sell dogs and cats sourced from shelters, pounds or enrolled foster carers
  • the role of foster carers is clearer
  • there are new definitions for ‘recreational breeders’ and ‘microbreeders’
  • the definition of ‘farm working dogs’ is clarified
  • the animal sale permit system is simplified
  • traceability of cats and dogs will be improved through the establishment of the Pet Exchange Register
  • offences apply for publishing noncompliant pet sale advertisements.

As such, the Bill amends the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (the Act) by inserting into the purpose of the Act, section 1:

"(da) the regulation of matters relating to the breeding and sale of dogs and cats; and (db) the registration of foster carers for certain purposes;”

The Bill (s 5) then alters and inserts a number of definitions in the Act including animal shelter; domestic animal business; micro breeder; recreational breeder; relevant fertile female dog; and dog obedience training organisation approval.

Section 10 provides that “dogs and cats must be permanently identified before sale or being given away”.  As such, under section 10(1), “a person must not sell, or give away, a dog or cat unless the dog or cat has been implanted with a prescribed permanent identification device.”

Other important provisions in the Bill are:

  • Section 11: notification of sale of dog or cat by foster carer
  • Section 12: reduced fees for foster care dogs and cats
  • Section 25: Registration of premises, consequential amendment
  • Section 28: Powers of Council as to registration or renewal or transfer of registration
  • Section 32: Division inserted after Division 3 of Part 4 – Division 3AA – Commercial dog breeder approval
  • Section 50: Taking samples from dogs, consequential amendments
  • Section 52: Procedures for seizure of documents
  • Section 60: Seizure of dangerous dogs, consequential amendments
  • Section 61: Seizure of restricted breed dogs, consequential amendments
  • Section 69: Seizure of abandoned dog or cat, consequential amendment
  • Section 78: Destruction of dog if owner not identified, consequential amendment
  • Section 88: Power of court to order payment of costs of disposal of dogs and cats

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