WA Bill to Stop Puppy Farming Re-Introduced

Thursday 24 June 2021 @ 10.30 a.m. | Legal Research

On 2 June 2021, WA Minister for Local Government John Carey (‘the Minister’) introduced the Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021 (WA) (‘the Bill’) to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. The Bill proposes new laws which seek to stop puppy farming, prevent other forms of animal cruelty, and promote ethical dog breeding.

This Bill is a re-introduction of a 2020 Bill of the same name, which lapsed as the previous Parliament was prorogued. The Minister in his second reading speech said:

“The McGowan government made a firm commitment to the Western Australian public at the last election to reintroduce the Bill after the opposition did not support it in the other place and it lapsed”.

Stopping Puppy Farming

The Bill seeks to stop puppy farming by proposing the required sterilisation of dogs once they reach two years of age. The Minister noted in his second reading speech that the government is committed to this cause as:

“consumers do not want to support a system whereby a breeder can keep dogs in such poor conditions and then sell dogs with behavioural or health issues”.

The Minister said that should the Bill be assented and mandatory sterilisation legislated, then “unwanted or random dog pregnancies” would be prevented.

In conjunction with provisions mandating sterilisation, the Bill also propose a range of exemptions. For 'livestock working dogs”, in his second reading speech, the Minister acknowledged that this exemption would be appropriate in order to:

“maximise the pool of dogs that are available to farmers and enable farmers to assess a dog’s working abilities, which may not be evident for a number of years”.

Dogs that are unsuitable to be sterilised based on health and welfare grounds are also able to be exempted. And dogs whose owners have been given approval to breed will be exempted from this new requirement.

Applying for approval to breed

Owners are able to apply for approval to breed. The Minister further explained in his second reading speech that:

“The application process … acts as an initial, or one-off, background check for any person who intends to breed from their dog. The purpose of this check is not to stop people from dog breeding. Rather, the system is designed to determine as much as possible … that a person who wishes to breed from their dog is a fit and proper person; has not breached relevant laws …; and has facilities that are suitable for dog breeding”.

Transition from pet shops to adoption centres 

The proposed Bill makes provision for the transformation of pet shops into “adoption centres”, as was described in a WA government media statement. In his second reading speech, the Minister clarifies that, the Bill contains amendments, which would mean that:

"pet shops with a shopfront can source only stray, abandoned, seized and surrendered dogs and puppies for sale through approved shelters, pounds and rescue organisations”.

Under the proposed laws, pet shops, suppliers, and breeders would need to be registered. This registration requirement would also extend to cats and cat breeders as well as dogs and dog breeders. Furthermore, the Bill seeks to require that whenever a dog is purchased, the owner, breeder, pet shop, or adoption centre would be required to provide the consumer with any available information about whether the dog has been bred ethically.

Pet Greyhounds

The Bill seeks to encourage people to adopt retired racing greyhounds by proposing to remove the requirement that pet greyhounds be muzzled in public places. While the proposed legislation would still require pet greyhounds to be on a lead in public, the Minister noted that there was public support for the removal of the muzzling requirement when the Dog Amendment Act 2013 (WA) underwent a review.

Community Support 

The Minister noted in his second reading speech that:

“one third of WA households count a dog as a member of their family ... [and, therefore] the legislation has overwhelming support from the community”.

The Minister also said that stopping puppy farming was seen as important to consumers, because puppy farmers ultimately:

“scan the marketplace and adjust their behaviour to exploit opportunities”.

The Minister continued to state that the current system for obtaining pets has:

“fundamentally failed dogs and … failed the community”.

Ultimately, as was stated in a media release, the Bill seeks to:

“minimise the number of dogs suffering neglect and requiring rehoming”.

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Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021 (WA) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service. 

Media Statement: 'Stop Puppy Farming laws reintroduced to Parliament' (Hon John Carey, 2 June 2021)

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