WORKING dog breeders have welcomed a call for the Victorian Government to withdraw its proposed legislation to further regulate the breeding and sale of dogs and cats.
The Victorian Parliament’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee yesterday recommended the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016 be withdrawn.
The committee also called on the Labor Government to immediately establish a stakeholder group of industry, municipal and community representatives to consult on the drafting of a new bill.
The committee’s report tabled in State Parliament said it found consultation with relevant stakeholders was inadequate and the bill reflected this. Committee chairman Joshua Morris said if it was implemented, the bill would lead to a reduction in the supply of pet dogs in Victoria, particularly popular crossbred dogs.
“It may also lead to a significant reduction in the supply of livestock working dogs, with consequences for farmers and the agriculture industry.”
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Bill unlikely to pass parliament
Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said in a statement that it is clear from the Economy and Infrastructure Committee’s report that the bill is unlikely to pass the parliament in its current form.
“We remain determined to stamp out puppy farms, and we’re not prepared to back the Liberal-National Coalition’s moves to keep puppy farming in Victoria.
“I intend to reassess this legislation to enable our election commitments to be delivered,” she said.
“Amendments to this effect will be developed in the New Year, in consultation with stakeholders, and considered by the parliament in the first half of 2017.
“Given the strong mandate from the Victorian community to put an end to puppy farming, the Labor Government expects that the amended bill would receive support from all parties.”
The Victorian Government now intends to consider changes to the bill over the summer recess and propose amendments rather than withdraw the legislation.
Call to abandon 10 female limit
Among its 18 recommendations and one finding, the committee also called for the State Government to abandon limiting breeders to 10 fertile females and provide further funding to local government to enforce current legislation.
State Opposition spokesman for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the committee’s report was “damning” and exposes a deeply flawed piece of legislation put up by Daniel Andrews’ Government.
“Daniel Andrews must withdraw this flawed bill immediately, consult properly with breeders and local government and come back with proposed laws that are evidence and science based,” he said.
Opportunity for the working dog sector
Glenthompson Kelpie breeder and national yard dog trial champion Joe Spicer said the committee decision was an opportunity to now work with the government to bring working dog legislation into the 21st century and benefit breeders of all dogs, especially working dog breeders and their clients, livestock farmers.
Mr Spicer said there was now an opportunity to enhance the quality of working dogs rather than decimate it, “which would have been the case had the amendment gone ahead.”
“This is an opportunity for all farmers and working dog breeders, and anybody who owns a working dog to lobby their Labor MP and work with the government to ensure the best quality working dog standards are maintained and improved.”
The committee heard evidence that working dogs do not produce litters as regularly as commercial breeders and the proposed 10 female limit for domestic animal businesses would either result in a shortage of farm working dogs, or the breeding of inferior dogs.
In November, president of the Australian Utility Stock Dog Society, Rod Cavanagh, submitted that the proposed restriction of 10 female dogs by 2020 for DABs was below the number required for seed stock breeders to produce quality dogs.
“The genetic breeding of livestock working dogs is highly skilled, and irreplaceable bloodlines may vanish.
“That would be a disaster,” he said.
Mr Spicer represented the Federation of Livestock Working Dogs, the Victorian Yard Utility Farm Dog Association and Victorian Cattle Dog Trial Association before the committee. He said the proposed bill would have taken away breeders’ right to be members of an applicable association and was designed to put hobby and large breeders out of business. He believed Ms Pulford was heavily influenced by animal rights groups who were focussed on rehoming dogs from shelters to the detriment of responsible breeders.
The bill would have meant even working dog owners, including farmers, with one fertile bitch, would have been required to register as a domestic animal business, Mr Spicer said.
“Even if you bought a dog and then trained it and sold it, you would have had to apply to become a domestic animal business.
“That would greatly restrict dog sales generally.”
Mr Spicer said he would be seeking State Government recognition of the working dog welfare code and for all working dog owners be members of their breed association or Dogs Victoria and abide by that body’s code. He also proposed there be a central selling platform for all dogs bred in Victoria.
VYUFDA president Darryn Hannah said the association was cautiously optimistic that the interests of breeders of livestock working dogs will now be looked after. He thanked Joe Spicer for his committee presentation to the committee and Nancy Withers’ background work.
Unethical breeders should be shut down
Mr Morris said while there was agreement among all stakeholders that unethical breeders should be shut down, the significant lack of consultation undermined the development of the bill. The committee also recommended that the government establish a more robust standards based approach to the health and welfare of dogs in commercial breeding establishments.
“The message is clear that a new bill is needed and that it must address the inadequacies of the existing bill,” Mr Morris said.
“There are significant concerns that provisions in the existing bill will lead to the decline of the industry in Victoria and will have unintended consequences that will be detrimental to animal welfare.
“A proper consultation process for a new bill can help to address the concerns that were raised with the committee during its inquiry.”
More rigorous enforcement coming
Ms Pulford said other animal welfare and enforcement issues that have been identified during development of the bill will be dealt with, in the first instance, by more rigorous enforcement of existing provisions.
“We will work with applicable organisations to improve their codes of ethics in preparation for their re-application of exempt status in April 2017.
“We’ve already delivered much of our promised crack down on puppy farming, including pre-mating vet checks, reinforcing the five-litter limit for a female breeding dog, and $5 million to create the RSPCA’s Special Investigation Unit – which is currently investigating 44 properties.”
Ms Pulford said should further reform be considered necessary as a consequence of the enforcement of existing laws, such as to deal with backyard breeders, this would occur by way of separate legislation.