Knowledgebase > Dogs

Dogs

Last updated 7 January 2019

Human-dog relationships date back about 15,000 years. Evidence from ancient tomb paintings, artifacts and texts show people from all levels of society have historically kept dogs for companionship, hunting and protection.

Dogs continue to be valued in modern society as our ‘best friends’ and this is reflected in their popularity as pets, with approximately 38% of Australian households including them [1].

 

The Industry

The estimated national pet dog population is around 4.8 million (i.e. 20 dogs per 100 people) [2], demonstrating a big demand in Australia for pet dogs. Breeders are the primary suppliers for this market while shelters, pounds and rescue groups seek to return previously relinquished and other displaced dogs into homes.

The specific demand for puppies, and for particular breeds or ‘designer’ crossbreeds, has created opportunity for commercial dog breeding businesses to thrive. The situation in Australia is such that profit-driven organisations are breeding and selling puppies with minimal enforceable regulation and traceability both privately (including online avenues) and to pet shops.

Various other businesses and services relating to different aspects of dog ownership have flourished, for example pet supply shops, veterinary practices, grooming parlours and boarding kennels, ultimately creating an industry. These businesses, and their interests, are united under advocacy bodies like the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) [3].

 

Intensive Breeding

The RSPCA defines a puppy farm as ‘an intensive dog breeding facility, operated under inadequate conditions that fail to meet the dogs’ behavioural and/or physiological needs’ [4]. This broad definition places emphasis on the conditions of the facility or operation, rather than the number of breeding dogs or how frequently females are made to whelp a litter. The peak industry body, PIAA, supports this approach, arguing that the issues of unethical breeding and mistreatment of animals may occur at facilities of all sizes [5].

In 2015, the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to implement an enforceable breeding standard that quite clearly criminalizes the intensive breeding of dogs [6]. Under this legislation, a female dog can only: (1) be bred from between 18 months and six years of age, (2) whelp a maximum of four litters in her lifetime, and (3) whelp a maximum of one litter in any 18-month period. In 2017, the Victorian government passed legislation that limits businesses to 10 breeding females, though commercial businesses can seek approval from the relevant Minister to have up to 50 breeding females [7].

Elsewhere in Australia, intensive dog breeding facilities are legal if they operate with a permit from a local council. It can therefore be perfectly legal to use hundreds of breeding females and breed from a female every time she goes into heat (typically twice a year or every six months for most breeds).

 

Sale of Puppies

There is a distinct lack of traceability across the country as breeder information and details of a puppies’ mother are still not captured on the relevant companion animal registers, and disclosure of a breeder ID or microchip number at the point of sale is not mandatory.

Pet Shops

Puppies are legally sold through pet shops in all jurisdictions except Victoria [8]. There are a number of significant animal welfare issues associated with the sale of puppies in pet shops. These can include sourcing from unlicensed and illegal puppy farmers, inadequate living conditions/care in store and irresponsible selling practices. There is also no requirement for pet shops to disclose where their puppies have been sourced from, and even the largest and best-known shops do not release this information.

Online

Dog breeding is a lucrative business. At the time of writing, a search on Gumtree Classifieds for available puppies around Sydney [9] found over 500 advertisements and some of the top hits included Cavoodles ($2,650 each), French Bulldogs ($4,500 each), miniature Dachshunds ($2,300 each) and British Bulldogs ($3,000 each).

Googling ‘puppies for sale’ returns websites with obviously staged photographs of individual puppies, never pictured in their whelping box/area or with their mother. In most cases, breeders advertise their puppies as being transportable to anywhere in Australia, and some even advertise to international buyers with translated versions of their website and testimonials. Some websites also declare they have a 24-hour CCTV surveillance system installed and guard dogs [10].

To appear reputable, breeders cite any memberships they hold with industry bodies, for example the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders (AAPDB) for unrecognised or crossbred dogs [11], and the Master Dog Breeders & Associates (MDBA) for purebred dogs [12]. It appears registration with such organisations typically only requires breeders to ‘commit’ to some Code of Practice and may involve allowing to a veterinarian to visit their property.

 

Euthanasia

Relinquished and other displaced or stray dogs are ‘taken in’ by municipal councils (local government), animal welfare organizations and rescue groups. There is currently no national or state-based system for monitoring the number of dogs who enter pounds and shelters, and whether they are re-claimed by their owners, rehomed or euthanased. An academic study [13] utilizing data from 2012-13 estimated that some 211,655 dogs were accepted into shelters across the country, and 43,900 of these were euthanized (representing 21% of national admissions or 40% of unclaimed admissions).

 

References

[1] Animal Medicines Australia, ‘Pet Ownership in Australia 2016’, page 9.

[2] Animal Medicines Australia, ‘Pet Ownership in Australia 2016’, page 10.

[3] Pet Industry Association of Australia <https://piaa.net.au/>.

[4] RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase, ‘What is a puppy farm?’, < https://kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-a-puppy-farm_322.html>.

[5] Pet Industry Association of Australia, Submission no. 303 to the Inquiry into Companion Animal Breeding Practices NSW, page 10. <Link>.

[6] Animal Welfare (Breeding Standard) Determination 2015, made under the Animal Welfare Act 1992, s 15B (Intensive breeding of cats or dogs) [ACT]. <Link>

[7] Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Act 2017 [Victoria]. <Link>

[8] Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Act 2017 [Victoria]. <Link>

[9] Gumtree Online Classifieds search for puppies: <https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-dogs-puppies/sydney/puppies/k0c18434l3003435>.

[10] Website examples:

<https://www.countrypuppies.com/>

<https://rivergumpuppies.com.au/>

<http://www.fluffypuppies.com.au/>

[11] Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders <https://www.aapdb.com.au/>.

[12] Master Dog Breeders & Associates <https://www.mdba.net.au/>.

[13] Chua D, Rand J & Morton J. 2017. Surrendered and Stray Dogs in Australia - Estimation of Numbers Entering Municipal Pounds, Shelters and Rescue Groups and Their Outcomes. Animals, 7(50), doi: 10.3390.

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