Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Help End Puppy Farm Cruelty (Content warning: upsetting image & descriptions of animal welfare conditions)

Dogs and cats are sensitive, intelligent animals who feel pain, extreme temperatures, hunger and fear just like humans. Yet in Victoria’s puppy and kitten farms they exist in conditions we wouldn't condone for the most ruthless criminals. This is not the behaviour of a civilised society.

The Victorian Coalition government went to the last election promising drastic improvements to the laws governing puppy farms. But the government’s revised Code of Practice for the Operation of Breeding and Rearing Businesses actually reduces animal welfare standards.

If it becomes law it will lead to horrific conditions and appalling situations for dogs as well as cats. The RSPCA’s verdict is damning: ‘this code legalises some of the abhorrent conditions and practices regularly seen by our Inspectors at puppy factories’. (Ironically, Victoria’s premier, Dr Denis Napthine, is a veterinarian by profession.)

Recommendations in the revised code include the following: 
  • If litters of puppies are included, the ratio of carers to animals could be as little as 1:500 outside business hours.
  • Maximum litter numbers for females will be increased while males will have no maximum number.
  • There will be no maximum breeding age or period that an animal could be bred from, so these animals could potentially spend their entire lifetime confined to farms.
  • There will be no requirement to regulate temperatures, that is, to provide cooling and heating.
  • The recommendations allow for ‘any method’ of euthanasia as long as it is ‘humane’, but ‘humane’ isn’t defined. In theory methods of death could include shooting or bashing, causing incredible suffering.
  • Breeding between second-generation related animals will be acceptable.
  • Tethering is allowed (except for some categories of breeding females). RSPCA Victoria advises against tethering.
  • The code will allow working dogs to be housed in small raised pens with wire floors.
  • Breeders, rather than vets, will be able to declare an animal fit for sale. Not only do breeders lack the appropriate qualifications to do this, but this may also mean that neither the animal nor the buyer will be protected from post-sale welfare or return issues.
The campaign for animal welfare standards in breeding farms is being spearheaded by RSPCA Victoria – more background can be found here.

The government is calling for feedback on the revised Code of Practice, and the deadline is 9 am on Wednesday 14 August.

I’ve created a campaign on this issue through GetUp! Please sign the petition and demand that the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, include in the code of practice the minimum animal welfare standards recommended by the RSPCA. (It would be great if you could sign before 14 August, but the campaign will continue after this date.)

Please also share the petition on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also write to the Minister directly and to the Premier, Dr Denis Napthine.

Ultimately puppy and kitten farms should be abolished, and this is the aim of the Oscar’s Law campaign (and RSPCA Victoria). I completely agree with this aim, and would like to see the selling of dogs and cats through pet shops become illegal.

But this is a humanitarian emergency: in the meantime breeding dogs and cats must be legally protected by meaningful animal welfare standards. The Victorian Government must stop giving breeders carte blanche to mistreat these animals, and shoulder their responsibility for the welfare of animals in Victoria.

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