Puppy farming, although internationally infamous, remains a hidden horror in Australia. The Internet allows for both consumer impulse buying, and the illegal breeding of pedigrees at short notice. Illegal breeders maintain puppy farms, where puppies are bred and sold in horrifically unsanitary conditions. Puppies are rarely vaccinated, and often arrive so sick that (if the puppy survives the trip) new owners fork out hundreds of dollars in veterinary bills.
One infamous international trade relationship transports puppies between Eastern European countries like Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, and the Netherlands along unregulated trade routes. Two thirds of puppies disappear from official Netherlands government records, but 95% of the 180,000 registered dogs are traceable to Eastern Europe. Although the punishments for illegal puppy trade are substantial, they are rarely implemented; in reality, almost nothing is done to curb trading. Making matters worse, legal and illegal networks are intertwined, allowing large trading networks to thrive unnoticed.
Australia has not escaped the puppy trade; organisation Oscar’s Law investigated Australian puppy farms. In New South Wales, puppies slept under sheets of tin in sub-zero temperatures, or were stacked on top of each other in cages. Dogs in South Australia frequently slept on top of their own excrement; investigators became physically ill from the stench. Incredibly, local council permits legally allow puppy farms to operate in Australia. The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) claims to have a Lifetime Guarantee Policy on Dog Traceability and Re-homing that guarantees all puppies are sourced from responsible breeders. However, Oscar’s Law found that PIAA-accredited pet shops buy puppies from factories in New South Wales and South Australia.
In Singapore, buyers pay around $4000-$8000 for an Australian-bred puppy, with trading so popular that puppies are transported weekly from Melbourne. Between 2012-2013, 987 puppies were traded within Australia. 646 of these were sent from Melbourne, the majority of which were bred on Victorian puppy farms. The trade goes both ways. On their website, Oscar’s Law investigator Laurita comments, “nothing prepared me for what I saw in the Singapore puppy factories. Rows of sheds full of dogs… I could barely hear the sales pitch from staff to buy an ‘Australian import’ puppy, over the deafening sound of the dogs in the sheds… for the puppies that don’t sell, their future is the atrocity of life in those breeding sheds.”
To put a stop to illegal puppy farming internationally, FOUR PAWS demands European Union-wide legal regulation for the registration, vaccination, and identification of dogs via micro-chipping. Within Australia, there are several petitions you can sign to help quash the puppy trade, such as the Australian Greens’ petition to stop Victorian puppy farming. Increasing knowledge in the consumer community to allow informed decisions is key. FOUR PAWS advises consumers to avoid buying cheap puppies. The RSPCA advocates avoiding pet stores, and paying close attention to dog breeders. Reputable breeders will always ask questions about your circumstances, operate to high standards of care, will be eager to let you meet the puppy’s parents.
Although Government regulation will help, ultimately, until consumers stop buying illegal puppies, the trade will continue to boom far into the future.
Make a change: http://www.oscarslaw.org
Find a trusted breeder: http://adoptapet.com.au
Join the initiative:http://www.closepuppyfactories.org
Sign the Greens petition: http://victoria.greens.org.au/puppyfarms
By Kate Oatley