ABC, By Hagar Cohen; Fri Nov 27, 2009
Tiny victims: about 250,000 cats and dogs are euthanised each year (www.sxc.hu: Jon Ng)
Millions of puppies are born in Australia every year but many eventually end up in pounds and have to be put down.
The vicious cycle begins with unregulated breeders and pet stores and ends with buyers who take in a puppy without thinking it through, then dump it.
In New South Wales, for the first time in Australia, legislation to limit the pet industry has been introduced into Parliament.
Independent member Clover Moore introduced a bill that would ban the sale of live animals in pet shops.
Her argument is that shoppers in malls tend to fall in love with a puppy in the window and buy one spontaneously, especially just before Christmas.
She said impulse buyers would drop the puppy in the pound once the animal started to grow, bark and needed care.
The NSW Government opposed Ms Moore’s bill and it was defeated.
Recent statistics show about one million dogs and cats are bought every year.
And every year, about 250,000 of them are euthanised. That means 25 per cent of the pets we buy each year are being put down.
Opponents say there is no evidence to suggest the pet stores are responsible for the growing euthanasia rates.
Pet Industry Association director Bob Croucher says he does not believe impulse buying from pet shops exists.
Puppies are sold in myriad ways: online, through shopping malls, directly through breeding facilities, from boutique stores or even from a neighbour.
The Trading Post online, for example, is popular. On one day, Background Briefing counted more than 2,000 ads listing puppies for sale.
The industry today is fragmented and not well understood, so regulating it is complex.
The laws that regulate puppy farms are different in every state and council area.
There are dozens of puppy farms across Australia, breeding thousands of dogs for top-dollar puppies.
Some do a good and ethical job and treat the animals well.
Others have poor conditions, too many dogs and uncontrolled breeding. It is a murky world and no one really knows the extent of the growing market.
Meg Dobson from Gippsland in Victoria operated a puppy farm from 1995 to 2005.
“I classed our place as a dog breeding business, but really, they are puppy farms, because it was a very sad life for the little dogs that were making you that money,” she said.
“They are being treated like breeding machines and some are being treated worse than others. And that’s why now I cringe at puppy farms.”
Ms Dobson said once a dog had finished breeding and was no longer useful, it was common among puppy farmers in her area to shoot the animal.
“Ninety per cent of them are shot and I know that for a fact,” she said.
“They’ve got pits, and those dogs are shot.”
-For the full story by Hagar Cohen, listen to Background Briefing this week. The program is first broadcast on Sunday, November 29. It will also be available via podcast and audio streaming.
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