Today Tonight: Reporter: David Richardson; November 12, 2010
‘There are two sides in the national pet shop debate – the liberationists and the industry fighting the claim that man’s best friend has become a disposable commodity.
For three months animal liberationist Jacqueline Dalziell worked undercover in a suburban pet store.
She is leading a national campaign to stop pet shops selling pets and infiltrated a shop to see conditions for herself. An animal protester working in the very industry she’s trying to revolutionise.
“I observed breaches on almost every page of the animal welfare code of practice. Animals suffering from a range of serious health problems every day including parvo-virus, kennel cough, cat flu, vomiting, bloody stools, diarrhoea, worms, lice,” Jacqueline said.
“Pet shops are a business, they exist to make money and for no other reason. They don’t exist to take care of animals, they don’t exist to find loving homes for animals. they exist to make profit.”
Every shift she worked, Jacqueline would arm herself with a hidden camera to record what she saw. No other animal activist in the world has ever infiltrated the pet industry to see first hand what goes on behind the glass puppy cases.
“Animals in pet shops are supposed to at least be exercised 20 minutes a day. I never saw this on any shift I worked on. The only time we took puppies out of their cages to put them in playpens were in order to make sure people would buy them,” Jacqueline said.
Jacqueline says fresh stock was delivered to the store two-to-three times a week; up to four puppies at a time carted around in a large cardboard box. Jacqueline was never told where they came from. She suspects it was a puppy farm.
Jacqueline is also convinced many of the delivered animals were in poor health and this information was not passed onto prospective customers.
“If you want an animal I suggest you save a life, go to a shelter. Go to a pound and save an animal that’s otherwise healthy but going to be killed, instead of going to a pet store and fuelling a cruel industry,” she said.
Lisa Wolfenden runs a pet store, without pets, that’s what she wants all pet shops to do.
“It’s not just the sale of the puppy. It’s the on-sales, the bed, the clothing, the bowls, and everything else. You don’t just sell a puppy and they leave with a puppy. They leave with a thousand or 2,000 dollars worth of stuff as well so it’s a huge reason for having puppies in your shop but like I say you’ve got to sleep at night and I couldn’t do it,” Lisa said.
“I keep telling people when they talk to me about it they’re basically being sold by the kilo. Wrap it in plastic and hoik [sic] off two kilo’s of dog. it’s disgraceful.”
Laws exist to govern pet shops. Children are banned and there’s a three-day cooling off period. Now, the pet industry association of Australia (PIAA)has a code of conduct but if you’re not an accredited member, it’s difficult to police.
Pet industry association director Bob Croucher admits shonky operators exist but says taking pets out of stores isn’t the answer.
“What percentage of pet shops are accredited to the PIAA? Too small. Too small. Ss that the biggest problem? one of them. That’s one of the problems,” Bob said.
“I would like to see that people can only buy dogs from pet shops and particularly from PIAA stores.”
“We’re all after the same thing, we’re all after the welfare of the animal. Now, if they weren’t fighting us and just sat down and worked with us maybe we’d achieve something.”
Sydney Lord Mayor and state MP Clover Moore has twice tried to get tough pet laws introduced into parliament.
“I don’t want our pet stores to sell live animals – cats and dogs,” she said.
“At the moment we’ve got cute little animals in pet stores being bought on the impulse and then we have this really quite shocking dumping as a result. And I think it is an appalling situation and a real indictment on government and us as a community if we allow it to continue.”
More than half a million puppies will be bred and sold this year. Half will be destroyed.
With pet sales topping 1,200,000 it’s an industry with money and clout. Little has been done to toughen it up despite attempts from various animal groups to change the way we deal with our pets.