Peter Rolfe ; Sunday Herald Sun ; October 23, 2011
MASSIVE new fines, jail terms and unprecedented powers to shut down illegal puppy farms will be introduced in Victoria in a crackdown on animal cruelty.
Premier Ted Baillieu will announce the toughest dog and cat laws in Australia today, with legislation to be introduced in State Parliament next week.
“We are not going to tolerate cruelty to animals,” he told the Sunday Herald Sun.
The new legislation – to take effect this year – will include powers to seize the assets, property and profits of people operating illegal puppy farms, fines of up to $146,000, 10-year bans on people owning a pet if they are found guilty of animal cruelty and strict jail terms for unlawful breeders.
RSPCA and council inspectors will also be given new policing and confiscation powers and a $1.6 million Animal Welfare Fund will be created through money raised by the sale of confiscated assets.
Maximum penalties for illegal puppy farms will rise by more than $18,000 and penalties for operators who commit acts of cruelty will be doubled to $30,000.
Individual breeders will also face penalties of up to $30,000 and 12 months’ prison and fines of up to $60,000 and two years’ jail for aggravated cruelty.
Corporate businesses busted under the new regime will be slapped with fines between $73,300 and $146,688.
Mr Baillieu said the laws had been drafted in response to puppy farms found in Victoria where dogs had been kept in cages, tied up for days and carcasses left to rot.
He said the far-reaching action would send a clear message to dodgy operators that they faced massive fines, loss of assets and imprisonment as well as having farms shut down.
“These are some of the strongest laws ever introduced to protect animals from abuse and neglect.”
The new laws build on a Coalition commitment to smash illegal puppy-breeding rings following several public protests in favour of harsher penalties.
In another major shake-up, it will become compulsory for every dog and cat sold in Victoria to be implanted with a unique microchip number that must be quoted in advertisements and at points of sale.
A new offence will be created to punish breeding houses not using the technology and fines will apply to any pet store, farm or individual caught selling a cat or dog without the chip, putting the onus on the seller rather than the buyer.
Industry sources said the crackdown could lead to a shortage in puppy numbers and potentially push up the price of pets.
The Government concedes the clampdown could raise puppy prices slightly at pet stores but believes the public will be happy paying a little extra if it means knowing that their dog has not be treated cruelly.
Mr Baillieu, who has three pet dogs, said he was determined to make operators accountable for the welfare of animals in their care.
“I have been touched by the passion in the community on this issue and the efforts of so many who have written to me,” he said. “As a dog owner, I am appalled by images I have seen of abused and helpless animals.”
It is not known how many illegal puppy farms exist in Victoria but there are 64 approved breeding houses where an average of 45 dogs each breed a litter of six each year.