The Mercury, CRAIG HOGGETT | January 11, 2012
HUNDREDS of dogs are being used as breeding machines in squalid conditions at puppy farms around Tasmania, it was claimed yesterday.
Brightside Sanctuary says it has taken possession of 120 former breeding dogs in the past year, including 55 seized from one intensive farming operation.
The revelation is the second in a week about widespread animal cruelty going unchecked across the state.
The Sunday Tasmanian this week revealed that dog fighting rings are under investigation by the RSPCA and police.
The issue has prompted governments in other states to tighten regulation of the breeding industry.
Sanctuary owner Emma Haswell says that the dogs are often forced to live in their own filth in dark dirty sheds.
When brought to her sanctuary, ex-breeding dogs can have conditions ranging from demodectic mange which causes hair loss to severe eye and ear infections or hernias resulting from multiple caesarean sections.
“I think part of the problem is the public don’t know what a puppy farm is or that they are actually buying from a puppy farm,” Ms Haswell said.
“A large part of the problem is that the Animal Welfare Act doesn’t stipulate what you can and can’t do well enough.”
Ms Haswell has worked with animal control officers from various councils to seize dogs that are being mistreated.
She says she knows of about seven farms operating but believes there are many more.
“I know that they [puppy farms] are in every state in Australia and Tasmania has a fair share,” she said. “Everyone thought there were no puppy farms, but when you start looking around there are plenty.”
However, she says that after the animals are saved, no charges are being brought against operators.
A review of animal welfare legislation is happening now in Tasmania.
Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania president John Gray said his organisation was aware of the large-scale operations but could not name them because of a lack of evidence.
“The thing that needs to happen is spot checks to catch them in the act,” Mr Gray said.
He said that a key change needed to be an enforceable registration system for breeders.
“That would make it a lot easier. As soon as someone puts an advert in the paper or online and there’s no licence number, I’d personally be on the phone very quickly,” Mr Gray said.
“If you are not registered you should have to put up with the full force of the law.”
He said that without licences it was very difficult to distinguish between legitimate breeders and people potentially mistreating animals.
He described the current review as long overdue and said the issue needed to be dealt with faster.
“In the eight-or-so months the review of legislation goes for, how many puppies will have ended up in not-very-nice conditions?” Mr Gray said. “We don’t seem to be getting the message across to the politicians or to the courts.
“People that do go to court over animal cruelty so often just get a slap on the wrist.”
A government spokesman said the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was due to report to Deputy Premier Bryan Green by mid-2012 after spending October to December deciding on a proper consultation process.