Tha Age; MARK RUSSELL; July 18, 2010
THEY carry out their raids with military-style precision in the dead of night.
Their targets are Victorian puppy farms breeding thousands of dogs in what the raiders claim are usually atrocious conditions.
Led by veteran activist Debra Tranter, Animal Liberation Victoria’s rescue team has been illegally raiding properties for years trying to save dogs from lives of misery locked in cages.
Ms Tranter has welcomed a new campaign by the RSPCA, as revealed in last week’s Sunday Age, that targets puppy farms.
In her blog on the Prisoners For Profit (Puppy Breeding Factories, The Truth Behind The Pet Shop Window) website, Ms Tranter said the campaign needed widespread support.
”[The RSPCA’s] ability to reach the public and educate them is huge and will make all the difference to the forgotten dogs hidden in puppy factories,” she said.
”The battle has never been easy. Many times I have came home from a puppy factory and have found myself uncontrollably sobbing wondering what the hell I am going to do next to try to get these dogs some help, a vet, water, a blanket, freedom, a home. It’s a terrible feeling of hopelessness that … drives you to keep doing something, anything, because the dogs’ suffering … is so intense and relentless how can you not try everything?”
Early this month a Beremboke couple, Les and Melinda Paxton, was ordered to pay Moorabool Council more than $6600 in legal costs following a four-month investigation into a puppy farm on their property west of Melbourne.
During a raid in February, Ms Tranter and Animal Liberation Victoria found more than 50 dogs housed in squalid conditions on the Paxtons’ farm, including puppies chained to cars.
The council shut the farm and took the Paxtons to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which banned them from keeping more than five dogs.
In June, Ms Tranter and the group carried out a late-night raid on a farm at Meredith, where dogs were being kept in filthy, freezing conditions inside a shed. About 20 volunteers later took beds, blankets, dog coats, toys and bags of dog food to the farm and spent three hours scrubbing the shed where the dogs lived.
Ms Tranter said the owner was grateful and gave the group 11 dogs that were in need of veterinary care.
One farm owner who has not been so happy to see Ms Tranter and her rescue team is Matt Hams, one of the owners of Banksia Park Puppies, a family-run Gippsland business that breeds dogs for commercial sale.
Ms Tranter claimed that bitches and their puppies were being held in pens with electric fencing designed to shock them if they tried to escape.
”Dogs are no longer deemed companions, they are ‘primary producers’ and kept the same way we keep cattle or battery hens,” she said.
Ms Tranter said Banksia Park was one of dozens of Gippsland puppy farms violating the mandatory code of practice for breeding and rearing establishments.
Wellington Shire Council spokeswoman Gaye Davies denied the claim, saying any illegal practices would be detected during the council’s unannounced inspections.
Mr Hams said Ms Tranter had been unfairly targeting his family’s business in the past because it was one of the biggest dog breeders in the state.
He said the electric wire was used to stop the dogs from digging or trying to climb the fences and had been found by the RSPCA not to be cruel. He said the wire did not breach any laws.
”We’re just a business that some people disagree with, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Ms Tranter allegedly knocked Mr Hams over with her car during a late-night raid on the farm in 2008. Charges of assault with a weapon and reckless conduct endangering life were dismissed after a magistrate found it impossible to rule if Ms Tranter meant to deliberately drive into Mr Hams.
Ms Tranter, 43, pleaded guilty to trespassing and received a two-year good behaviour bond without conviction after agreeing to stay away from the farm, formally known as ACA Breeders.
It is illegal in Victoria to breed dogs for profit unless the breeder is registered with the local council as a domestic animal business or is a member of an organisation with a breeding code of ethics approved by the minister for agriculture. There are currently 70 registered domestic animal breeding businesses in Victoria.