PUPPY FARM & ANIMAL WELFARE REFORMS, Mark Aldridge Independent

PUPPY FARM & ANIMAL WELFARE REFORMS

My views thus far;                                                anim

It is important to note that while we debate the way forward, specifically with measures to address the breeding of dogs, the legislative framework proposed should also apply equally to the breeding of cats and any future companion animals.

I would recommend that state and territory governments include the breeding of cats in any legislative reforms.

I would recommend that responsibility for the administration and enforcement of these initiatives be shared between state and territory departments of local councils, and state and Territory divisions of the RSPCA, in the case of the RSPCA powers of litigation must include debate in relation to set prosecution, enforcement and procedural guidelines.

I note that a number of states are already engaging in legislative reforms that will give effect to many of the strategies proposed. It is important that such amendments are nationally consistent) to prevent regulatory “black holes” which may undermine efforts to address these concerns.

Traceability

The ability to trace the origin of puppies to their mothers and breeders is crucial for facilitating appropriate regulation and transparency in dog breeding activities.

It will provide local government with a cost-effective mechanism for auditing and monitoring breeders to ensure they are complying with their statutory obligations.

It will also give prospective dog owners the reassurance they are seeking to ensure they do not contribute to the perpetuation of unscrupulous puppy farming/breeding operations.

Registration of breeders

All people who wish to engage in breeding companion animals should be required to register as a dog breeder with their local council. The application of this requirement should be broad and apply to any person who wishes to keep more than one entire female regardless of whether that person has a stated intention to engage in breeding.

Different registration requirements can of course apply to individuals seeking to register two breeding dogs, as opposed to those seeking registration for the operation of a larger scale commercial breeding establishment, which may consist of 4 or more breeding dogs.

All registration details should be collated in a state-based breeder register maintained by the administering authority, in this case it may be best to have the data base managed by local councils.

Members of the public should be able to search the register to ensure the accuracy of the breeder registration number provided by a breeder.

State and territory animal management legislation should be amended to provide for these requirements and the associated registration procedure.

The legislation should make compliance with a prescribed breeding standard a condition of registration, with an accompanying regular inspections regime to verify compliance.
 
Microchipping

State and territory animal management legislation should provide for a requirement to microchip puppies before they reach say “12 weeks of age” and prior to their sale or transfer.

The legislation should also require the information recorded on the microchip database to include the microchip ID number for the animal’s mother, and the breeder’s registration number and details.

The process of recording such information should be prescribed in legislation and include requirements for the owner to provide evidence of the accuracy of the details to be recorded.

Such evidence may include the provision of a driver’s licence or other personal identification, and registration certificate for the breeder bitch for instance. The microchip database should be licensed and regulated by the responsible authority.

To enable effective monitoring and enforcement, microchip databases should have a mechanism for recognizing maximum numbers of puppies that can be recorded to any one breeding bitch or breeder registration number, to again ensure accountability.

For instance, if a breeder is registered as having two entire females, the maximum number of pups that can be linked to that breeder’s registration number within one year may be set at an educated quantity.

If the maximum number is exceeded this should be flagged in the microchip database and an automated notification sent to the relevant local government authority. A local government officer could then contact the breeder to establish the reason for exceeding the prescribed limit and conduct further investigation if necessary.
 
Disclosure of breeder registration number
 
The animal management legislation should also impose a requirement for the breeder registration number to be displayed at the point of sale and in all advertisements for a companion animal. This would enable a prospective buyer to search the relevant breeder register to ensure the breeder number is legitimate.
 
Breeder Standards

Each state and territory should adopt mandatory standards for the breeding of dogs under their animal welfare legislation. Compliance with the standards should also be made a condition of registration as a breeder. Breaching the standards could therefore attract punitive penalties under animal welfare legislation, and revocation of the breeder’s registration at law.

To ensure the welfare of breeding animals, the breeder standards should include the following key welfare standards. Breeder standards should be informed by the five freedoms and ensure the animals’ physiological, behavioral and social needs are met.

Exercise and socialization

Daily opportunities to exercise, play, explore and socialize are necessary to maintain the mental and physical health of animals. Exercise and socialization must be sufficient to meet the animals’ behavioral, physiological and social needs.

These same standards should also be applied to shelters and organisations like the RSPCA and AWL.

Animals must be provided with opportunities to socialize not only with their peers, but also humans in a secure environment on a daily basis. The exercise area must be an additional and separate area to the area where the animal is normally housed.

In addition, opportunities to exercise in a secure outdoor area with natural lighting must be provided daily.

Staff / animal ratios for breeders

The ratio of staff to animals must be sufficient to ensure that each individual animal’s physiological, behavioral and social needs are met and that a high standard of care is provided.

Animal shelters and pounds should offer similar practice models.

Housing

Housing must meet the physiological, behavioral and social needs of the breeding animals and their offspring. Housing facilities must be designed and maintained to provide a clean, comfortable and safe environment.

The housing space should be as large as possible. At a minimum, the housing area must provide sufficient space to allow animals to walk around freely without obstruction, and to sleep and eat away from areas where they defecate.

In addition, housing should be designed to make use of natural lighting and to provide animals with access to outdoor enclosures. Animals should be housed as appropriate for the individual animal, individually or in compatible groups.

Housing standards must cover aspects including temperature, ventilation, clean air, noise, light, spaces, drainage and security etc.

Animals in non-kill shelters MUST be allowed to be housed in larger enclosures that offer greater room to move, and ought to allow areas that are not concreted.
 
Breeding Management

Breeding animals must be physically healthy, free of disease and inherited disorders. Prior to using an animal for breeding, the breeder must consult with a registered veterinarian to determine whether the animal is suitable for breeding.

If deemed suitable, the breeder must develop an appropriate breeding management program for each individual breeding animal based on veterinary advice.

Breeding animals must have reached full physical development (maturity) prior to breeding based on veterinary advice.

Breeders must screen potential breeding animals under veterinary advice for health problems (inherited disorders, genetic defects and exaggerated physical features) and behavioural problems. If such problems are detected the animal should be excluded from breeding.

Breeding mates must not be closely related to each other.

Where an animal exhibits or produces offspring with an inherited disorder or characteristic that has been identified as compromising the animal’s quality of life, health or welfare, that animal should be excluded from breeding and should be de-sexed.

Any animal that does not meet with the requirements to breed, must be either provided with a high standard of housing and care at the breeder facility or re-homed to a suitable carer. These animals should not be euthanized unless it is deemed necessary and in the best interests of the animal by a veterinarian.

The breeder must not euthanasia/cull healthy offspring simply because they do not conform to a ‘breed standard’, to ensure compliance all births and deaths should be covered in a yearly report.
 
Veterinary and General Care

Veterinary care and general care (e.g. grooming, parasite control etc) must be provided as required to ensure the health and welfare of the animal, as found in present animal welfare legislation

All animals in shelters or breeding facilities must be checked every day and receive appropriate and sufficient food and water.

If an animal displays signs of illness or injury, veterinary care must be provided immediately. Euthanasia of all companion animals, must only be performed by a veterinarian.

Retirement and re-homing policy

Retired breeding animals, animals that are unable to breed or animals that are unsuitable for breeding, should be de-sexed and either provided with a high standard of housing and care at the breeder facility or re-homed to a suitable carer or re-homing facility.

Any unsold or returned animals must be provided with a high standard of housing and care at the breeder facility either permanently or until they can be re-homed to a suitable carer or re-homing facility.

Transfer/transport of animals

Animals must be transported safely, securely and comfortably. Transportation must be appropriate for the animals’ biological needs and must not compromise animal health or welfare.

Animals must be in good health and fit for the intended journey. The only exception to this requirement is when the animal is being transported to a veterinarian for treatment.

Transport containers should enable the animal to lie down flat, turn around, stand erect and stretch with clearance. They should be robust and escape-proof, sufficiently enclosed to provide a sense of security whilst allowing adequate ventilation, appropriate temperature and the ability to inspect the animal during the journey.

Transfer/transporting guidelines must be researched and apply to all carriage of animals.

Animals must be provided with sufficient food, water and rest before, during and after the journey, according to their biological needs.

The transporters/handlers must be trained and competent in the transport of companion animals to ensure the health and welfare of the animal. The transporter is responsible for the care of the animal

Interim Orders

It is not uncommon for defendants in animal management and welfare prosecutions to challenge enforcement action, and to appeal court decisions resulting in long and drawn-out legal proceedings.

I have also seen the court process dragged out by prosecution authorities (abuse of process) where there is financial gain in doing so, all prosecutions must meet a national set of procedural guidelines to ensure just and equitable use of the courts time.

When this occurs it is important that the welfare of any seized animals can be appropriately provided for while the matter is before the courts. Often in cases involving puppy farms the number of animals seized and the ongoing veterinary treatment and care required can result in the incursion of significant costs.

State and territory animal management and welfare legislation must provide mechanisms for the relevant prosecuting agency to apply for orders with respect to the ongoing ownership of the animals, the costs associated with the ongoing care of the animals, and prohibiting the defendant(s) from continuing to engage in the business of puppy farming while the matter is before the courts.

Any party that is found to abuse the court system as either a defendant or prosecutor ought to be responsible for all costs orders.

No animals seized should be killed or adopted out until ownership has been fully debated, the original owner should be able chose where they are housed and cover the costs until an outcome has been concluded.
 
Interim Ownership Orders

Most state animal welfare Acts already have provisions which allow inspectors to apply to a magistrate for an order that any seized animal(s) be forfeited (transfer of legal ownership) to the State while legal proceedings relating to those animals are still before the courts.

Presently these orders of forfeiture award the power to deal with the animal in any way fit, including destruction, changes need to me made to ensure the best services for the animals, until any legal proceedings are concluded.

In most cases, such an application will be decided “in the interests of the animal(s)” concerned. Equivalent provisions should also be inserted into animal management Acts to allow for such applications to be made following enforcement action taken by government departments for breaches of breeder licencing obligations, for instance “non-compliance with mandatory breeder standards”.

Orders against an animal’s owners ought to allow freedom of choice as to which authority looks after the animals during the court process, to ensure transparent cost and support factors.

Interim Prohibition Orders
 
It is not uncommon for unscrupulous breeders to continue engaging in the business of puppy farming while legal proceedings are still before the courts. This puts further animals at risk and places additional strain on the resources of enforcement agencies.

Should further enforcement action be required, Animal welfare and management legislation should provide for an application to be made to a magistrate for such defendants to be prohibited from engaging in puppy farming activities while legal proceedings against them are before the courts.

If the prosecuting agents case is found wanting, under current animal welfare legislation it is the minister who is responsible, in such cases the minister ought to find remedy in the courts against said authority.

Contracts between the minister, appointed inspectors or their employing agency’s must be available for public scrutiny.

Monitoring and Enforcement
 
In recent times there have been many issues with the RSPCA’s awarded powers of prosecution, which appear to have no procedural checks and balances, the RSPCA indeed have the Experience to police animal welfare legislation, but prosecution practices may be best left to Police services.
 
Monitoring and enforcement operations for any new legislative agenda, best be shared between local government animal management officers and state and territory RSPCA inspectors.

A targeted inspections regime that consists of both proactive routine (yet unannounced) inspections, and a reactive inspections strategy that responds to identified data discrepancies and complaints from the general public, should be developed between the relevant government authorities who are empowered to do so by animal welfare legislation reforms.

Prosecutions must be kept in line with community expectations and best practice; this would be best achieved by the development of a nationwide set of Compliance Prosecution and Enforcement Policies.

Said guidelines could be in line with the present Department of Agriculture policy in WA, to ensure openness and transparency, consistency and public interest criteria, and any contractual agreements between government and corporate entity’s empowered by animal welfare legislation, Must be made public as should any  Compliance, Enforcement and Prosecution policy.

Intent;
 
In recent years while doing an over view of current animal welfare legislation in most states, it has become relevant to debate animal abuse cases in relation to intention, presently animal welfare legislation in terms of recent litigation, uses wording that is open to misrepresentation and misunderstanding..

Failure to mitigate harm, has been a charge laid on carers, where the animal in question came into their care with existing medical or behavioral conditions, the lack of the inclusion of the intention has seen many carers face unwarranted charges, creating even more reason for improved prosecution guidelines.

Support services, improved education and animal welfare orders are a much more pro-active approach to ensure the best interests of the animals and their carers is paramount.

Overview;
 
Support for those who care for or rescue companion animals or in fact native animals is very limited, as are their protections.

Improved and understandable regulatory reforms are long overdue, to ensure animal welfare standards are kept up with community expectations across the board.

QUESTIONS ALSO RAISED; 
 
The ability of people to purchase entire animals, I suggest an application for a permit through the regulatory authority.
 
Working dogs and animals used in rural locations.
 
Kill rates in shelters and the use of Behavioral issues to excuse kill rates.
 
Genuine financial reporting of government funded charity’s and rescue groups.
 
The need for an ombudsman to address complaints against entities and inspectors empowered under animal welfare legislation

We have a long way to come to bring animal welfare protections up to meet the expectations of the community at large. Educated debate is the only way forward, which is best served by community forums with a view to legislative reform.

I am only an amateur, but every little step in the right direction is a good step.

Mark Aldridge  Independent Candidate for Makin
 
Community advocate & animal and civil rights lobbyist 
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One Response to “PUPPY FARM & ANIMAL WELFARE REFORMS, Mark Aldridge Independent”

  1. Robert Walsh Says:

    Support services, improved education and animal welfare orders are a much more pro-active approach to ensure the best interests of the animals and their carers is paramount.

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