Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


2008: Legislation To Ban Pets in Pet Shops and Puppy Farming

Clover Moore – Independent MP “Working for Sydney” says: I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.

I follow that quotation by Abraham Lincoln with the following facts. Australia has the highest rate of pet ownership in the world. Yet the most recent statistics of the Department of Local Government show that more than 60,000 dogs and cats are killed each year in New South Wales alone. Those numbers do not include animals dumped in national parks where domestic animals die of starvation, are killed by other animals or harm the natural ecosystem. If we want to consider ourselves as a humane society we must take action to prevent the cruel dumping and killing of so many companion animals. That is the basis of the bill I introduce to the House today. I repeat: Australia has the highest rate of pet ownership in the world. Four out of five Australians have owned a pet and almost two-thirds of Australian households currently own pets.

In New South Wales there are about two million companion animals. Pets play an incredibly important role in our society. They give pleasure and teach responsibility. For many people who live on their own pets provide love and security. A recent RSPCA survey demonstrated the degree of emotional attachment to pets by a high percentage of pet owners saying they would choose their pets' company over that of friends or flatmates. Yet there is a disturbing aspect to pet ownership.

In 2005-06 the New South Wales RSPCA received more than 38,000 dogs and cats at its shelters, 18,000 of which had to be killed. As I said, the most recent statistics of the Department of Local Government show that 60,000 dogs and cats are killed each year in New South Wales%u2014a number that equates with the population of a medium-size town. This number does not include other animals such as rabbits, mice and guinea pigs that are put down, nor does it include animals that are dumped in national parks where domestic animals die of starvation or cause harm to our natural ecosystem. If we want to be considered as a humane society we must take action.

A campaign to prevent the sale of animals in pet shops has been initiated by the Say No to Animals in Pet Shops organisation. This body claims there is a link between pet shops and the enormous number of animals killed every year at pounds and shelters. Its claim is supported by other animal welfare and advocate groups and has wide community support. That is because pet shops promote impulse buying and irresponsible breeding for profit. Pet shops create a demand for animals that can only be met by unscrupulous breeders and puppy farms that continue to produce more animals, despite the already oversupply. The Say No to Animals in Pet Shops organisation has collected 5,000 signatures on petitions and my office has received a great deal of phone calls and correspondence on this issue.

The Animals (Regulation of
Sale) Bill will protect the lives and wellbeing of dogs, cats and other mammals by prohibiting their sale in pet shops, fairs and markets. It will prevent the impulse purchasing of mammals by restricting sales to registered breeders, pounds, animal shelters and veterinarians where animals will be appropriately matched with buyers, who will be informed about special needs and requirements. Mammals will only be able to be kept at shops or markets and offered for sale if they are kept on behalf of animal shelters and returned to the shelter at night. Mammals cannot be sold at shops or markets. Instead, prospective buyers will be required to attend an animal shelter to make a purchase. This will allow the RSPCA to participate in the Road to Home Program, which increased the recovery and re-homing of abandoned pets in Queensland by 40 per cent.

The bill will make it difficult for the industry to shift to other outlets by preventing the advertising of sale of mammals through printed and electronic material. It will ensure that the pet shop cannot advertise to act as an intermediary for the sale of the mammal unless the animal is at an animal shelter or council pound. The bill does not restrict shops from selling other animals, such as birds or fish, or from selling pet foods and accessories. There are approximately 300 pet shops in New South Wales. Only recently in Australia have pet shops become major suppliers of companion animals to the public. Previously animals were generally acquired either from breeders or, more commonly, from surplus litters in informal networks.

Pet shops are now part of a large commercial industry that supplies a range of animals. Pet shops can sell a puppy for $550 or $600 and make 100 per cent profit, according to industry representatives. Designer puppies or hybrid breeds can sell for as much as $1,000. Like any commercial enterprise, pet shops exist to make profits. Site location and shrewd marketing are as essential to a pet shop as they are to any other retail business. I cite a pet shop guide produced by the Entrepreneur Business Centre:

The scenario is simple: Someone will walk by, fall in love with an animal and buy it. These sorts of impulse sales can add dramatically to your profits.

First-time browsers in a pet shop will not necessarily jump at the thought of spending $450 to $500 to bring a dog home However, if your shop is accessible and your sales and service ability is convincing, it will not be long before you convert walk-in traffic into buying customers.

In other words, to maximise their profits, pet shops must encourage potential purchasers through clever marketing of their most appealing products. Puppies and kittens in prominent window displays are especially conducive to impulse buying.

Impulse buying is acceptable for handbags or shoes, but pet shops sell live sentient beings, such as puppies and kittens, which need ongoing care and attention. Unlike most animal shelters, pet shops do not ensure there is a suitable match between animal and purchaser. An inappropriate choice of an animal can result in neglect of the animal. A small cute puppy in a pet shop may develop unanticipated and undesirable behavioural problems as an adult and that can lead to its being dumped. A person who buys a puppy or a kitten on impulse may not be aware of the considerable responsibilities of owning an adult dog or cat. The cost of desexing, annual immunisation, veterinary checks and food can be considerable unanticipated financial burdens for the purchaser, who may also be unaware of the time and effort involved in walking and grooming a dog.

The bill bans the sale of mammals to persons under the age of 16 in line with the recent changes to the United Kingdom Animal Welfare Act. Persons under the age of 16 are unable to understand the responsibilities of owning a pet and purchases could lead to parents abandoning the animal if they are not in a position to take on the new responsibilities. The Pet Industry Association of Australia has a national code of practice based on the Department of Agriculture's code of practice for animals in pet shops. However, it is voluntary. It covers animal housing, care and management, including written information for the purchaser. The seven-day health warranty is encouraged, but there is no provision for returning the animal because of behavioural problems. Even this inadequate warranty is ignored by at least one major chain of pet shops.

Animal behaviourists claim that a pet shop is an inherently stressful environment for an animal. This is because the animal is often too young to be taken away from its mother and is subject to constant handling and lack of quiet times. Animal behaviourists say that this can lead to depressed immune systems and illness. The RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League of New South Wales and the police all have power under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to oversee the health and welfare of animals in pet shops, yet the basic standards set by the code of practice are not adhered to by many pet shops. My office receives countless phone calls, letters and emails from people who are distressed about the treatment of animals in pet shops.

The pet industry's national code of practice sets a minimum age of puppies and kittens for sale at eight weeks with some exceptions. It recommends that pet shops advise the purchaser about the advisability of desexing both male and female dogs and cats. Advice from veterinarians is that both dogs and cats can be desexed at eight weeks, although it is not always desirable. Prepaid vouchers to be used when the animal is more mature are used by some animal rescue groups, but rarely by pet shops. The onus is on the purchaser and the community to bear either the financial cost of desexing or the implication of litters. I point out to the House that an un-desexed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

The sale of mice in pet shops is also a serious problem when some pet shops do not separate male and female mice, and some mice may be pregnant when they are purchased. The quick succession of multiple litters can be dealt with by the purchaser either by killing them or dumping them in the bush or at an animal welfare organisation, or by taking them to animal advocacy groups that either kill them or, very rarely, re-home them. Litters of mice are detrimental to the environment when dumped in either urban or bush environments, and killing them is inherently cruel and unnecessary.

One of the most disturbing issues in relation to pet shops is the lack of regulation with regard to the source of the animals for sale. Animals may come from unregistered backyard breeders, puppy farms or other pet owners. Purchasers have no guarantee of the pet's genetic history, past treatment or possible behaviour problems. Unregistered backyard breeders and puppy farms breed dogs and cats in large numbers to be delivered to the lucrative pet shop market. They sell animals without identification or microchip and without screening the new owner. Animal advocates allege there are numerous puppy farms in New South Wales where animals are kept in shocking conditions, bred continuously and housed in inhumane conditions, and when they are no longer able to breed, they are killed. Their offspring have little or no contact with either humans or other animals of the same breed.

Say No to Animals in Pet Shops has provided evidence of these puppy farms on its website. As well as the cruelty involved in this form of breeding, animal behaviourists maintain that it can lead to future health and behavioural problems for the animal: it may be unable to socialise properly with a family or it may have problems with other dogs. The result is that the animal may be dumped or surrendered to a pound or shelter where it will be killed. Only a very small percentage of these animals will be re-homed. The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals published information in one of its magazines and ran a television commercial about puppy farms. They received approximately 1,200 phone calls from people who suspected that there might be a puppy farm in their neighbourhood. Following up every call found that 70 per cent were puppy farms and 18 per cent were unregistered backyard breeders.

The situation in New South Wales is probably similar. There is no reason to suggest otherwise. Animal advocates claim that the organisations given power under the New South Wales Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act do not have the resources to monitor such an extensive underground industry. Even if the numbers were small, a civil society would act to prevent this cruelty and reduce the number of unwanted animals that are killed or die of starvation or disease. It is a sobering fact that the average lifespan of a dog in Australia is two years. Pet shops create a demand for animals. The more companion animals sold through pet shops, the greater is the demand from puppy farms and backyard breeders. Animals must not be bred solely for profit. The tragic implication of the oversupply of dogs and cats in New South Wales must be stopped.

This bill will reduce the oversupply of mammals. It will immediately remove the lucrative market. It will ensure that a person wishing to acquire a cat, a dog or a mammal will have to go to a registered breeder, and/or a pound or a shelter. Debate last year in the United Kingdom Parliament's House of Commons on the Animal Welfare Bill involved an amendment to ban the sale of dogs in pet shops. The Government in reply acknowledged the problems associated with pet shops selling pets and said that the Parliament would consider a ban on the sale of all animals in pet shops when developing regulations. Regulations could also introduce mandatory codes of practice for pet shops and other practices to discourage impulse buying.

Austria has introduced legislation. Belgium and Croatia recently introduced legislation and many pet shops in America re-home animals only from shelters. It can be done here. Many pet shops run profitable businesses selling pet food and accessories. I do not claim that this bill will stop backyard breeders or completely transform the ways that society treats companion animals. However, if people have to consider the real consequences of owning and caring for a pet, the shocking oversupply of dogs and cats may be reduced. As a civil, just and humane society, we must take action to stop the cruel dumping and killing of companion animals.

I note that the following organisations support this bill: the RSPCA, Animal Liberation, Young Lawyers Animal Rights Committee, Saying No to Animals in Pet Shops, World League for the Protection of Animals, Dogs New South Wales, the American Staffordshire Club of New South Wales, Doggie Rescue, the Cat Protection Society and the Humane Society International. I commend this bill to the House.

Selling Animals From Pet Shops is Animal Abuse

May 13, 2008 from Paws for Action  

Many people have not visited pounds - but you don’t need to to see why we need the Animals (Regulation  of Sales) Bill. All you have to do is visit the pet shop in your local shopping centre… 

How many times have you walked past a pet shop and seen a sick or distressed animal for sale, or an animal who looks too young to be away from its mother, or an animal without access to food and water? What you have witnessed is cruelty.

Animal abuse and pet shops are two sides to the same coin. This is because pet shops are businesses and making money will always take precedence over the well being of the animals in their care. For example:

  • Pet shops actively encourage impulsive behaviour in customers. The following excerpt has been taken from the Entrepreneur Business Centre: ‘Pet Shop Business Start Up Guide’.

“The scenario is simple: Someone will walk by, fall in love with an animal and buy it. These sorts of impulse sales can add dramatically to your profits.

First-time browsers in a pet shop will not necessarily jump at the thought of spending $50 to $500 to bring a dog home… However, if your shop is accessible and your sales and service ability is convincing, it will not be long before you convert walk-in traffic into buying customers.”

  • To avoid losing potential customers by ‘burdening’ them with the expected costs and responsibilities of animal ownership, pet shops rarely provide people with care information. In this way pet shops set people up to fail in living up to their responsibilities.
  • Animals are sold to anyone with money. ID is rarely sighted, people are not interviewed and there are innumerable accounts of animals being sold to minors.
  • Animals are housed 24hrs a day in tiny display cages. During the day they are surrounded by bright lights, noise and excited shoppers; at night they are alone and unsupervised. This seriously compromises their welfare.
  • Pet shops sell animals to people (often impulsively and without care information) un-desexed. This combined with a lack of education leads to more unwanted animals being born with no where to go.
  • If an animal becomes sick while in the care of the pet shop it is common practice to not seek vet treatment. Animals are either left to die, taken to a pound or sold at a discounted rate. All this to avoid the business incurring additional costs. An ex-pet shop employee recalls:

I worked in a pet shop as I thought it would be a nice job as I have always loved animals. I became totally disillusioned with the pet industry as I realised it was purely a profit driven industry. After the shop closed one Saturday afternoon there were (4 or 5) kittens that had got cat flu. They looked a little sickly and from memory they had sticky eyes.

Rather than taking them to the vet the cheaper and easier method of disposal was decided upon by the store manager. My manager put the kittens in a cardboard box with a rag with chloroform on it and closed the lid tightly. I stood there quite horrified not really knowing at the time what was going on as it all happened rather quickly. All I could hear was a whole lot of jumping  and scratching around in the box-sounds of the kittens desperately trying to get out of there. After a minute or so it was quiet. To check they had all died I distinctly remember her picking up the box and shaking it to check there was no more movement.

This manager had no regard for the animals in the pet shop… they were treated merely as goods to sell in order make more profits for this major chain pet shop.

  • The animals sold in NSW pet shops are sourced cheaply from ‘puppy farms’ or backyard breeders, where the parents are housed and bred in appalling conditions at minimal cost.
  • These animals will never be walked, cuddled or played with, and they will never know the comforts of a home. As soon as they stop making money (if they become sick or stop producing litters) they are discarded as they are useless to the breeder.
  • The backyard or commercial breeder has no understanding of or concern for breed standards, genetics, socialising, or animal health. The animals sold are usually suffering as a result.

Comment:  The problem of animals sold in pet stores is a problem world-wide and one that we can all help to stop.  Congratulations to Clover Moore in her efforts to STOP THE IMPULSE BUY AND SAVE LIVES! Read more Ending the sale of animals in pet stores

Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill 2008 Private Member's Bill - Negatived, Not Agreed in Principle, 22/10/2009.

New Victorian animal law to ban children from buying pets

By Kelly Ryan From: Herald Sun (Australia) October 27, 2010

Children will be banned from buying puppies and kittens - even goldfish - at pet stores under new laws to protect animals. Under sweeping Victorian Government reforms, a re-elected Brumby Government would outlaw anyone under the age of 18 from buying animals.

Cats and dogs sold from pet stores will have to be desexed. And lost or abandoned animals at shelters will get up to six weeks to find a new home. At the moment dogs and cats on death row have 28 days to be adopted.

Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said rogue puppy farms would be stamped out, with the RSPCA to join councils in getting greater powers to shut them down and seize their animals.

Mr Helper has promised another $4 million over four years to the RSPCA to investigate and prosecute cruelty cases. "Victorians have shown they will not tolerate animal cruelty and that is why a re-elected Brumby Labor Government will take these tough measures to protect animals and pets," Mr Helper said.

Children will be banned from buying animals at pet stores unless they have parental consent. Currently, pet stores are governed by a non-enforceable code of conduct to restrict the sale of certain animals to specific ages. Shop owners found to have sold an animal to a minor will face fines.

There are about one million dogs and 600,000 cats in Victoria, and it is understood about 15 per cent of animals bought each year come from pet shops. A store-bought pet costs anywhere from $700 to $1300. But new rules demanding they be desexed or making the new owner buy a desexing voucher is expected to add another $200 to the cost. A dog from the Lost Dogs' Home costs $275 and an adult cat $95. All animals sold from shelters are desexed, microchipped and vaccinated.

Under the reforms, pet breeders face fines up from $1200 to $2400 per breach if they do not register as a domestic animal business or don't comply with a code of practice. The Government will also expand the responsible pet ownership program to cover 300 more kindergartens. And a Smart Pet Buyers program will help Victorians ensure their pet is from a shelter or responsible and registered pet breeder.

October 23, 2011 Crackdown on cruel puppy farms - excellent legislation!

Read more on our Pet Shops/Rabbits/Legislation page