Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Why Ban Pets from Pet Shops?  2007
Clover Moore, MP  

Australia has the highest rate of pet ownership in the world and pets play an important role in our society. However there is a disturbing aspect to pet ownership. Department of Local Government and RSPCA statistics indicate that over 60,000 dogs and cats are killed each year in NSW alone. 

Animal welfare and pet rescue groups overwhelmingly say that there is a strong link between pet shops and the large numbers of pets being dumped. They say that pets are often abandoned because they were bought on impulse as cute puppies and kittens displayed in pet shops, but had unanticipated costs, responsibilities and behaviours, or were unwanted gifts.

Impulse buying creates a demand that is often met by unscrupulous breeding practices, including backyard breeders and “pet mills” where mammals are kept in appalling conditions and made to continuously breed. 

My Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill would ban the sale of mammals (cats, dogs, rabbits etc) from shops and markets and regulate advertising sales. 

Mammals would only be kept at shops or markets and offered for sale on behalf of animal shelters, and returned to the shelter at night. Mammals would not be sold at shops or markets. This is to 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 would prohibit the sale of mammals to people under the age of 16 in order to prevent children buying pets without a responsible adult who understands the responsibilities involved. 

The Bill would ban advertising of mammals for sale unless the mammal is at a shelter, council pound or vet and the advertisement states the basic costs and responsibilities involved in pet ownership: including the usual life-span of that breed, minimum shelter, accommodation, exercising and socialising requirements, feeding, registration, veterinary care and ongoing costs.  

Recognised breeders could advertise their business in general terms, without listing individual animals for sale. 

The Bill would allow the Minister to recognise breeders and specifies that members of the NSW Canine Council (Dogs NSW), the NSW Cat Fanciers Association and the Waratah State Cat Alliance are recognised under the Bill.

Only recognised breeders would be able to carry on a business of selling mammals. The Regulations will prescribe standards for recognised breeders. Breeders could lose recognition and not be able to trade if they don’t meet the standards.  

All mammals would be microchipped before being sold by animal shelters, council pounds, vets and breeders.

The Bill would make it an offence to fail to claim or surrender an animal that is in a shelter within seven days of notification. 

The Bill is supported by: the RSPCA; Say No To Animals In Pet Shops, the Young Lawyers Animal Rights Committee; Animal Liberation; the Humane Society International; the World League for the Protection of Animals; the Cat Protection Society; Doggie Rescue; Cat Rescue; Voiceless; the American Staffordshire Club of NSW; and numerous private rescuers and rescue groups across the State.

The current unregulated system of pet supply is already underground.

Unscrupulous breeders including backyard breeders and “puppy farms” often sell pets to pet shops, which create a demand that in turn supports the underground industry. They also use internet and Trading Post advertisements to sell mammals cheaply. 

The Bill bans the sale of pets in pet shops and markets, and bans advertising of pet sales unless a mammal is kept at an animal shelter, council pound or vet (excluding advertisements in general terms by recognised breeders) – thereby removing all supply outlets for backyard breeders and puppy farms.  

The Bill allows for standards to be set for recognised breeders and only recognised breeders can "carry on a business" of selling mammals. It is expected that standards would be developed following widespread community consultation including with breeders and animal welfare groups. 

The cost of pets in pet shops does not prevent impulse buys 

Rescuers tell thousands of stories of people paying exorbitant amounts for dogs and cats that they later dump because they could not afford to keep them. Today people buy many products on impulse that cost thousands of dollars, a factor driving our consumer-focussed society. Cute puppies and kittens can produce a strong emotional reaction that can lead to an impulse buy – that’s why they are out the front of pet shops. 

The Entrepreneur Business Centre Pet Shop Business Start Up Guide provides advice to pet shops on how to boost profits stating: 

“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.” 

There will still be pet shops

Pet shops will still be able to sell birds and fish, as well as pet food and accessories. Pet shops have been responding to changing community attitudes towards live animal sales as well as the growing accessory markets and many now run profitable businesses without selling live animals at all.

I met representatives from the Pet Industry Association in October and they said they would provide a proposal for alternate legislation that would significantly reduce impulse buying, backyard breeding and puppy farms without banning the sale of pets in pet shops. My office has chased them up but they have failed to provide anything. 

Pet Shops will still be able to assist with re-homing abandoned animals 

Animal welfare groups would be able to keep mammals at shops and markets and offer them for sale if the sale does not take place at the shop or market and the mammal is not left unattended or in the shop overnight. 

People will still be able to buy pets  

People would still be able to buy cats, dogs or other mammals from registered breeders, animal pounds and shelters or their local vet where they will be matched with an animal and provided with detailed, written information about its special needs and requirements.  

If your pet has an accidental litter, you would still be able to give the offspring to neighbours and animal shelters, but you won’t be able to advertise them for sale. 

The Bill does not ban any breed of animal  

The Bill provides a definition for “recognised breeders” who are the only bodies who can “carry on a business” of selling mammals. The Bill specifies three peak bodies as recognised breeders and the only body for dog breeding that specified is the Canine Council of NSW.  

This is in line with the definition for recognised breeders provided under the Companion Animals Regulation 1999 however the Bill would also allow the Minister to recognise other bodies and there is no constraint on the type of breed that can be recognised. This is designed to be flexible and the breeding standards that would be set out in the Regulations will ensure that only ethical breeders will be recognised.

A number of amendments are being considered including: 

  •   Ensuring all rescue groups and private rescuers are covered in the definitions for “animal shelter” and “prescribed private home”;

  •   Expanding advertising provisions to recognised breeders with safeguards to prevent creating a loophole for backyard breeders and puppy farms;

  •   Ensuring farmers can continue to advertise and sell working dogs to other farmers. 

Comment: Ms Moore’s proposed bill is in the Legislative Assembly, awaiting “Agreed in Principle” debate, 27/12/07.  Similar legislation is being considered by various levels of government not only in Australia, but in Canada and other countries, as well.  Buying on impulse, without a personal responsibility in meeting both the physical and emotional needs of dependent beings, should be condemned by all of society.  Then, of course, there’s the argument as to whether we should have “pets” at all.

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