Puppy farm inquiry is clear - they must be closed

After another Puppy Farm inquiry, it is evident they must be shut down.

Abigail addresses the support across the divide to close puppy farms down but the lack of political will to do so. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (18:12): I was a bit of a ring-in for this inquiry. I cannot remember if I was a member or a participant. In any case it was another of those inquiries that—

The Hon. Adam Searle: You were a member.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: I was a member; I thank the Hon. Adam Searle. As a member of The Greens, we have long held that we should be banning puppy farms and that we should be looking at animals as companions, not commodities, but when one has inquiries of this kind there are additional layers of understanding. This was an incredibly useful inquiry to look at the situation in New South Wales and at what has been happening in other States. I again thank the Hon. Emma Hurst for bringing the bill to ban puppy farming, the Hon. Mick Veitch for chairing the inquiry in such a calm and patient manner, and all the committee members who engaged in the topic in good faith.

I find it really frustrating that we can be in a situation where politically there is broad agreement that an industrial-sized puppy farm can never have a good result when it comes to animal welfare. We can argue about what that means and what puppy farming means, how many dogs one needs to have in order for it to be a farm, et cetera, but as a fundamental principle we can all agree that too many dogs, not enough staff and very little care is a cruel and unacceptable thing to have in our society in this day and age. It is frustrating that we can all agree on that, yet actual action and legislative reform on this issue can take so long—can take many years.

Many members in this House have been on puppy farming inquiries prior to this one and there are political parties in this place other than The Greens and the Animal Justice Party that have taken to elections a promise to ban puppy farms. It is incredibly frustrating that we do not see a far more unified front to deal with something because we are arguing about the details of it. I am hoping that out of this inquiry we have a bit more of a consensus on what the first steps are that we could take. There is no doubt that there has been some learning from the Victorian experience that we could add to, but on the whole it has been a significant step forward based on what we have in New South Wales. We may not get it perfect straight up, but we can certainly take big strides forward by looking at what Victoria has and at the recommendations of this inquiry.

I would like to see a much lower cap on the number of puppies that one can have in one area. It breaks my heart to still hear of applications in semi-rural and quite regional areas for puppy farms that have 300, 500 or 600 dogs at those facilities. There is no way that a single person—I do not care how many staff they have—can house so many dogs on one property and be properly in charge of the welfare of those dogs. I just do not think it is possible. We talk about staffing ratios. I do not think we will ever get to the situation where we can have 300 dogs on a property with sufficient staff that achieve a good outcome. I think we can cap the numbers. We can look at not just the number of breeding females that are on a property but also the number of times that they are forced to go through that cycle over and over, even at some of the more presentable puppy farms, one of which we went to visit. Even in the best-case scenario, those mother dogs at a very young age have been through more than one litter already. Looking at the state of their lives and the way they were physically carrying themselves is heartbreaking.

We talk about consumer action and we talk about consumer responsibility. What we have at the moment is effectively an unregulated market, and it is not good enough. The regulations that we have in place are not enforced because animal welfare organisations do not have the funding and capacity to be able to do that. The funding is woeful—less than half a million dollars for both the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League, which is in stark comparison to what we throw at the greyhound and horse racing industries. We are not honouring the wishes of the community. If consumers were fully aware of the enormous suffering that these dogs are put through, they would never accept a puppy from a puppy farm. In those circumstances, where the true situation is pushed underground, it is incumbent on government to adequately regulate or do away with the practice altogether. We heard a lot about the difference between backyard breeders and puppy farms. We can argue about which is which, but we all agree there is a line to be drawn and it is well past the time that we seek to regulate puppy farms.

I thank everyone who was involved in the inquiry. Even though there have been previous puppy farm inquiries, it was worthwhile for us to get the current state of play and to better understand what sort of regulations we can put in place. The Hon. Emma Hurst is correct that her bill stood up to scrutiny throughout the inquiry. If we were to pass that bill, we would move so much further towards showing that, as a Parliament, we care about the welfare of animals. It would be a real shame if we did not do it.

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