Puppy Farming

There has been a lot of discussion and publicity about puppy farms in recent years and the general consensus is that we, the Australian public, don’t like them. They are not the way we would like to see society developing. I am not sure how much the average Australian really knows about puppy farming but it is not ideal nor sufficient to leave it to the law makers to fix this problem.

The law is a blunt instrument even with the best of intentions.

It works well in black and white cases like, it is illegal to kill people or use red pen to fill out official forms but in situations where some activities are legal, like breeding dogs, it makes it extremely difficult to say someone can do it and someone else can’t.

We should be questioning whether it is ethical in a modern society to “farm” dogs and then more clearly define the distinction between ethics and the law.

The RSPCA defines a puppy farm (also known as a puppy factory or puppy mill) as ‘an intensive dog breeding facility that is operated under inadequate conditions that fail to meet the dogs’ behavioural, social and/or physiological needs.’

This ought to be easy enough to identify utilising an evidence based approach to animal welfare but the sheer numbers of these establishments and their covert operations make it very difficult to police from an animal welfare perspective.


The Victorian State Government, to give it credit, is attempting to tackle the problem of puppy farming but the recently released draft legislation as an amendment to the Domestic Animals Act is creating some consternation amongst many groups of people from those who like to keep entire dogs and may like to have occasional litters, to the organised large scale registered breeding establishments of which many of us may be unaware.


It is admirable that the Victorian government wants to eliminate puppy farming but the issue is how to administer and police the situation better than we are currently doing without a massive injection of resources we can’t afford. Targeting offenders without overly restricting honest stakeholders in the pet breeding and welfare industries is proving very difficult.

Out of these discussions arises the possibility that we may even want to take a look at how big these ‘good’ breeding establishments could get before they also come close to being considered ‘farms’.

I see quite a number of psychologically damaged dogs, more than I did twenty years ago, in my practice and it is often revealed that many of these dogs come from ‘puppy farm’ environents. Unfortunately there is also a stigma attached to pet shop puppies as many of them are also found to be rejects from dog breeders or, more likely, outlets for puppy farms as well.





It has become a problem to identify these animals so it is not surprising that the pet owning public are finding it hard to tell the difference but as long as we feel we are rescuing these ‘poor’ animals that tug at our hearts, then the problem will be perpetuated. Fortunately pet shops have been better regulated now for a while and there are better systems in place to do background checks on animals being supplied.

A lot of rescue dogs I work with are also ex breeding animals from these ‘next to zero human contact’ puppy farms and they take some time to rehabilitate into families and good homes if it is even possible for them.


In the attempt to legislate against puppy farming there has been some concerns generated within the industry around dog breeding and keeping. Numerous community and commercial groups as well as individual one off home breeders could easily be disadvantaged and the amendment needs a lot more consideration before it potentially harms those it is trying to protect.





In my opinion, many of these issues considered to be things to be fixed by law, are not really things we should be trying to fix by legislation at all. Mandatory vaccination in humans and compulsory desexing of pet dogs are both excellent examples of ill advised, knee jerk, concepts that could have serious and long lasting ramifications and ought not to be the subjects of legislation. Perhaps puppy farming can be addressed better and cheaper by the public’s refusal to support them.

Perhaps the best foot soldiers in this war against puppy farming then are the consumers themselves being better informed and more vigilant.

There is a lot more talk, education and information filtering through and what is required is a reporting system at all levels of merchandising; pet shops, home breeders, rescue shelters and councils so we can all do our bit to end this ‘half life’ for farmed dogs.

If, en-masse, we do not accept online sales of pets, which is where many of these animals are sold and if we do not see the parent dog or dogs and if we have any reason to think this puppy is not from an establishment that provides for the best needs of the animal, we ought to refuse to accept the animal and report to an appropriate authority to investigate breeding activities. This authority already exists under the auspices of the RSPCA Inspectorate.


Puppy farms nearly always have a suspicious thread of history when you enquire and alarm bells ought to be heeded.


If there is to be legislative change we can maximize chances of a best outcome through proper consultation with primary stakeholders and experts in this area.







In the context of this post, consultation can be defined as discussions undertaken by an authority, Vic Government in this case, that has an agenda to pass an Act or a restriction on activities in a community, with those most likely to be affected.

In my observation and past experience, consultation of this kind is usually far less than thorough with the following identifiable flaws.

*Prior knowledge of the agenda is assumed and therefore not necessarily provided to those being ‘consulted’.

*It rarely allows time for respondents to prepare adequate responses to specific and important issues contained within the agenda.

* It is used as an excuse that consultation has occurred when in many cases it occurs after the decision has been made to implement an agenda and leaves little room for change.

* Frequently described as ‘ticking the box’ to claim it was done.

Proper consultation should involve;

Proposals being clearly outlined to stakeholders prior to the preparation of policy so that all relevant issues are clearly identified and a common agenda can be formalised. Proper consultation utilizes the skills of the stakeholders to identify the necessity and help build the structure of the policy.


Policies that affect law abiding and well intentioned businesses and practices will be best formulated with input from experts in the field and it always astonishes me that they are often the last people to be approached or properly consulted.

We should be better at these things by now.

We should be making better use of all our best people.











Why do I think that
I think better,
Why do I think that
I know better,
Why do I think that
I do better
And why do I think that
I am better
In every way?

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, part 179, Agni Press, 1993


I do not want to know
The future of this earth.
I wish to see a better face
And a better heart
Of this earth.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 16, Agni Press, 1999


Leave a Reply