Commercial/Intensive Breeding Facilities
Animal Care Australia recognises the difference between ‘commercial/intensive breeding’ and ‘pet factories’.
Animal Care Australia supports breeders who continue to meet welfare standards of the animals being bred in accordance with or above the animal welfare laws within their States and Territories.
It is our position that discouraging over-breeding and ensuring genetic integrity takes higher precedence over demanding restrictions on numbers able to be bred.
When referring to the breeding of dogs and cats, Animal Care Australia supports the need for assistant ratios (staff/ volunteer), particularly in larger breeding facilities, but this should be aligned with world recognised recommendations – that currently being one assistant per six pregnant or lactating females or per 26 dogs and/or cats, in addition to themselves as the owner. Assistant ratios must also be considered to ensure appropriate socialisation and behaviour training.
Animal Care Australia supports limiting the number of times a female animal can be bred within each season, and within appropriate age brackets. Maintaining the health of female animals is paramount to ensuring healthy young.
Breeding facilities for other species should also consider assistant (staff/volunteer) ratios in order to meet the husbandry, feeding, cleaning requirements as set out in animal welfare standards.
Under-staffing is a contributing factor to poor welfare outcomes, however Animal Care Australia recognises that circumstances and support networks can vary greatly across different breeders, such as all of the family (including older children) may help with the animals even though they are not a recognised workforce. These breeders should not be forced to operate as a pet shop, as this type of over-restriction within legislation makes it too cumbersome for these breeders to responsibly function. This is where poorer animal welfare develops.
Animal Care Australia supports breeders who operate under the welfare standards that meet all the animals’ needs.
Pet-factories/farms and unethical breeding
Animal Care Australia does not support irresponsible/unethical breeding or individuals who commit acts of cruelty against animals. It is generally agreed no-one likes ‘puppy farms’.
Animal Care Animal Care Australia’s concern is the lack of a clear legal definition that is not skewed by the social environment a person participates within. This has resulted in different groups who all support improved welfare speaking past each other due to the lack of clarity in terminology
There appears to be a common and agreeable factor within all the definitions and that is ‘inadequate or poor welfare conditions’. Accordingly, Animal Care Australia’s position revolves around our definition:
An unethical operator/breeder is any person/entity who is breeding an animal with poor welfare outcomes in defiance of the animal welfare standards.
Predominantly the focus is on puppies/dog breeding, Animal Care Australia has adopted a broader definition to include all breeders, as we acknowledge poor breeding and poor animal welfare outcomes can be found across all species.
Animal Care Australia DOES NOT support unethical breeders operating in substandard conditions where animals needs are not met.
Educating the public to reduce unethical breeders abilities to exist.
Animal Care Australia strongly advocates more focus should be aimed at changing the perspective to educating the public about responsible breeding, buying and pet ownership.
Animal Care Australia implores government to provide more adequate funding for educating the public on their responsibilities as pet owners including supporting & promoting animal keeper associations & clubs.
Educating the public is a key step into changing behaviour. Education needs to be themed with the aim of making pet owners more aware of their responsibilities. In general, most people are unaware that there are Codes of Practice that must be followed. They know that animal cruelty laws exist, but do they know what is written in those laws?
Education needs to start in our schools (primary and high school). Our children are usually the one’s seeking to own a pet and they are also the keepers and breeders for the decades that follow. Introducing basic pet care and the responsibility of pet ownership skills to children will enhance the understanding of pet ownership within the community and more specifically will help overcome many barriers within multi-cultural communities, where often pet welfare and ownership has been inherited from different societies with a vastly different understanding of how animals should be kept.
Teaching children throughout their primary and higher education levels about responsible buying and the need to ensure you buy from a reputable breeder is crucial in this era of technology where not-so-credible sellers are attracting the new generations that live in the technological space. Once upon a time if you wanted an animal you read an advertisement, you phoned, you visited the home of the breeder, and you came back when it was old enough to take it to its forever home with you. Today, pictures of animals are posted, money is transferred and quite often animals are exchanged without having seen where they were born, the parents or the standards they’d been living in. In an increasing trend no animals are exchanged at all — and the buyer is scammed .
Animal Care Australia advocates for further government funding to increase public education initiatives promoting responsible pet buying and responsible pet ownership.
Animals In Pet Shops
In general Animal Care Australia does not oppose animals being sold in pet shops, reliant upon the pet shop following existing animal welfare legislation and codes of practice as legislated in each state/territory.
However, Animal Care Australia believe pet shops are not the most suitable environment for the sale of dogs and cats, for the same reasons we do not support the sale of shelter animals from pet shops as we see no difference between the two.
If given an option between the sale at pet shops or online, Animal Care Australia believes pet shops are more easily regulated than online or car boot sales.
Many regulated pet shops have a requirement to accept a returned animal within a stated period of time — this is vital in reducing animal abandonment.
Some concerns for the sale of pet animals in pet shops include:
- Puppies go through a fear period between 8-16 weeks and a pet shop environment is not ideal to ensure that they are not placed in situations which could lead to ongoing behavioural problems such as high anxiety.
- Puppies need around the clock care. Leaving puppies overnight in a shop environment is not suitable.
- Puppies need to be in a home environment at an early age so they can become desensitised to new environments and form routines.
- In a pet shop environment, there is not the equivalent ability for puppies to be exercised compared to what they receive with responsible breeders.
- In a pet shop environment, there is not the appropriate space to ensure there are separate spaces for eating, toileting and sleeping. This leads to toileting and sleeping issues once they are sold and are settled into a home environment.
- They don’t receive the required environmental enrichment.
- There are no facilities that the puppies can retreat to get away from the noise and attempted interactions by the public (tapping on glass etc).
The concerns listed for puppies also apply to kittens, including separate eating facilities, establishing toileting habits, etc, which are important for kittens to ensure they feel safe and are able to be enriched.
Most pet shops do not have the facilities to house kittens in a safe manner where they can climb, explore, or hide away.
- Birds kept in pet shops for extended periods of time lose condition, resulting in poor feather appearance and nutritional condition. The latter is often over-compensated with supplements, that are ceased upon purchase leading to a quicker deterioration once at their new home.
- Birds kept in pet shops for a long period of time lose the ability to easily adapt to outside weather conditions and are more likely to die when purchased and placed in an outdoor enclosure.
It should be noted these concerns can be easily rectified and avoided if the pet shops rotate their birds out to external aviaries/cages for a few weeks, returning them to the shop for another couple of weeks.
- Over-crowding of birds in pet shops leads to numerous health concerns, including feather condition, dietary requirements, and injuries following fighting.
- Some pet shop owners are not educated on the requirements of the different species and may house aggressive species together or not provide the appropriate diet or enrichment for the birds.
Small mammals —mice, rats, guinea pigs and ferrets
Most people would believe the sale of small domesticated mammals would be the easiest for pet shops. Sadly, experience tells us differently.
There are some common issues that apply with all small mammals that have been purchased from pet shops:
- High stressed environment for the animals with no relief from public until the store is closed
- Sexes mixed together
- Incorrectly sexed
- Leaving males together to fight
- Injured/sick animals not removed from enclosures
- Lack of knowledge about the species and their needs, in particular appropriate housing, dietary requirements, and husbandry, which leads to improper education and advice to the customer on care
- Sold as live feed for other animals (knowingly sold is illegal)
- Animals often falling ill and/or dying shortly after purchase, due to inadequate diet provided, and inadequate housing within the shop
- No follow-up support for buyers/new owners
- Animals sold with poor health and temperament, parasite infestations, sold under the (legislated) age requirement for the species
- Animal sourced from unethical breeders — leading to the issues listed here
- A severe lack of handling and socialisation
In addition to all of the above, some species specific concerns are:
Rats & Mice:
- Selling pregnant rats and mice
- Leaving males together to fight, (mice)
- Sold as a single animal (these are communal species)
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs:
- Improper education and advice to the customer on care and long-term commitment
- Rabbits not vaccinated— buyers not advised of the importance of being vaccinated
- Lack of knowledge and improper education and advice to the customer on care and long-term commitment
- Constant exposure to public causing stress
- Inadequate environmental enrichment and mental stimulation.
- Lack of handling and socialisation
Reptiles and Amphibians:
- Some pet shop owners are not educated on the requirements of the different species and may house reptiles in the wrong environmental conditions or not provide the appropriate diet or enrichment requirements.
- This also leads to the buyer following the same inappropriate information, including purchasing unnecessary equipment that can often lead to fatalities.
- Hatchling reptiles require varied conditions and diets that change or a vastly different to the requirements of adult species, again often leading to higher mortality rates.
- Reptiles kept in pet shops for extended periods of time lose condition, resulting in poor appearance and nutritional condition. It should be noted this can be easily rectified and avoided if the pet shops rotate their reptiles off display for a few weeks, returning them to the shop for another couple of weeks.
Many pet shops are more than capable of addressing the concerns listed above, however some find it to be too cumbersome and accordingly Animal Care Australia does not support animals being sold by those individuals. Where a pet shop can implement ways to address the considerations outlined above, and continues to meet the standards required by legislation, Animal Care Australia does not oppose the sale of animals from that pet shop.
Animal Care Australia conditionally supports animals sold in pet shops
Animal grooming, clipping and groomers
Grooming and clipping includes trimming fur, hair, feathers (wings), and maintaining healthy nails or hooves.
Animal Care Australia recognises grooming as a vital component of animal welfare. Animal Care Australia supports educating the public on the essential need for animals to be groomed, and encourages the public to seek out qualified or experienced groomers, where possible.
Animal Care Australia encourages groomers to seek out appropriate training or learning opportunities, where available, to ensure a quality professional service can be provided.
Animal Care Australia supports responsible pet groomers and grooming