How much is that puppy in the window?

17 October 2014

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Have you ever stopped in front of a pet shop window and wondered where all the cute puppies came from?

The truth is they were most likely bred in puppy farms, which still legally supply pet shops across Victoria.

In what has been a well-kept secret by the pet industry, these puppies are sourced straight from rural ‘puppy mills’.

With the Victorian state election approaching rapidly, both the State Government and State Opposition are vowing to introduce strict new laws surrounding puppy farms.

Labor is seemingly leading the push with a campaign that has already gathered over 22,000 signatures.

Yet, all these proposed amendments to the puppy breeding laws are not enough; they need to be abolished completely.

The dogs that live in these farms are forced breed while living in horrid conditions, often with various illnesses until their eventual death.

All these factors have been raising alarm bells for animal activists for some time, with attempts being made to bring the issue to state parliament. However, the introduction of any adequate legislation on a government level has, so far, failed to take place.

In 2013, the Napthine Government proposed tougher laws that would see female dogs retired after five litters and vet checked through every pregnancy. These measures were then back flipped, and a new rule took its place; that dogs could breed for life, as long as it was approved by a vet.

One activist who is trying to put an end to puppy farming in Victoria is Debra Tranter, who founded the organisation ‘I Want Oscar’s Law’.

“We don’t feel like puppy farms can be justified and regulated at all, we think they need to be abolished,” Tranter tells upstart.

Although Tranter has been campaigning against puppy farms since 1993, it wasn’t until 2010 when ‘I Want Oscar’s Law’ was formed after one particular heartbreaking discovery.

“The group I founded was named after a little dog called Oscar that I rescued from a puppy farm,” she says.

“He was in terrible condition when I rescued him. His fur was very badly matted, extremely underweight; teeth were rotten, had gum disease and an ear infection. He was a real mess.”

“I’m doing this to highlight the laws don’t protect puppies on the farms, they are made to protect the puppy farmers.”

The main focus of the organisation is to raise public awareness on the matter that has long been kept out of the spotlight.

Recent footage filmed at a Gippsland puppy farm shows that even in 2010, the conditions these dogs were suffering in is barbaric.

Whilst organisations like ‘I Want Oscar’s Law’ continue to expose puppy farms and inspire change, there are ways the public can help.

People are encouraged to never buy pets from stores and start adopting animals from rescue homes. This would help an estimated 200,000 dogs that have to be euthanised every year in Australia due to pet homelessness.

“We always encourage adoption from pounds or shelters; you know there’s nothing more rewarding than saving a life,” says Tranter.

“But if it’s a specific kind of breed of dog that people are looking for, we would encourage people to contact organisations like Dogs Victoria, just to help find a reputable breeder.”

The difference between registered breeders and puppy farmers is immeasurable.

“If you go to a registered breeder you know that the puppy’s parents have been health tested, raised as loving parts of the family as pets and you know that the puppies will be well socialised,” says Tranter.

As for the future of puppy farms, Tranter believes “it will be people and the public who shut down puppy farms”.

“In raising awareness for consumers, we are effectively taking the market away from the pet shops, trading post and gumtree and places like that.”

“They are struggling right now, and our goal is to shut these places down by taking away their market.”

It’s now time for the Victorian Government to step up and ban puppy farming.

If we set an example now, other states will follow and help phase out this horrendous form of animal cruelty.


1620977_10153865488675713_1532641493_n Joel Hargreaves is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is a editor for upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @joelphargreaves