For Oscar, there were no walks in the park. He didn’t know sunlight and had never even seen the sky. For six years, he endured torturous living conditions as a victim in a central Victorian puppy farm.
Puppy farming is a brutal trade that preferences profit over welfare, but all is expected to change.
When upstart last explored the issue, there were many proposed amendments to the laws behind the intensive breeding of domestic animals, but the Victorian government has since taken a stand.
In a recent press release, the Labor government proved their fight against puppy farms would continue. The government announced plans to completely phase out the cruel industry.
The establishment of new puppy farms will be extremely discouraged with the maximum number of female breeding dogs in such facilities limited to ten by the year 2020.
At the moment, some farms are home to hundreds of female breeding dogs, regularly habituating in poor and filthy conditions. The largest puppy farm is reported to have over 300 dogs.
“Too many breeding dogs are living in misery, too many puppies are out on the street, too many animals are losing their lives – Labor’s plan will put an end to it,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“A dog belongs in a family, not in a factory.”
Oscar’s Law is a people-power lobby group aiming to put an end to the puppy trade and factory-farmed companion animals.
The movement was created when Oscar, a dog who had endured torturous living conditions from a puppy factory in central Victoria, was rescued.
Severe matting, ear infections, gum disease and rotten teeth were some of the ailments he suffered after being neglected to the point he needed urgent veterinary care.
Debra Tranter, founder of Oscar’s Law and passionate animal activist, is in favour of the legislation.
“It’s a brutal industry based on cruelty and consumer fraud,” Ms Tranter says.
“Young puppies recently separated from their mothers are transported long distances, including interstate, only to sit in glass boxes in pet shop windows. They are deprived of companionship, environmental stimulation and their basic needs are simply not met.”
The new legislation will also deter customers from buying their future companions from pet shops – a link in the supply chain of animal cruelty that is often overlooked.
“It is a lucrative industry and pet shops will go to great lengths to hide where they get their puppies from,” Ms Tranter says.
The small number of breeding dogs will severely affect the domestic breeding industry and, with the added costs of mandatory vet checks, puppy farmers will pay a lot more in vet bills.
“The previous legislation looked after the financial interests of the puppy farmers, the changes being brought in are more focused on the welfare of the dogs,” Ms Tranter says.
Ms Tranter told upstart that puppy mills would not survive with the new legislation.
“The new legislation will put an end to the large commercial puppy factories, as it will no longer be financially viable,” she says.
However, there are concerns that it will become problematic to buy a purebred puppy once the new legislation is in place.
Greg Kirby is the owner of Upmarket Pets at the Queen Victoria Market. He expects to dismiss 15 staff members when the law takes place, and believes the new legislation will result in price increases for would-be dog owners.
“You will not buy a dog under $5,000 shortly,” Mr Kirby told The Age.
“The average family … they simply won’t be able to afford a dog,” he said.
Ms Tranter deems these concerns as “ridiculous” and “untrue”.
“The pet industry are currently running a scare campaign and using the line ‘children will be deprived of a puppy’, but people will still be able to buy puppies from ethical breeders,” she says.
Oscar’s Law suggests adopting a pet or finding a reputable breeder rather than purchasing from a pet store. This is a primary way to take the market away from puppy factories.
“The power is in the hand of the consumer, and by educating and empowering them with the facts, they are more likely to make kinder choices and research where to find their next companion animal,” Ms Tranter says.
Tijan Biner is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @tijanb.