09/6/14

The SA Story (Again)

selectcommitteesa

After hearing the ‘results’ of the Select Committee on Companion Animal Welfare in SA, I was hugely disappointed in the process and the recommendations. However, I was pleased to hear nothing further about it (it came out July last year!).

Until now.

A few articles (one | two | three) have come out quoting Ian Hunter (politician), Tammy Franks (politician), Tim Vasuedeva (RSPCA CEO), Steven Marshall (politician), and Jay Weatherill (politician).

The hot ideas are compulsory desexing (or just desexing puppies in pet shops), a code of practice, and a breeder licensing scheme, with some extra legislation thrown in for good measure. It’s not a surprise that this is mostly bad news, considering the spurious nature of the original Select Committee report.

 

Compulsory Desexing

The articles seem to be looking at both compulsory desexing, and compulsory desexing of all dogs sold in pet shops. The narrator in the first article describes the community as ‘divided’.

 

Compulsory Desexing of Petshop Puppies

Tammy Franks, in particular, supports the suggestion that all puppies from pet shops should be desexed.

Tim Vasudeva, from the RSPCA, says, “We’ve been desexing puppies between 3-4 months for years and years and we haven’t had any problems.”

The first article claims that the government will look at compulsory desexing of dogs sold in pet shop in light of a Select Committee’s report. While the report made many poor recommendations, desexing of dogs in pet shops before sale was not one of them! False reporting!

The problem with this is: We are desexing very young puppies and there is evidence that there are harms associated with desexing when it is done at a young age. These harms go beyond anaesthetic risks and immediate recovery (which is what Tim is referring to) and is more about long term acquisition of health problems including cancer. (You can read a recent study on golden retrievers, or a recent study on vizslas to learn more about this.)

Further, what is the point of this suggested legislation? Why should all puppies be desexed before sale? Especially because of the long term health risks?

If you wanted to get me on side with this suggestion, I would be more inclined to support the sterilisation of puppies before sale (including tubal ligation and vasectomies, that aren’t known to have these long-term health outcomes). However, I’d still be asking what the point of this was – surely there’s bigger issues for us to be dealing with.

 

Compulsory Desexing of Everything

Tim Vasudeva, from the RSPCA, says that the AVA’s research shows that desexed dogs are 2.6 times less likely to bite. This is not true: the AVA refers to others’ research, using 23 year old data, which suggests desexed dogs are 2.6 times less likely to bite.

Tim Vasudeva spoke about how desexing could be beneficial – in reducing wandering and hormone-driven behaviours and said “At the very least I don’t think can hurt”. While there is actually a study that indicates that this is the case, it is one old study. Anecdotally, I know of plenty of people who have non-humpy non-pissing non-wandering dogs that are entire.

Ian Hunter says that “In the ACT, desexing is compulsory and has led to a 47% decrease in dog attacks. It’s also reduced the number of unwanted dogs being euthanised.” Despite a lot of research on my part, I couldn’t find any evidence that this is the case. Any clues on this appreciated! While there might be a correlation (I stress might), this doesn’t indicate a correlation.

 

Code of Practice

All three articles talk about the government introducing a Code of Practice to target puppy farms and makes sure dogs are kept and born into healthy and humane conditions.

But a Code of Practice will affect everyone, not just puppy farms! Such codes produced around Australia have pretty much banned dogs from being kept inside or on grass. Are puppy farms defined as those with lots of dogs? Those breeding many litters? Those producing many puppies? Anyone that breeds full stop? A ‘puppy farm’ is hard to define, and so Codes of Practice affect everyone instead.

Further, dogs already have to be kept in a humane way! The Animal Welfare Acts and similar legislation across Australia requires it. Anyone who is allowing their dogs to get matted, or not have water, or have medical treatments denied, is guilty of an offence. We can get puppy farmers for that! Code of Practice not required!

 

Licensing Scheme

I was excited in article two where there was the suggestion that there would be no licensing scheme… Then article three suggested there would be. I’ve repeatedly made arguments against breeder licensing (the most elaborate being here), but basically:

1) Breeder licensing hasn’t been shown to do much (like the Gold Coast scheme) – it doesn’t reduce pound intakes for sure. And puppy farmers don’t make a habit of signing up.

2) Why would we introduce a new license scheme, when the Animal Welfare Acts are not currently enforced?

3) How do we ensure that responsible and ethical home ‘hobby breeders’ are not discouraged from breeding wonderful pets?

4) Often, breeder licensing excludes ‘backyard breeders’, ‘working dog breeders’, and greyhound breeders. These breeders produce a lot of dogs and dogs that are, seemingly, more likely to end up in the pound system.

 

Other Matters

Tammy Franks wants shelters to reveal euthanasia rates publicly. I think this is great if shelters were to have such transparency.

Article two and three suggest that mandatory microchipping will come in, and be compulsory (presumably, hopefully, compulsory before sale). While I have no qualms with microchipping being mandatory, I look forward to the phone line that allows me to report in those selling animals without microchips illegally. I don’t look forward to my expensive phone bills from making such reports. What I’m saying is: I have no confidence that this legislation will be adequately enforced.

Interestingly, one article says that there will be a “requirement for pets to only be bought from registered breeders”. That would be interesting! No more RSPCA, AWL, rescue group sales. No more guide dog and assistant dog groups selling unsuitable animals. Does that mean private rehomings are no longer legal? Surely this must be some kind of error in reporting.

And still there’s continued bleating about a cooling off period, under the guise that it would “reduce impulse buying and cut the number of pets being abandoned or surrendered”. There is no evidence that this is the case! Firstly, it does not seem that pets acquired impulsively are at any greater risk of being surrendered than pets acquired with a lot of thought. Secondly, there is no evidence that a cooling off period would reduce abandonment of pets. I don’t know how this even gets attention!

 

How unfortunate that the Select Committee’s recommendations are now gaining media attention and potentially some momentum in SA.

I spent a great many hours researching and writing my 20 page submission to the Committee. When the Committee published its findings and suggestions, I was so angry that the recommendations made were based on an emotive community rather than evidence and science.

I had been peacefully thinking that the Select Committee was just a little media stunt, and that it was going to disappear. These recent media reports and troubling and upsetting.

It’s concerning that the Government is prepared to invest resources into plans with no evidence that they will have any impact on animal welfare.

It is just as concerning that the community is lapping it up.

 

Further reading:

Public Misconceptions

Is desexing a cult?

Companion Animal Taskforce in NSW – Feedback

04/6/14

How to find a good dog breeder

Purchasing a Dog or Puppy: What to look for in a breeder

 

So you have made a decision to add a dog or puppy to your family. Congratulations!

But how do you make sure you’re getting a puppy from an ethical source?

It’s not a ‘black or white’ matter. There is no definitive issue that makes a breeder ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Instead, here’s a guide which talks about necessities, niceties, and red flags.

 

Necessities

If your breeder doesn’t do this then walk away…

  • Breeder shows concern and regard to the health of dogs and puppies – either in health testing or in the studs used (e.g. choosing old studs that show they’re healthy, using DNA testing, using x-rays, and other relvant tests)
     
  • Breeder shows concern and regard to the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies – either in providing enrichment on site, by frequently taking their dogs ‘out and about’, by using Dunbar’s methods of raising puppies (with toilet area, kongs, socialisation), and preferably a combination of these methods.
     
  • The breeder has a clear purpose in their breeding program that goes beyond ‘breeding pet puppies’ – they may enter their dogs in dog shows, participate in agility or obedience with their dogs, or have dogs that compete in working dog trials
     
  • The breeder’s dogs approach you in a friendly and sociable way. You are able to interact with and handle all dogs on the property. The mother should be available and should show exceptionable sociable behaviour.
     
  • The breeder is willing to provide life-long support to you as a puppy buyer – including taking back the dog at any point things ‘don’t work out’
     
  • The breeder happily shows you all the dogs in their care
     

 

Niceties

It’s nice for the breeder to do any of these things, but don’t be concerned if it doesn’t happen.

  • The stud dog is on site
     
  • The breeder asks you lots of questions about your household and what you’re looking for
     
  • There is a sales contract that goes beyond simple money exchange
     
  • The breeder can show registration or affiliation to an organisation with a code of conduct/ethics
     
  • The breeder can recite pedigrees and seems to be oozing with knowledge about the breed
     

 

Red Flags

If any of these items take place, you may want to reconsider purchasing an animal from this breeder.

  • The puppies are not vaccinated
     
  • The breeder seems overly concerned about the purchase price
     
  • Not all adult dogs are sociable and friendly
     
  • Part of the breeder’s sales pitch is ‘lots of colours available’ or ‘will grow up big’ or ‘will stay tiny’ or ‘rare!’
     
  • The breeder asks for deposits before a bitch is mated
     
  • The breeder sells puppies together to the same pet family
     
  • The puppies are crossbreeds which seem to have no real purpose (ask, how do they fit into the clear purpose of their breeding program?)
     
  • The puppies are crossbreeds and are given a fancy name like ‘labradoodle’ or ‘spanador’.
     
  • The breeder does seem to be putting the hard sell on you – they’re saying “if you put a deposit down today, I’ll take $100 off the asking price” or “If you don’t buy him now, I have someone coming at 2 o’clock who will buy him”.
     
  • The breeder breeds more than 3 different breeds of dogs
     

stop sign

 

Do Not Buys!

If a breeder performs any of the following points, then do not purchase a puppy and look elsewhere.

  • You cannot meet the mother or father in any circumstances (e.g. ethical breeders, even if the stud dog owner is interstate that should be able to say ‘you can meet them if you really want to go interstate’)
     
  • Puppies are not microchipped – in most states of Australia, this is a legal requirement
     
  • The dogs or puppies seem unhealthy or in poor condition (dirty, matted, skinny, fat)
     
  • The adult dogs are not sociable and friendly, especially if many of the adult dogs are not friendly
     
  • The breeder is unwilling to show you all the dogs at their home
     

 

Is there anything you would add to this list?

 

Further reading:

Red Flags: Warning signs when dealing with a breeder

How to tell if your dog breeder is responsible

A puppy ‘with papers’ from a ‘registered breeder’

Select, select, select

Dog Breeders: Don’t produce lemon puppies

11/19/13

Dog Aggression in a Breeding Program

Should you breed from a dog that is dog-aggressive?

"Deez" was surrendered into rescue having almost-exclusively lived in a backyard for 2 years. Despite this, he was friendly with other dogs. While his breeder wasn't what would be regarded as highly ethical, they obviously were producing dogs with good temperaments.

“Deez” was surrendered into rescue having almost-exclusively lived in a backyard for 2 years, with minimal interaction with other dogs. Despite this lack of socialisation, he was friendly with other dogs. While his breeder wasn’t what would be regarded as highly ethical, they obviously were producing dogs with good temperaments. His sociability with other dogs was the reason we were able to so easily place him into a new home – he now has another dog for company.

There’s four questions concerning that particular dog’s aggression that I would consider when elevating a dog’s suitability for a breeding program.

Firstly, if the dog is biting/attacking other dogs, is it illustrating bite inhibition by not actually doing damage to other dogs? If a dog is ‘attacking’ at a lot of dogs, but never doing damage, then this is a good sign that the dog is not intending to physically harm other dogs.

Then, how common is this type of aggression in this breed? Very common, uncommon, rare? In some breeds, all you can do is pick ‘the best of a bad bunch’. Complimentary temperaments in proposed matings are important, too (you wouldn’t put a ‘bad dog’ to another ‘bad dog’, for conformation or temperament).

Is the dog so aggressive to other dogs that you can’t achieve a natural mating? If the dog is not psychologically sound enough to have sex then it shouldn’t be bred from. Consider that many solitary species, like tigers, bears, rhinos, are generally territorial and aggressive to one another – yet, they still able to reproduce naturally. That is, the instincts associated with reproduction are strong enough to override a natural dislike to their own kind. Dogs, who are naturally social animals, should at the very least have a temperament conductive to natural matings.

Finally, a question to ask yourself as a breeder: Would you be satisfied if your puppy buyers ended up with a dog of similar temperament?  That is, would you be proud to produce a dog with similar dog-aggression? Are you puppy buyers able to manage or train against dog-aggression? Dog owners want dogs to be ‘friendly’, and producing dogs with dog-aggression are likely to fall short of the owners’ expectations.

 

What do you think? Should a dog that has dog aggression be bred from? Under what circumstances?

11/16/13

Rescue vs Breeders

There are a lot of people who love dogs. They may express this love in many different ways: some people own many dogs, some people make donations to important dog causes, young children may adorn their lockers with images of dogs, others may find their joy in training dogs for specialised tasks. While this expression of love is wildly different, there is no denying the central thread: a love of dogs.  This love makes up the dog world.

But there’s division in the dog world.

There is a perpetuated myth that dog lovers who engage in dog rescue are some how more experienced, or compassionate, or just better than people who breed dogs.

There is a theme: the dog rescuer versus the dog breeder.

Sometimes the expression of this phenomena is not even subtle:

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During Facebook discussions, I see people describe themselves as a ‘rescuer’ or as a ‘breeder’, and therefore differentiate themselves from others in a conversation. Like this:

Picture 4

As you can imagine, the term ‘breeder’ is sometimes used interchangeably with offensive terms like ‘greeder’, or ‘producer’, and then these are also used to delegitimise the experiences of the breeder in hand.

Like the rescue group below (another screen shot from Facebook, in regard to ‘Desex the bad ones!‘):

Picture 3

It’s frustrating when I criticise proposals like the Select Committee Recommendations in SA, or the Breeding and Rearing Code in Victoria, to be told that my biased because, as a breeder, the recommendations would influence my ability to make a profit.  Anyone reading my blog would find that I object to many government recommendations for a variety of reasons –  not one of them is “because it’ll be harder and more expensive for me to breed puppies”.

This divide in the dog world is not just seen online and on Facebook.  I have blogged before on The Sin of Breeding Dogs and the judgement I receive for being a breeder when out and about.

Let me share a secret: No one wants to see dogs euthanised in shelters.

When talking about ‘rescue vs breeders’ on Facebook, Allie, from Maggie’s Farm, said:

I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to talk about “breeders” and “rescuers” because it kind of presupposes two homogenous groups, which isn’t the case. Among some breeders, “rescuers” are “animal rights” people, which to them is like a dirty word. And to some people in rescue, breeders are terrible, selfish people who make more dogs, when they are already dogs needing homes. And implying that there’s some zero sum game here, where a breeder bred and bought dog means a shelter dog dies. It’s not that simple. I think people who fall into both groups can be guilty of alienating the other, because it’s easy to have someone to blame and dislike.

Allie is of course right. There’s not just two groups in the dog world – the dog world is an amazing assortment of people with differing interests and passions. It is this very stuff that unites us.

 

What unites the dog world?

Comments and images, like those used above, are made like there is no glue in the dog world – and no potential for cohesion. It builds up a divide and splits the dog world into different sides. Our compassion and passion for dogs and their welfare unites the dog world, and this similarity should be embraced, not diminished.

The fact is, there are many in the dog world that bridge both sides. For example, I worked at a shelter for 3 years, have fostered about 45 animals in the last 5 years, and yet I also breed dogs. These roles aren’t in contradiction. I actually really like dogs, in all forms, and so fill up my life with them.

But, in conversations like that above, the dog world is polarised – between rescue problems, morals, and ethics and those of breeders. Between ‘the rescuers’ and ‘the breeders’.  As Allie pointed out, it’s not as simple as that – the groups aren’t homogenous.

This terminology stops rescues and breeders being united and does nothing for animal welfare.

 

The divide impacts upon animal welfare

Rescuers and breeders have different skills and expertise. They have a lot to offer one another. I think it is important for us to recognise how animal welfare could be improved if we were to work more tightly together.

  • Rescues are often key in finding purebred dogs in rescues and returning them to their recognised breeder. Sometimes, without ethical rescues, ethical breeders would never have the chance to get their dog back. This is a win for rescue, too: one less dog in the rescue system as ethical breeders will take back dogs in need.
     
  • Breeders are an excellent knowledge base for rescues, especially when it comes to matters concerning newborn puppies, or when it comes to breed specific knowledge.  As a personal example, when my bitch Clover whelped a singleton litter, she then fostered 9 day old rescue puppies as well. My knowledge as a breeder was important to these puppies as they arrived emaciated, dehydrated, and practically dead. On the flip side, because rescue entrusted me with these puppies, I learnt a lot that I didn’t already know.
     
  • Breeders often have a list of people interested in dogs, and receive puppy and adult dog enquiries on an ongoing basis.  Letting breeders know about dogs locally who are somewhat ‘like’ their breed (in looks or temperament) may mean that breeders can refer enquiries to rescues.

Currently, breeders criticise rescue and rescuers criticise breeders. This is not good for anyone. Having a reciprocal relationship is, obviously, much more desirable.  Quite simply, by not tapping into shared passions and shared resources there is a risk of opportunities being lost.

Be Responsible - Save a Pet!
Celebrate those uniting factors

Guess what?

Both rescuers and breeders love dogs.

Both rescuers and breeders want to see animal welfare improved.

Neither breeders or rescues want to see shelter euthanasia at its current level.

Both want to keep dogs out of pounds and rescues to start off with.

There is a lot in common that we can use to our advantage, moving forward.

 

How can breeders work with rescue?

If you’re a breeder, you can:

  • Contact your local rescue group and see what areas they need help.
     
  • Provide breed-specific advice to rescue groups or adoptive families.
     
  • Foster or kennel dogs in need.
     
  • Donate information that you’ve designed for your puppy packs.
     
  • Make a monetary donation.
     
  • Offer to groom rescue dogs.
     
  • Offer to transport rescue dogs (especially if you’re travelling interstate to dog show events or for servicing a bitch).
     
  • Share your local rescue group’s dog for adoption, including with those that enquire wanting a purebred – their perfect dog may just be in the local shelter.
     
  • Make efforts to stay in touch with your puppy buyers to ensure that your puppies stay out of the rescue system.
     
  • Educate yourself on the rescue and sheltering system.
     
  • Congratulate and support those who choose to adopt a dog.
     
  • Do not take a ‘breeder’s side’ by default – recognise the diversity among breeders and feel free to criticse unethical breeders, as well as celebrating ethical rescues.

 

How can rescues work with breeders?

Responsible BreederIf you’re a rescue, you can:

  • Contact breeders to see if they can help with boarding or fostering rescue dogs.
     
  • Ask breeders to share rescue dog’s availability with puppy enquirers.
     
  • Avoid posting breeder-slamming content (like that on the right) on social media (or anywhere else).
     
  • If you can identify the breeder of a dog in care, please contact the breeder – it’s their baby, too.
     
  • Utilise breeders as a resource – especially when it comes to rearing baby puppies or breed-specific advice.
     
  • Becomes informed on what ethical breeding practices look like, and support ethical breeders.
     
  • Support those who choose to purchase a dog from an ethical breeder.
     
  • Don’t take the side of ‘rescue’ by default – criticise unethical rescues as well as celebrating ethical breeders and other ethical rescues.

 

Moving Forward

When I asked about this topic on Facebook, one of my friends said,

There are ethical and unethical people on both sides, reasonable and unreasonable. I believe the ethical and reasonable can effectively work together in the best interest of dogs, the other side there isn’t much you can do about it.

Only those who are ‘reasonable’ and ethical will understand what this post is getting at.

Overall, we need both rescue and breeders to promote ethical places to acquire dogs from:

  • From a registered breeder
  • From a private rehoming
  • From an ethical rescue

We are all passionate about dogs and their welfare. So; Let’s focus on the dogs, and not each other.

 

Further reading:

Our dogs are our beloved companions 98% of the time (written by a breeder)

I love dog breeders.

Patricia McConnell on Breeders Versus Rescues (Responsible breeding – an oxymoron?).

It’s become fashionable to hate dog breeders.

I hate dog breeders.

09/22/13

Public Misconceptions

I was struck while reading the Companion Animal Taskforce report and that of the Select Committee on Companion Animal Welfare in SA (click ‘Final Report’) on the feedback that was provided by the public. Submissions to both of these committees were making the same uninformed recommendations, and the similarities between public opinions expressed are extensive.

I thought it was time to address some of these misconceptions held by the general public concerning animal welfare.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Desexing everything!

The public seems to believe that there is an overpopulation of animals, and that desexed animals are healthier, and therefore argue for mandatory desexing.

In reality, there is no ‘overpopulation problem‘ and it is debatable whether desexing is in the best interest of animal health.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Ban pet sales in pet shops!

Most puppies in pet shops come from puppy mills. I like puppy mills as little as the next person, and in no way want to support the practices of puppy farmers.

However, the problem here is puppy mills. Not pet shops.

Pet shops are on public display, and have a pretty strict codes of conduct which are often better/higher than your average backyard breeder. Are they really who we should be targeting?

Furthermore, many pet shops routinely work with rescues to sell/market animals. Do we really want to ban that?

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Get breeders registered!

There seems to be a logic that if breeders had to be registered there would be less unscrupulous breeding.

As most of these schemes require breeders to pay in order to be registered, what breeder registration effectively does is limit (legal) breeding to those who are making money from the practice. What I mean is: breeders who don’t make money are are probably the ‘ethical ones’, and are probably less likely to be able to afford registration. Are these the individuals we want to perturb from breeding?

Meanwhile, individuals making profits from dog breeding (i.e. the puppy farms) easily purchase their registrations. Some argue that registering breeders would mean that there would be ‘policing’ of legislation surrounding their care. It is already illegal to be cruel to and not ensure the welfare of dogs. If this legislation isn’t being policed, then that’s the matter for the police.  Furthermore, is it truly likely that the bad guys are going to sign up to such legislation? “Well, my animals have lived in faeces for years, but now that I have to be registered, I really want to undergo the scrutiny of a policing body.” Yeah, nah.

 

This is Dulcie's litter - a bitch that was rescued from a pound when she was 8 weeks pregnant. As a rescue, we whelped and raised this litter. If breeders had to be registered, would rescues have to be registered as breeders, too?

This is Dulcie’s litter – a bitch that was rescued from a pound when she was 8 weeks pregnant. As a rescue, we whelped and raised this litter. If breeders had to be registered, would rescues have to be registered as breeders, too?

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Mandatory cooling off periods are cool.

There seems to be a belief that animals are surrendered to rescue because owners ‘didn’t think about their purchase’, or otherwise acquired their pet impulsively. In reality, relinquishment statistics don’t support this, and there is evidence that impulsive adoptions are as successful as planned ones. In this way, there is not evidence that supports mandatory cooling off periods as desirable.

However, there are obvious implications for other animal-selling institutions regarding a mandatory cooling off period. Do we really want to see animals held in pounds even longer? Do we really want to see puppies held in pet shops longer? We know both of these scenarios have negative welfare implications on dogs, so why would we mandate compulsory confinement under the guise of a cooling off period with unsubstantiated positive benefits?

Mandatory cooling off periods restrict adoptions! Bad!

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Puppy mills should be banned. Backyard breeders should be banned.

While I would also like to see puppy mills and backyard breeders cease to exist, it’s unlikely that a legislative ‘ban’ would be effective. Those who are unscrupulously producing puppies are unlikely to heed new legislation.  Furthermore, I am concerned that a ban on backyard breeders or puppy mills may see ethical registered breeders disadvantaged.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Online puppy sales should be banned.

Presumably, puppy millers use the internet to make sales of their puppies and avoid scrutiny of their premises. While this is likely the case, many ethical puppy sales are made online too – such as DogzOnline (for purebred breeders) and PetResuce (for rescue pets). It seems folly to restrict sales of all animals online due to the malpractice of a few.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Animals should be desexed before sale.

This is a mandatory desexing claim. The Saving Pets blog does a good job of describing how mandatory desexing has never worked. Furthermore, I’ve blogged before about how mandatory desexing is hard to define (unless we desex everything and eradicate the species). Mandatory desexing is also often associated with early age desexing, which has its own welfare implications. And there’s evidence that making desexing mandatory increases surrenders, as people aren’t able to pay for the surgery and so are left with no other choice. And, on top of that, desexing is a medical procedure, which should be implemented by medical professionals based on the individual animal at hand – not policy makers.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Bitches should only have a particular number of litters in her life. Bitches should wait a certain time in between litters.

There seems to be a belief that bitches will ‘wear out’ if bred every season, or allowed to have ‘too many’ litters.  However, there is little evidence to substantiate this claim.  It seems surprising, but there is really no evidence on when it becomes a welfare issue for a bitch to have so many litters or a time between litters.  (Despite what the Victorian code tried to suggest.)

You may be surprised to hear that when bitches don’t fall pregnant after estrus, they are more likely to develop the sometimes-lethal condition pyometra. In that way, there is actually evidence to the contrary - not breeding a bitch every season could be detrimental to their welfare.

Basically, though, it is up to breeders to determine how many litters a bitch may have, and over what time period, if any at all. They may have good reason for allowing a bitch to have several litters – perhaps the bitch is a Supreme Show Champion, or maybe she is an exceptional free-whelping bitch in a breed that often has whelping difficulty. There might also be good reason to have several back to back litters – maybe there is a stud visiting the country for a ‘limited time only’, or maybe the bitch has a pet home to go to so the breeder wants her to finish her breeding career sooner. These are all individualistic things for the breeder to address.

Basically, there is no evidence confirming this avowal, and it seems like a limit to puppies bred (probably on the basis of the overpopulation myth) is based on good intentions instead of good science.  Meanwhile, until we have more evidence, breeders are in the best position to use their own discretion in determining their own breeding practices based on their specific conditions.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Breeders should only have n dogs on their property (where n is a certain number of dogs).

Often, the public seems to believe that at a certain point – be it 10, 20, 30, 50, or more – breeders suddenly become ‘unethical’.  In reality, numbers has nothing to do with ethics.  Through my rescue work, I have seen plenty of dogs who have lived singularly that have been treated poorly, and seen litters of puppies surrendered by people with just ‘a dog and a bitch’ who happen to breed.  People can be unethical with just 1 or 2 dogs, but they can also be highly ethical with 50 or more dogs.  So far, I haven’t been to a facility with 30 or more dogs that didn’t have good welfare standards.

While it may be easy to apply a blanket limit on dog numbers, again, there is no evidence that this truly matters. If animals on the property are being treated in ethical ways, then it’s folly to deny owners the privilege of having that many dogs.  Likewise, if individuals only have a small number of dogs, but are handling them in ways that are inappropriate, then this should not be permitted, either.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: When advertising, breeders should have to provide a microchip or breeder number.

The logic here is that this would mean that only legitimate breeders would be able to advertise.

While this suggestion is not as detrimental as some of the other proposals here, it still is not a gold star suggestion.  Chiefly, this proposal is only as good as the policing that is implemented.  Considering the failure to police the Animal Welfare Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, what faith do we have that advertising controls would be enforced?

Recently, the microchip number in advertisement rule was introduced in Victoria. What the dodgy breeders did is copy and paste the microchip numbers for legitimate ads onto their own, to avoid detection. Without adequate policing, policies like this will never work.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Anyone with an entire animal should be considered a breeder.

Presumably, activists believe that if an animal is entire, it will breed. They don’t believe in legitimate reasons that people keep animals entire.

For the last few years, I have had 3 ‘permanent resident’ entire dogs, of different sexes, living in my house, plus almost always one rescue dog (adding up to about 30 dogs in all) come through my house, most entire when they enter (and all desexed when they leave). I have never had an accidental mating or litter.

In reality, it is very possible to own entire animals without breeding. It is just a simple matter of management.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: Support for codes of practice/restrictions on breeders is the way to better animal welfare.

There seems to be a logic that if breeders and their practices are restricted, the welfare of breeding animals will be improved.  In reality, we already have a pretty good legislation, like the Animal Welfare Act.

If breeders are choosing to disregard current legislation, then it’s very likely they’ll continue to disregard new legislation. Legislation is only effective when it goes along with enforcement.

 

ACTIVIST AVOWAL: We could have a pet license scheme.

At least this idea leaves the poor breeders alone! This one concentrates on pet owning public and goes with the logic: ‘If someone had to get a license before adopting a pet, then they wouldn’t impulsively purchase a pet and they’d be better owners who don’t dump their pets at shelters’.

Firstly, how wildly expensive and impractical is this proposal? There’s about 3.4 million dogs in Australia.  Introducing a retrospective ownership scheme will be hard work!  And expensive!  And impossible!

We’ve already addressed the impulsivity thing with the mandatory cooling off period segment. Most people aren’t impulsive in their pet choices. (And even if they are impulsive, that doesn’t make them bad pet owners.)

And there are a range of reasons for people to relinquish pets, most of them to do with accommodation issues.

And, I’m willing to bet, if you made pet licenses compulsory, there would be one more reason to relinquish a pet.  (That is, “I can’t afford or find time to acquire my pet license, therefore I am surrendering this pet because I am not legally able to own it.”)

 

So what should we do, then?

I’ve been a bit of a negative nancy all through this post, so it’s important to note that I try to come up with workable suggestions for improving animal welfare.

Firstly, I’d like to see microchips as compulsory (and policed!) and then I’d like to see these microchips linked to the breeder’s details, and have the breeder required to provide some level of care to their pups for life.  I wrote more about this in my post ‘What is the Answer (to Puppy Mills)?‘.

Also, I made a bunch of recommendations to the Select Committee on Companion Animal Welfare in SA. At the beginning of this post, they’re summarised as ‘key points’.  Click through to read all the recommendations I made, with the primary purpose of reducing euthanasia in shelters.