A Victorian animal rights group has launched a legal service that from next week will provide free preliminary legal advice to pet owners who have recently purchased a puppy, that became sick shortly after arriving home.
From Monday, Victorians will be able to access the Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic, the brainchild of the Animal Law Institute (ALI), a non-profit community legal centre dedicated to protecting animals and advocating for their interests through the Australian legal system.
The new service is in response to a sharp rise in pet ownership – particularly dogs – during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a corresponding explosion in ‘puppy farming’, where breeders create intensive dog breeding practices that fail to meet the physical, social or psychological needs of animals.
Dogs are typically kept in inhumane conditions and suffer enormously, and the litters are on-sold to both private and commercial operators, including pet stores.
Anastasia Smietanka, Co-founder of the Animal Law Institute said healthy puppies can present with underlying conditions after unsuspecting buyers bring them home.
“Victoria arguably has some of the strongest anti-puppy farm laws in Australia, but unscrupulous breeders continue to operate,” Ms Smietanka said.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw more and more puppies being sold by breeders hoping to make a quick profit off unaware buyers. That’s why we are launching a specialist clinic to tackle this issue, and using our legal skills to fight negligent breeding.”
From Monday (1 February), Victorians who want advice on taking action against a breeder or seller (including a pet store) can submit an enquiry for legal assistance by completing an intake form on the Animal Law Institute’s website.
About 450,000 puppies are sold annually in Australia, according to the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA), and only around 15% of them are sold through registered breeders. Another 15% are sold through pet stores, with the remainder mostly sold through online classified advertising, which is completely unregulated.
Identifying an animal from a ‘puppy farm’ can be difficult, but one tell-tale sign is a seller claiming their animal is vaccinated, when it’s too young to receive its first round of vaccinations (between six to eight weeks old).
Nationally, the practice of puppy farming is not technically illegal, although conditions on puppy farms routinely breach state-based animal welfare legislation. Animals Australia reports that Victoria is considered to be the only state in Australia with legislation specifically aimed at mitigating some of the problems associated with puppy farming, a fact not lost on the Animal Law Institute.
“The clinic was made possible thanks to the generosity of our donors and is supported by the Victorian Government,” Ms Smietanka said. “The Animal Law Institute extends its sincere thanks to all those involved in the creation of the Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic.”
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