Stop Puppy Farming

Dogs are an important part of many Western Australian families and promoting responsible dog ownership and the future health and welfare of dogs is a key priority for the State Government.

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Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021

Proposed new laws and changes to the Dog Act 1976

The Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021 (the Bill) has been introduced into Parliament.

Currently the breeding of dogs in Western Australia is unregulated, allowing irresponsible breeders and puppy farmers to breed and supply dogs indiscriminately.

Puppy farming includes small and large-scale dog breeding operations. This leads to long-term health and behavioural issues in dogs, including the puppies that are bred.

Current limitations on the numbers of adult dogs that can be kept without a kennel licence are not sufficient to prevent puppy farming.

This means irresponsible dog breeders can disguise their operations, avoid detection by authorities and continue to breed irresponsibly.

As a result, the government is proposing to introduce mandatory dog sterilisation and dog breeder approval to regulate the number of dogs being bred.

A centralised registration system will also be introduced to assist authorities in sharing information on dogs, dog owners and dog breeders within their district.

The benefits will be to give local governments the tools to deal with irresponsible dog breeders, improve animal welfare and encourage responsible dog ownership through public awareness.

The aims of the Bill

The Bill aims to:

  • increase the transparency of, and information on, the source of dogs
  • enhance the ability of authorities to identify and detect puppy farms
  • enhance the ability of authorities to prevent irresponsible breeders from breeding dogs
  • decrease the number of puppies and dogs that are bred indiscriminately
  • improve community understanding about responsible purchase and care of dogs
  • Transition pet shops into adoptions centres for unwanted dogs.

The following changes are proposed:

  • Dogs to be de-sexed by the age of 2 years, unless they are exempted, to prevent unplanned breeding or over breeding.
  • Information on dogs (and cats) to be held in a centralised registration system to allow information to be shared across the State.
  • People who wish to breed from their dog will need to apply for an approval to breed, enabling breeders to be traced.
  • Pet shops that sell dogs to work with rescue organisations to transition to adoption centres which will provide more adoption opportunities for unwanted dogs.
  • Muzzling requirements for pet or retired racing greyhounds when in public places to be removed, making greyhounds more desirable as pets. Greyhounds will still be required to be kept on a lead in public areas. Registered racing greyhounds will continue to be required to wear muzzles in all public places.

Approval to breed dogs

Under the proposed new laws, a person will need to make an ‘approval to breed’ application to their local government.

They will be required to obtain an approval to breed dogs in the following circumstances:

  • They own a dog that is not sterilised by two years of age (and not otherwise exempt).
  • They intend to use their dog for breeding (regardless of the dog’s age).
  • Their dog breeds, (regardless of the dog’s age), even if the dog breeds unintentionally.

Dog owners exempt from the requirement to get an approval to breed are owners of greyhounds that are registered with Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA). This is because RWWA already regulates and monitors the breeding of racing greyhounds.

Members of dog associations such as Dogs West will still be required to apply for an ‘approval to breed’ dogs. This enables monitoring of all breeders by local government authorities for compliance with relevant laws.

An ‘approval to breed’ will be a one-off application. When granted, it will apply to all dogs, current and future, owned by that person while they reside in that district, unless otherwise cancelled.

An ‘approval to breed’ is, in effect, an approval to own unsterilised dogs — it has nothing to do with whether the owner is carrying on a business.

An ‘approval to breed’ remains in place until cancelled.

The ‘approval to breed’ will enable local governments to:

  • identify owners of unsterilised dogs and monitor their compliance with relevant legal requirements
  • cancel an owner’s ‘approval to breed’ dogs if they breach the law, trace a dog back to its breeder if issues with puppies or dogs are identified, such as health concerns
  • refuse to grant an ‘approval to breed’ dogs to a person who has been convicted of offences under certain laws.

A local government will be able to refuse an application on the grounds that the applicant:

  • is under 18 years of age
  • is a person convicted of an offence under the Dog Act 1976, Cat Act 2011, and Animal Welfare Act 2002 in the previous five years
  • does not have sufficient facilities, or access to sufficient facilities, to breed dogs in accordance with any standards under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 or any other written law
  • is not a fit or proper person to breed dogs.

A local government will be able to attach conditions to the ‘approval to breed’. It can be cancelled by the local government if the dog owner who holds the ‘approval to breed’:

  • requests that the approval is cancelled
  • does not comply with a condition of the approval
  • does not comply with a requirement under the Dog Act 1976 or Animal Welfare Act 2002

The local government can also cancel an ‘approval to breed’ for the same reasons that they can refuse an application for an ‘approval to breed’ dogs.

For many professional breeders who are registered with their own organisations the application for an ‘approval to breed’ may seem unnecessary.

However, the introduction of the requirement to obtain an ‘approval to breed’ with their local government is necessary for the consistent regulation of dog breeding, and to shut down any puppy farms.

Dog owners, including owners of a livestock working dogs, will only be required to pay a fee when they apply for an ‘approval to breed’.

Regulations setting the fees will be drafted and introduced once the new legislation has been passed by Parliament.

If a person’s ‘approval to breed’ is refused, they can lodge an objection with their local government or appeal the decision to the State Administrative Tribunal.

Mandatory dog sterilisation

Under the new legislation, it will be mandatory for all dog owners to sterilise their dog by the time the dog reaches two years of age, unless it is otherwise exempt.

These provisions will only apply to dogs that are not registered with their local government when the legislation comes into effect.

Exemptions from sterilisation for dogs include:

  • dogs registered before the commencement of the Amendment Act (new laws)
  • dogs exempt because a veterinarian has certified that a sterilisation procedure would adversely affect the health of the dog
  • livestock working dogs
  • greyhounds registered with Racing and Wagering Western Australia
  • dogs owned by a person with an ‘approval to breed’.

The Bill also proposes to make changes to dog registration periods. Under the new legislation, the registration period for unsterilised dogs will change to annual registrations only. Registration periods for sterilised dogs will remain the same with annual, three year and lifetime registration options available.

Local government enforcement powers

In addition to the current enforcement powers under the Dog Act 1976, local government authorities will have additional investigative and enforcement powers under the Dog Act 1976:

  • Refuse or cancel a dog’s registration if the dog is not sterilised and required to be sterilised under the Dog Act 1976.
  • Seize and detain an unsterilised dog in accordance with the Dog Act 1976, including obtaining a warrant to enter premises to seize an unsterilised dog.
  • Cause a dog to be sterilised that is meant to be sterilised in accordance with the process under the Dog Act 1976.
  • Require a holder of a pet shop approval or a dog supply approval to provide their records to the local government.

Centralised registration system

An online centralised registration system will be established under the proposed laws. This aligns with previous requests from the local government sector and will improve the management of both dogs and cats in WA.

The introduction of an online system will bring benefits of convenience to consumers and local governments.

Owners will be able to apply to register their cats and dogs, supply documentation and make payment online. Local governments will approve the applications online and confirm the registration. Some people may still wish to do this by visiting their local government in person.

All existing dog and cat registers in Western Australia that are currently maintained by local governments will be merged into the centralised registration system.

The State Government will acquire and maintain the database, and work with local governments on the transfer of the data.

All dog owners or dogs registered with local government will be given a ‘dog owner number’. This unique number will be available through the centralised registration system.

If a person transfers a dog, they will need to provide their ‘dog owner number’.

This will enable authorities to identify who is supplying dogs. If a person is claiming to have bred a dog, their ‘dog owner number’ can be searched on the centralised registration system to confirm that they have an approval to breed.

Approved dog breeders will not be issued with a specific ‘dog breeder number’ but will use their ‘dog owner number’ when transferring a dog.

Registration fees will be reviewed to cover the ongoing costs of the system, with new fees where applicable. More details will become available once the new system is acquired.

Pet shop approvals

Under the new legislation, pet shops that would like to supply dogs will need to obtain a ‘pet shop approval’ from their local government. Approved pet shops will only be able to supply dogs sourced from a refuge organisation that has obtained a ‘dog supply approval’ from the State Government.

Local governments will be responsible for assessing ‘pet shop approval’ applications from pet shops in their district. Local governments will only be able to refuse an application on particular grounds set out in the legislation.

Local governments will also be responsible for cancelling pet shop approvals when necessary.

The State Government will be responsible for assessing ‘dog supply approval’ applications from refuges and cancelling dog supply approvals when necessary.

A dog management facility will be able to apply for ‘approval to supply’ dogs to an approved pet shop.

Livestock working dogs

A livestock working dog is a dog that is bona fide used in the droving or tending of stock.

Many owners of livestock working dogs keep their dogs unsterilised to assess whether their dog has desirable traits to be a working dog and should be used for breeding. This may take three or four years.

Livestock working dogs play a crucial role in the functioning of WA’s livestock industry and, as a result, will be exempt from the requirement to be sterilised by the time the dog is two years of age.

If the owner of a livestock working dog does intend to breed from their dog (regardless of the dog’s age), or their dog has a litter (planned or unplanned), they will be required to obtain an ‘approval to breed’ from their local government.

Dogs West members

Currently, many members of Dogs West keep their dogs unsterilised for show and breeding purposes, following a strict code of ethics within their organisation. The proposed new measures will ensure that unethical breeders can be traced. For the first time, every dog owner in WA will need to comply with standards for dog breeding, housing, husbandry, transport and sale.

Additionally, they will ensure consumers are directed to ethical dog breeders, such as members of Dogs West, who comply with a Code of Ethics and proposed new dog standards.

These standards are likely to be similar to those with which Dogs West members already comply.

Under the new proposals, Dogs West members who wish to keep their dog unsterilised after two years of age will have to apply for an ‘approval to breed’, like other dog owners.

This does not mean the owner has to breed from their dog; it simply allows them to keep unsterilised dogs over the age of two years.

Once the centralised registration system proposed by the Bill becomes live, dog and cat owners, including Dogs West members, will be able to register their animals and apply for breeder approvals online through the one system.

This system will not interact with any other systems currently in place, such as that run by the Australian National Kennel Club.

Local governments will only be able to access information on the centralised registration system.

More information on the Bill to keep up to date with the Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2021 email puppyfarming@dlgsc.wa.gov.au to be put on our mailing list.

Adopt Don't Shop

Puppy with a Santa hatWestern Australians are being urged to 'Adopt Don't Shop' and give rescued dogs a second chance by adopting a new household pet.

It is estimated that between 4000 to 5000 dogs are rehomed each year by rehoming organisations and local government pounds.

By adopting a dog, Western Australians can help to reduce the burden on these organisations and ensure a better life for our companion animals.

Currently, the State Government provides annual funding to various animal rescue and shelter organisations to support the rescue and re-homing of dogs.

For more information on where you can adopt a pet, contact:

Dogs' Refuge Home WA, Shenton Park

Website dogshome.org.au
Telephone 61 8 9381 8166

RSPCA WA, Malaga  

Website rspcawa.asn.au
Website adoptapet.com.au
Telephone 61 8 9209 9300

Animal Protection Society, Southern River

Website apswa.asn.au
Telephone 61 8 9398 6616
Email info@apswa.asn.au

Swan Animal Haven, Wattle Grove

Website swananimalhaven.asn.au
Telephone 61 8 9293 2047
Telephone 0498 235 680

K9 Rescue Group, Nambeelup

Website k9dogrescue.org.au
Telephone 61 8 9581 9005

SAFE Animal Shelters, WA-wide

Website safe.org.au
For contact details of a relevant branch, visit their website

Page reviewed 06 May 2019