Perth puppy farms: attempts to lift lid on covert WA industry

Peak animal welfare bodies have called for urgent action on WA puppy farming as an alarming number of cases continue to come to light despite a commitment by the State Government to stamp out the practice.

Premier Mark McGowan flagged the issue in the lead up to the state election, and a committee report on the Labor Party's animal welfare policy said the industry in WA was "mostly a covert" operation.

"Puppy farming, involving puppy farms in WA, and puppies transported into WA for sale, is likely to be occurring on a regular basis. It is a mostly covert industry that relies on hiding the true circumstances of how puppies are raised from buyers," it said.

Over recent years a number of Perth puppy farm operations have been uncovered, including a Doodlakine woman who was convicted when authorities found her breeding dogs in underground bunkers and Mt Lawley Pet Shop, after it was revealed the company purchased their animals from a NSW-based puppy farmer.

However, the committee report identified a serious lack of reliable statistics due to the unregulated and secretive nature of the backyard breeding industry, and suggested a number of puppy farms and backyard breeders continued to operate in secrecy.

But one Perth group has worked for months to finally record and expose those operating in secrecy in WA, and will be presenting their findings to the State Government in coming weeks.

Sandra* and Bronwyn* have worked with local dog owners to identify potential backyard breeders in WA, and have so far collected over 100 individual accounts and signatures of consumers who suspect they may have purchased a dog from a potential puppy farmer.

"There is much documented evidence which has been collated," Sandra said.

"[Including] puppy advertisements in weekend papers, and stories from some of those directly affected by the unwitting purchase of a puppy farm pup."

The pair continues to collect evidence of litter numbers from particular bitches, genetic medical problems and suspect advertising.

A DogsWest spokeswoman said the organisation had deregistered a number of WA breeders over the years for breaching ethical standards, including over-breeding and animal cruelty. However, deregisted or resigned breeders are no longer bound by the same ethical guidelines as members, and are therefore more difficult to locate and monitor.

Bronwyn said they had worked to uncover one case of a resigned Perth breeder who was found to have produced 163 puppies over a 14 month period, with a litany of medical issues. The breeder was also reported to have been advertising litters around three months apart.

"We know of two people with pups from the same litter who were diagnosed with hip dysplasia at six and eight months of age respectively," she said.

"Other issues include elbow dysplasia, kidney, urinary tract deformity and malfunction, or chronic skin and digestive complaints."

While no current data exists on the current nature of puppy farming in WA, Labor MP and campaigner Lisa Baker said there was strong anedoctal evidence of puppy farming in WA.

She said she had most recently heard a case around six months ago from a Perth resident who purchased a Cavalier King Charles puppy from a suspected backyard breeder.

"There are constantly advertisements on Gumtree for litters of puppies, and I'm very aware that regional sellers are passing them onto metropolitan sellers," she said.

"Some sellers are claiming their friend's dog has had puppies, and they are looking to sell them for them. This is a scam."

A RSPCA WA spokeswoman said while the organisation could not go into specifics regarding recent cases or investigations, the body continued to see the impact of backyard breeding here in WA.

"People backyard breeding their pet dogs over and over again could be considered puppy farmers, and this is what we see most of," she said.

"We are constantly called out to dogs being over bred by their owners, and often seize these animals if their welfare is at risk.

"Unlike cats in WA, dogs are not required under the Dog Act to be sterilised, and people can breed their pet dogs without a permit. Some people exploit their dogs because of this, and that's when it becomes a welfare issue."

Sandra and Bronwyn hope to submit their findings and petition to the State Government in coming weeks, and believe the evidence they have collected will help give a clear insight into the secretive industry.

"For far too many years the issue of animal welfare in this state has not been a priority, and we are hoping that the Labor Government will follow through on their promise and change that," Bronwyn said.

"We plan to submit the campaign and relevant signatures in person in the early part of June."

Ms Baker said she continued to work with the State Government towards banning puppy farming, and a number of groups were currently making submissions regarding the secret industry in WA.

"WA Labor has committed to stop puppy farming and work has commenced to implement our policy as we promised," she said.

This story Perth puppy farms: attempts to lift lid on covert WA industry first appeared on WA Today.