A CENTRAL Victorian council has vowed to win the war on puppy farms, and has backed the state government’s planned tough new laws on illegal dog breeders – whatever the cost.
Loddon Shire Council has fought a constant battle with intensive dog breeding operations within its boundaries for decades, and is looking forward to the new laws coming into effect from 2020.
The proposed laws reduce the number of fertile dogs allowed per breeder from 350 to 10, require anyone who sells the puppies of a fertile female to register as a domestic animal business, and force all pet shops to only sell animals from a registered pound or shelter.
Loddon Shire mayor Neil Beattie said tougher laws would always be welcomed, because councils were almost powerless to stop puppy farms from starting.
“We’ve got to do something about it. We’ll shut them down, and they’ll just start up again somewhere else,” he said.
“A few years ago we refused a puppy farm, but VCAT overruled us and it went ahead. Since then, it’s faced three prosecutions.
“It costs the council thousands and thousands of dollars. Once you’ve been caught once, that should be it.”
Last year, Loddon Shire and the RSPCA successfully prosecuted a puppy farm at Pyramid Hill, which kept 235 dogs in “filthy” conditions.
A puppy farm near Charlton was also shut down after its owner faced 68 charges from Loddon Shire, but the operator was able to re-start their business in Bridgewater.
But the Municipal Association of Victoria believes the laws will come “at significant cost” to rural communities and will be difficult to police with budget pressures on regional and rural councils.
In a statement last week, MAV interim president Coral Ross said the laws did not take into account “cost and workability”.
“Councils now find themselves staring down the barrel of proposed law changes that are administratively complex and burdensome, and come with huge cost increases for breeders and pet owners,” she said.
“Councils have been inundated with calls from concerned breeders, shelters and residents asking what the proposed changes mean for them. Yet councils were left in the dark by the government.”
A parliamentary inquiry is currently investigating the proposed new laws, and the government is believed to be considering further amendments.
Cr Ross was critical of a perceived lack of consultation from the state government, but Cr Beattie said Loddon Shire had been in frequent contact with state MPs about their desire for law changes.
As part of the proposed changes, councils will need to review their animal fees to cover the costs of policing the tougher laws. These include registration and compliance monitoring costs for domestic animal businesses and recreational breeders.
Cr Beattie said he understood the new laws could affect honest breeders, but believed it was the only way to stamp out illegal puppy farm operations.