Farmers call for new puppy law exemption

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Cally DupeCountryman

Farmers breeding working dogs could be forced to abide by a raft of rules early next year if the State Government chooses not to exempt them from tough new puppy farming laws.

WA Labor is considering exempting sheep and cattle dog breeders from proposed legislation after receiving submissions from concerned graziers in response to a consultation paper.

Kellerberrin farmer Gordon Curtis, chairman of the Australian Federation for Livestock Working Dogs, said farmers were concerned the new rules could dampen WA’s working dog gene pool.

“Dogs are trained and assessed in their work every day and the best are selected to produce the next generation,” he said.

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“If all livestock working dogs were sterilised, other than a small number held by licensed breeders, there would be no opportunity to performance test working dogs on commercial farms.”

The new rules would mean farmers breeding dogs would have to register their property as a licensed kennel and meet a swag of requirements before mating dogs.

They would also have to register dogs as breeding animals or have them sterilised at six months old.

Similar rules are already in place in Queensland and Victoria, with some exemptions in place.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA and WAFarmers both support exempting farmers from the majority of the rules, with the PGA saying farmers with less than six fertile farm dogs should be exempt from having to register as a breeder.

However, RSPCA — which is championing the rules with WA Labor — does not support an exemption.

In its quarterly “livestock matters” e-newsletter, RSPCA WA said it was approached by the PGA “asking for an exemption for breeders of working dogs from the new legislation”.

The newsletter said while RSPCA “respected PGA’s concern about the effect of new legislation on smaller breeders”, it did “not believe the proposed new reforms will have an adverse effect on farmers who breed only an occasional litter”.

“All that is required is for those farmers to register as breeders with the centralised registration system,” the statement said.

“RSPCA WA is unable to support exemptions because we believe this will undermine the intention of the new laws, which are to ensure dogs in WA are only bred by people registered with a centralised database, all dogs are bred in WA are traceable to the breeder and there is accountability in breeding.

“We urge responsible breeders of livestock working dogs to embrace the positive changes to improve the welfare of all dogs in the State.”

A spokeswoman for WA Local Government minister David Templeman said no final decisions had been made.

“The department received an overwhelming response to the consultation and is currently compiling and analysing the submissions received,” she said.

“If the initiatives are progressed by the Government, it is expected a bill to amend the Dog Act 1976 will be drafted and introduced into Parliament next year.

“It is expected that a report detailing the feedback received from consultation will be released later this year.”

Animal welfare bodies called for urgent action on puppy farming last year, citing an alarming number of incidents at puppy farms coming to light.

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