Breeding laws spark gene pool concern

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Cally DupeCountryman
VideoThe RSPCA supports the move but some pet shop owners are sceptical.

Sheep and cattle dogs should be exempt from proposed legislation designed to stamp out cruel puppy farms in WA, graziers say.

Australian Federation for Livestock Working Dogs has set itself the goal of convincing the WA Government to exempt working dogs from the Ban Puppy Farming Act.

Federation chairman Gordon Curtis, of Kellerberrin, said the tough new rules could dampen WA’s vibrant working dog gene pool.

He urged farmers to fill in three online forms asking for feedback.

“The opinions must be heard of the many farmers who presently breed an occasional litter to replace their working dogs, and to share their surplus pups with other farmers,” Mr Curtis said.

The State Government has released a puppy farming consultation paper, open for public comment until August 3, and set aside $250,000 to “stop puppy farming” in the 2018-19 Budget.

New rules would mean livestock working dogs, like companion animals, could be bred only in licensed kennels that met all requirements, such as veterinary approval, before mating.

Farmers would also be required to build concrete yards for the dogs and have them sterilised at six months of age, unless they were registered as breeding animals.

Although Victoria and Queensland governments have exempt livestock working dogs from proposed puppy farm legislation, WA is yet to follow suit.

Mr Curtis also said compulsory sterilisation at six months was not practical because working traits often did not emerge until the dog was several years of age.

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

“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.”

Two of Australia’s other prominent dog groups, Working Kelpie Council of Australia and WA Working Sheep Dogs Association are also pushing for an exemption.

The changes, driven by the RSPCA and State Government, would come into effect from early next year.

WAFarmers livestock president Kim Haywood said the organisation supported the Act “in principle” for its potential to regulate the “sale of companion dogs and cats sold through pet shops”.

She said the organisation did not support the mandatory sterilisation of working dogs and requirement for dog owners to become registered breeders, but did support plans to create a central registration system.

There are three key papers for livestock working dog breeders: a supplementary paper for feedback, frequently asked questions, and a stop puppy farming supplementary paper. The papers are available by contacting WAFarmers or the PGA. Workshops on the changes will be held at Northam on June 14, Bunbury on July 11, Karratha on July 5, Stirling on June 28 and Kwinana on July 23.

Department of Local Government and Communities, which is managing the submissions, did not respond by the time of print.

Proposed legislation for working dogs

  • Only bred in licensed kennels
  • Concrete yards for the dogs
  • Compulsory sterilisation at six months unless registered as breeding animals
  • Minimum welfare standards for dog breeding and husbandry
  • Turn pet shops into adoption centres
  • Creating a centralised dog registration system

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