Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016. I am going to find it a bit difficult to top the previous speaker. And do you know what? I am not even going to try.

This bill has come about because of the appalling conditions in puppy farms and commercial breeding. The appalling conditions that those dogs have been in is an issue that the Greens have raised many times over the past decade — in fact 18 times in this Parliament, I am well informed — and I have no doubt that Sue Pennicuik, the Greens animal welfare spokesperson over that time, has made a substantial number of those contributions. It has certainly been the Greens' policy and the Greens' position that puppy farms should be abolished altogether. The reason for that is because of the terrible quality of life for the dogs in these puppy farms, where profit is being put in front of animal welfare and where animals are being confined to cages for most of their lives.

We have got the fact that in these facilities the needs of the animals — their psychological, behavioural, physiological and social needs — simply are not able to be met. They have a very poor quality of life, a miserable quality of life — a life that is nothing more than breeding. They are bred until they are worn out, and once they are worn out they are simply replaced, simply killed. It is a terrible, terrible way to treat animals. They are crowded in cages with little room to move and are highly susceptible to infectious diseases. What is all the more tragic is that once they are no longer of use to these commercial breeders, they are incredibly difficult to re-home. They have known nothing but a cage for their entire life, and therefore re-homing can be quite difficult. So these are absolutely terrible circumstances that the animals are found in at these puppy farms.

This bill moves to close down these large-scale breeders, and it puts regulations around making them apply to be domestic animal businesses meeting a code of practice. There was in the original legislation a cap on the number of breeding dogs at 10. I understand that these government amendments have now moved that out to 50, with some other conditions. We have got regulation around the sale of dogs and kittens in pet shops and other regulations with regard to the breeding of animals.

This bill did originate in 2016, but my understanding is that over some time there has been further consultation on this bill. There has been an upper house committee inquiry, and there are some different government amendments that have been moved. I am not going to go through all of the amendments, but just from what I can see there is a change. There was a cap of 10 breeding dogs; that has now been brought out to 50 but with some other conditions. Certainly we will be looking very closely at those changes and what that means, and we will be reserving our right to seek further amendments in the upper house. I understand that there are some changes around strengthening the bill but others in terms of pushing out some of the regulatory requirements. There are numerous changes to the original bill, and certainly we will be making sure that we reserve our right to look at them very closely in the other place.

There was a committee report from the upper house that recommended that the bill essentially be taken out and completely redone. That is not something that we did support. There was poor consultation around this bill, certainly. I think one of the major issues was the fact that local councils are the ones that actually have to administer the Domestic Animals Act 1994, so certainly there were some flaws in terms of liaising with those councils and understanding how it would actually be implemented. We did think that it was important that the government went away and made some changes to the bill, which has occurred, and certainly we are looking for greater support for local government to actually be able to enforce this new legislation. The Greens will be supporting this bill. We will be reserving the right to move amendments in the other place, and we will not be supporting the reasoned amendment from the opposition for the reason I just outlined: we do not actually think that the bill should be completely withdrawn and redrafted. Although the consultation phase was poor, we did believe that changes could be made to the existing bill.

Where we should be heading in regards to the breeding and sale of dogs and cats and other animals is that we should not be having live animals for sale in pet shops other than those that are from animal shelters. There is still far too much impulse buying of animals from pet shops. That is our concern when animals are on display in pet shops. Too many animals are on display and there is too much impulse buying, and that leads to those animals then being abandoned. This cycle of impulse buying from commercial breeding, where profit is put over the welfare of the animals, leads to impulse buying and then the abandonment of those animals.

So we welcome this bill. We will look at these further changes and see if we can improve the bill. We are glad that the government has looked at this particular issue around puppy farms. We certainly encourage them to look at other aspects of animal welfare policy — look at the banning of duck shooting, ending greyhound racing, ending jumps racing, stopping the logging of native forests and the destruction of the habitat of our native animals, and creating a truly independent office for animal welfare. This is a first step, but there is a lot more to be done in regard to the welfare, breeding and selling of domestic animals. It would be a far better situation if the breeding of domestic animals were not done in what I guess you would say is a commercial setting but in a family setting, a home setting. There is a lot more to be done in relation to a whole range of other animal issues across the state. This is a first step, but certainly there is a lot more to do. The Greens will be supporting this bill.