In 2007 there was an unmistakable cracking in the bedrock of retail pet shop sales of puppies and kittens in Australia.
Animal Liberation Victoria had two years earlier shut down a high-profile puppy farm that a Liberal politician and veterinarian had been operating (Dr Ron Wells’ Ballarat Puppy Farm). Raids on this farm had created a library of stock footage of dead and dying puppies, that was a circulated enthusiastically by the national media. While a new raid had found a puppy farm in Sale (ACA Breeders, now Banksia Park Puppies) who had over hundreds of dogs - cute cavalier spaniels and maltese - living in paddocks and in upturned drums again stoking public opinion against retail pet sales.
All this negative press had lead to politician, MP Clover Moore, bringing forward legislation (Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill 2007) that would ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops in the state of NSW.
Also, in that same year a local filmmaker, William Wolfenden, would release his documentary "The Puppy Mill" which threatened to reveal all of the secrets of the puppy farmers who provided and shipped ‘stock’ to the pet stores across the nation. The “Lead the Way” campaign, which accompanied the documentary, would collect nearly 100,000 signatures supporting the Clover Moore Bill.
Aware of the growing threat to their profit-generating model of selling live animals in stores, puppy farmers, pet store owners via their representative body, the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) began lobbying against the new bill.
“I have had 30 years in the pet industry and I couldn’t tell you the name of a puppy mill — never dealt with one,” Peter Nobbs, Chief Executive Officer and Industry Liaison for the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) said. “PIAA members don’t sell enough pups to ever need one (puppy mill). Pet shop owners are 99.9 percent animal lovers just like the volunteers in animal welfare shelters. We as an industry home animals every day and just like the charities in the companion animal industry, we make money out of it.” (ref)
In November 2007 Clover Moore brought her new Bill Animals (regulation of sale) before State Parliament.**
In response to the Clover Moore Bill PIAA engaged a professional PR and lobbying firm to work to generate more influence with politicians and develop a high-profile media strategy. During the following months literally hundreds of media articles went out debating the issue of pet shops selling puppies and kittens in store, featuring the PIAA defending the rights of store owners to sell pets, and farmers to farm them.
Also in 2007, the PIAA would get a new Chief Executive Officer, Colin Bransgrove. He defended pet shops in the media saying they were a subject to controls and represented "only 6 percent of all dog and cat sales".
At the start of 2008 the PIAA announced that their CEO Colin Bransgrove had resigned and would be replaced by Dr Joanne Sillince, a vet and former CEO of the Australian Meat Processor Corporation. She would be the third PIAA head in as many years and the 8th in the 15 years that organisation had been incorporated.
That same year PetRescue won a Voiceless grant and launched an awareness website about puppy farming; “Where Do Puppies Come From?”. Using footage and photos acquired from Australian puppy farms the campaign, and the continued negative media, infuriated the PIAA.
Dr Sillince began to work to discredit those advocates working to get pets out of stores. In her final PIAA CEO report for the year, Joanne Sillince urges her members to take action against activists who she said were "deliberately ignoring facts", "using simplistic analogies" and were trying to "take away people’s right to own pets".
"Faced with a serious shortage of ‘Puppy Mills’ to expose, since most of them have been properly closed and prosecuted under existing acts; the activists use frightening lurid pictures – most of which are more than half a decade old, from farms that were closed and prosecuted."
Pet shops do not buy from puppy mills because the pets are of poor quality and often not well, and that’s the last thing a pet shop owner wants at the window.
Dr Joanne Sillince
But it wasn’t all bad news for the PIAA. At the end of 2008, the RSPCA softened its policy on animal sales in pet shops;
In a new policy statement adopted 28th October 2008 the RSPCA amended section A2.1 from “The RSPCA is opposed to the sale of animals from pet shops” to the following:
“RSPCA Australia believes that acquiring a companion animal should be the result of careful planning and a clear understanding of the responsibilities involved. Prospective owners should carefully consider whether they have and will continue to have, the facilities, time, financial means and level of interest necessary to ensure a satisfactory standard of care for their animals” (ref)
Midway through 2010 Oscars Law launched, taking lobbying for the ban of pet shop sales and puppy farming nuclear.
Debra Tranter took her horrific behind the scenes footage from puppy farms across the nation, cleverly packaging it up into a palatable, but outrage-inducing, public-friendly format and pumped it out under the Oscars Law brand. Oscars Law was a media sensation. Boasting an abundance of celebrity supporters, Debra and the Oscars Law team were doing the hard yards, hitting the pavements and taking their message to the masses, culminating in a huge rally on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne.
The growth of this anti-pet shop movement had taken some impressive scalps along the way. Pets Paradise, who had over 100 stores at its peak, but had been on the precipice of collapsing under the consumer swing away from live-animal stores, was given a mighty shove and went into receivership.
Pets Paradise has been placed into receivership after the Bank of Melbourne seized control of the ailing chain of 62 pet stores controlled by Gary Diamond. The Bank of Melbourne, which is owed $11 million, yesterday appointed Deloitte as receivers to Pets Paradise, part of Diamond’s Paradise Retail Holdings group. (ref)
While it was rumoured that breeders who supply puppies to pet shops were reporting a 25% drop in sales since the movement gained momentum. An issue that had been going on for literally decades – the retail production, shipment and sales of companion animals – in just a few short years had become a major animal welfare issue that the public genuinely wished to see end.
At this point the RSPCA did something no one ever thought they would do; they started to work to join forces with the puppy farmers.
Launched in 2012, under new CEO PIAA Roger Perkins*** (if you're counting, that's CEO number 4 since 2007) a new campaign to clean up the image of pet shop puppies
The PIAA Dogs Guarantee Policy on Rehoming and Traceability has been very well received with the newest addition in Victoria, The Lort Smith Animal Hospital joining the RSPCA in NSW. Roger Perkins has had some fantastic meetings in all States now and we expect to have all States on Board in the coming months. (ref)
Speaking at the launch at NSW Parliament House, PIAA Chief Executive Roger Perkins said consumers can now be confident that by buying a dog or puppy from a PIAA members store, they are helping stamp out dodgy puppy farms. “Dogs and puppies sold in our stores will only be from PIAA approved breeders who care for their dogs” Mr Perkins said.
The PIAA is also in advanced discussions with Australia’s only government recognised pet dog breeding association, the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders (AAPDB) about its members becoming approved suppliers of dogs to member stores.
PIAA policy announcement (March 2012)
(The Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders (AAPDB) would lose its Founder and champion mouthpiece after a raid on her premises revealed dirt and despair).
After a decade of progress in awareness of – and ultimately the rejection of – puppy farming in our country, the RSPCA had joined forces with the peak body for the farming of companion animals in Australia; the PIAA.
The following year, in 2013 the program was expanded with the support of the RSPCA QLD.
Puppies will be better protected from abuse with the State and pet-sellers joining forces with the RSPCA to stem the practice of "puppy farming".
Agriculture Minister John McVeigh held a press conference to unveil the deal alongside PIAA chief executive Roger Perkins and two dogs from the RSPCA named Phil and Bobby. (ref)
In 2014 Roger Perkins retired and the PIAA got yet another CEO, Mr Mark Eagleston.
In 2015, he was gone Mark Fraser was the new CEO. And that's when the shit really hit the fan.
Australia's pet industry peak body has been rocked by allegations that two successive chief executives overlooked advice relating to its retail stores selling puppies from inhumane breeding factories.
However, last week, a Fairfax Media investigation traced hundreds of designer puppies sold in one of its Western Australia pet shops to a NSW breeding facility, more than 4000 kilometres away, which had surrendered 45 dogs to the RSPCA and been found guilty of a string of breaches to the Animal Welfare Code of Practice. It is also at the centre of a separate RSPCA probe relating to sick animals being sold in stores.
Amid public outcry, and a further 42 dogs being removed from the Uralla site by the RSPCA in recent days, the PIAA has announced that the shop at the centre of the scandal, Mount Lawley Pets and Puppies in Perth, has now had its membership "terminated".
In the wake of these revelations, PIAA is now staring at a possible legal challenge over its assurances to the public after a national league of barristers confirmed it had provided "confidential advice" on the matter. (ref)
It's no great surprise that "successive CEO's" had overlooked advice that PIAA "guaranteed" puppies were, at times, coming from what the public would consider a "puppy farm", considering they had, had six CEO's since 2007 and none had managed to stay at the helm more than a couple of years. Or maybe that was WHY they chose not to stay, realising quickly that the mandate that they had been set - providing guaranteed humane source of pets for PIAA pet shops - was a practical impossibility in the industry they being asked to defend.
Fast forward to today.
"PIAA is presently finalising an accreditation scheme for retail members that will result in them being recognised as a PIAA Companion Animal Centre of excellence."
(PIAA) CEO REPORT Mark Fraser, Pet Industry News) Australian Winter 2017 Vol 27 No 2
Which is certain to be a winner (sarcasm) - while the board of directors are currently:
Which along with retail giant PETstock, include Matt Hams from Banksia Park Puppies (see ACA Pups above) and John Grima, Kellyville Pets. Who? The guy currently trying to build a mega-puppy farm in Bathurst.
Dog breeding facility proposed near koala feed trees south of Bathurst
AN animal breeding facility planned for Fosters Valley could be built alongside a known koala feeding habitat if plans now before Bathurst Regional Council are approved.
Rockley Valley Park Pty Ltd plans to build an $841,000 breeding facility to supply dogs to a Kellyville pet store.
A statement of environmental effects [SoEE] lodged as part of the development application says it would include 15 kennels; a building containing 20 whelping (birthing) kennels; eight mating kennels; a grooming shed; and a number of dogs runs, outdoor fenced areas and dog socialisation areas.
The breeding facility would take up about two hectares of a 100 hectare site at the corner of Rockley Road and Black Mountain Road, about 21 kilometres south of Bathurst.
“The proposed facility seeks to raise well socialised puppies that have experienced love and care at the site and have been properly trained prior to the dogs being sold at the Kellyville Pets facility,” the SoEE states.
A key concern for the SoEE was the proposed site’s proximity to koala “feed trees” along the western boundary of the 100 hectare site.
John Grima (Letter to Editor - Western Advocate)
We will also work with animal groups to establish an accreditation and recognition scheme to assure buyers they are getting their new pet from a “reliable and ethical” source.
Our approach is to be open, transparent and factual with the community about the new facility – with inspections available for pet owners, the community, the RSPCA, vets and the Animal Welfare League.
The PIAA have a proven history of being 'caught out', rather than 'leading the way'. The new CEO might laud their new "PIAA Companion Animal Centre of excellence" as the way they'll protect pets from harm, they're as yet 0-1 for successful animal welfare initiatives. And with their board members busy working hard to build mega-puppy farms, it seems there is little hope for the pets caught up in this abusive, breeding for-profit industry in the future either.
** The Legislative Assembly would eventually vote against the Clover Moore bill in October 2009.
*** Dr Joanne Sillince would go on to form Pets Australia in 2010, a similar organisation to the PIAA who also coordinated with the The Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders (AAPDB), including sharing administration staff. They have also developed a guarantee for puppies sold from pet stores.