Western Australia Bans Puppy Mills, Dog Sales in Pet Shops

And pet greyhounds no longer have to wear muzzles.

small dogs in rusted cage
Amphawan Chanunpha / Getty Images

Sweeping pet laws just passed in Western Australia will soon make puppy mills illegal. The legislation also requires that pet stores only offer rescued dogs for adoption and that all dogs must be spayed or neutered except for registered exceptions.

Dubbed the Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2020, the bill was first introduced six years ago by Lisa Baker, a member of the Western Australia parliament.

“I was horrified to see how puppy mills operated. I was confronted by the complete lack of health and well-being for these poor, abused dogs. It was all about money, often operating outside the formal economy, and sending thousands of puppies to pet shops or being sold out of car boots,” Baker tells Treehugger.

“I knew I had to try to change things after seeing devastating reports showing dogs locked in underground bunkers, never seeing daylight or breathing fresh air and overbred for this heinous trade.”

Western Australia is a state that encompasses the western third of the country. It is the second-largest subdivision of a country in the world.

The new laws include several key elements:

  • Pet shops that sell dogs must work with rescue organizations to create adoption centers instead. This offers more opportunities for dogs to find homes.
  • Dogs must be spayed or neutered by the time they’re 2 years old unless their owners have applied for and received a breeding exemption. The goal is to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
  • People who want to breed their dog must apply for approval, which will allow breeders to be traced.
  • Information on dogs and cats will be kept in a centralized registration database.

Healthy, Happy Puppies

"Puppy farming is a global problem. Breeding dogs on large scale farms or mills is a highly profitable business. Because dogs often fall into the category of agriculture, they are not protected from the abuses that come with factory farming. Farmers are most often not required to provide proper food or shelter—let alone medical care,” says Jennifer Skiff, director of international programs for Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. and Trustee of the Dogs’ Refuge Home in West Australia, who co-authored the position paper that led to the legislation. 

“Once laws are created that define breeding standards and you combine them with a governmental (not private) registration system, you have the ability to shut off the supply chain of sick and abused dogs,” Skiff tells Treehugger.

“Add to that the conversion of pet stores—from operations that traffic puppies to businesses that operate in conjunction with shelters, and you have a system that promotes ethical breeders, dramatically reduces the killing of healthy dogs at pounds, and supplies consumers with healthy, happy puppies."

In the past, breeding has been self-regulated and self-registered, says Debra Tranter, founder of Oscar’s Law, an anti-puppy farm campaign in Australia.

“When we receive tip offs about puppy factories and commence an investigation, nine times out of ten, we discover the puppy farm is actually a 'registered breeder,’” Tranter tells Treehugger. “So we have proven over the years that self regulation doesn't work and being a registered breeder does not equate to being humane or ethical.”

With the new law, breeders must register their business and dogs and apply for approval to breed. This creates accountability for the health and welfare of their animals and also allows traceability if pets become sick.

“They are no longer self-regulating. If they don’t provide medical care to their dogs, the government will have a way of knowing. If they overbreed, they will be breaking the law,” Skiff says. “Additionally, the government will be able to deny people who have been convicted of abuse or neglect of animals a license to breed. We now have the ability to stand in the way of people who exploit dogs for profit.”

Removing Greyhound Muzzles

two greyhounds on leashes outdoors
Capuski / Getty Images

In addition, the new legislation will remove current laws that require pet or retired racing greyhounds to be muzzled in public. Greyhounds still must be kept on a leash in public and registered racing greyhounds must still continue to wear muzzles in public.

“Retired greyhounds are too often attacked and injured or worse, killed when attacked by other dogs when they are on leashes being walked by their owners. They cannot defend themselves from aggressive dogs. More than 20 greyhounds were reported to have been attacked in 2020,” Baker explains.

“The muzzle gives potential adopters, and the public a false impression of the greyhound. Greys are by nature big on sleeping on a couch rather than training and racing! Many other breeds have similar or more prey drive but were never required to wear a muzzle.”

The legislation was given royal assent this week, meaning it received official and formal approval. It may take as long as a year for full implementation of the law but the greyhound de-muzzling will be immediate.

View Article Sources
  1. Jennifer Skiff, director of international programs for Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. and Trustee of the Dogs’ Refuge Home in West Australia

  2. "Western Australia." WorldAtlas.

  3. Debra Tranter, founder of Oscar’s Law, an anti-puppy farm campaign in Australia

  4. "Dog Amendment (Stop Puppy Farming) Bill 2020." Parliament of Western Australia.

  5. Lisa Baker, a member of the Western Australia parliament