While animal shelters and pounds are overflowing with unwanted, abandoned and rejected pets, the unwavering demand for puppies and designer dogs ensure that puppy farms are always in business. According to the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA), around 450,000 puppies are sold in Australia each year – Of these, only 15% are sold through registered breeders, the remainder of which are estimated to come from puppy farms1.
What is a puppy farm?
A puppy farm, also commonly known as a “puppy mill”, is an intensive dog breeding facility whose operations focus on making a profit, regardless of the inappropriate conditions under which their dogs are kept. Puppy farms, typically fail to meet the basic requirements and welfare standards that dogs need to live a happy and healthy life.
What is it like for dogs in a puppy farm?
In most undercover investigations carried out in Australia, puppy factory dogs were kept in small cages for extended periods of time, and frequently denied access to adequate food, water, and shelter. The adult dogs permanently kept on premises at these “puppy farms” are forcibly bred, over and over, regardless of their physical condition. Due to this, many dogs suffer untreated health problems such as infections, mammary tumours, hip dysplasia and joint problems. Often, dogs kept in puppy farms are deprived of their physical, social, and psychological needs and show signs of sadness and depression as a result. Once the ‘breeding’ dogs of a puppy farm are exhausted and no longer able to reproduce, they are often killed and replaced with new, younger dogs – and so the cycle continues.
Why haven’t puppy farms been shut down yet?
In Australia, each state has their own set of laws and legislation regarding dog breeding, and unfortunately most of them are lax enough that puppy farming is allowed to occur legally.
Each state does have its own Code of Conduct which regulates the puppy breeding industry in that state - but we need to put more pressure on state governments in order to completely stop the puppy farming industry at its roots. Encouragingly, several Australian states are introducing new legislation to protect animals from intensive breeding, with Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia restricting the number of animals a commercial breeder can own and tighter regulations around the registration of animals.
What sort of dogs are bred in puppy farms?
Due to their high demand and profitability in Australia, poodle crossbreeds are some of the most popular dogs bred in puppy farms2. If you live in Australia, you’re bound to know someone who owns a Cavoodle, Spoodle, Labradoodle or Maltese Shih Tzu, and if you don’t, well I can bet you have seen them looking out the glass window of your local pet shop or in online ads. These types of dogs are a lucrative business for dog breeders on puppy farms as they can score high sale prices while keeping costs to a minimum. A recent article by the ABC stated that prices for the popular Groodle breed have increased three-fold with “prices going from $3,500, which is standard, to $7,500, to the $15,000 mark”3.
While these mixed-breeds are the most popular choice for puppy farmers, it is important to note that many puppy farms also produce other dog breeds - both pure-breeds and crossbreeds. Thus, identifying a puppy farm can become challenging particularly as most people would associate a puppy farm with ONLY producing mixed-breed dog varieties.
What were the most popular dog breeds in Australia in 2021?
- French Bulldog
- Golden Retriever
- Border Collie
- Miniature Dachshund
- German Shepherd
- Maltese Cross
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Golden Doodle (Groodle)
How are dog trends spurring the puppy farming industry and unethical dog breedings?
When Covid entered the chat in 2019 and people around Australia migrated to a home office environment, they found they had more time on their hands, coupled with a sense of increased boredom and loneliness brought on by government restrictions. Many saw the lockdown period as a chance to adopt a furry friend for means of instant gratification, with little consideration of how they would manage this added responsibility once they returned to normal life, post-Covid. These quick decisions have led to an increase in dog surrender rates around the country, where pounds and shelters are operating at maximum capacity.
Over the past few years, a new phrase coined “designer dogs” has emerged in Australia to describe the popular dog breeds that are in high demand around the country. A few of these “designer dogs”, most notably the French Bulldog, have considerable health problems that are widespread amongst the breed and can cause them ongoing pain and low quality of life. Yet, increasing demand for “designer dogs” has led to a rise in these dogs being bred in puppy farms, where unethical practices perpetuate severe health problems. Read more about the puppy trade and how it is exacerbating genetic disorders in popular dog breeds.
At FOUR PAWS we strongly advocate for adoption. Choosing to adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group not only saves the life of that animal, but also positively contributes to the ongoing fight against animal overpopulation and homelessness.