Animal transport ship

Victorian legal clinic launched in response to puppy farming crisis

Animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS calls for better protections


11 May 2021 – A new 'Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic' has been established by the Animal Law Institute (ALI) to assist Victorian consumers understand their rights after unknowingly being sold puppies in need of significant veterinary treatment and care.

During the COVID lockdowns, online pet sales skyrocketed in Australia with many people wanting to share their homes with new furry friends.  

Sadly, this consumer trend of buying puppies from online ads was quickly followed by reports of sick animals, high veterinary fees, as well as ongoing medical and emotional costs.

This has left many people wondering what consumer protections they have, and what laws are in place to protect animals from puppy farming.

In response to this consumer issue, the Animal Law Institute (ALI) has established an Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic to assist Victorian consumers with advice about their rights in relation to their sick pet.  

“Since our clinic’s launch, we’ve received requests for help from families who have suffered enormously after purchasing a new puppy or kitten that later turned out to be sick. 

Some have spent thousands of dollars in vet bills, and are seeking compensation from the breeders who sold these animals that they said were healthy.

We are also seeing cases in which animals are being sold online in Victoria without source numbers listed on the Pet Exchange Register, which is required under the new rules. While helping people seek justice, our clinic is also helping consumers understand the legal process around buying or selling an animal in compliance with the law in Victoria.”

Erin Germantis, ALI lawyer

Puppy farming a concerning trend in Australia

Puppies in puppy farms

“It has become increasingly common for Australians to buy animals online through classified ad sites, especially breeds considered ‘designer’ animals which attract a high dollar value.

This demand has given rise to unscrupulous breeders, known as ‘puppy farmers’, who use animals as breeding machines with a focus on producing a high number of litters every year, only to be sold online.”

Elise Burgess, FOUR PAWS Australia

Puppy and kitten farms are commercial breeding facilities where the parent animals are kept, generally in very poor conditions, to be bred repeatedly for their young. Animals kept in intensive breeding facilities may be subject to a host of welfare concerns, including overcrowding, ongoing confinement, over breeding, early infant-mother separation, health complications, a lack of veterinary care and unhygienic housing conditions.

People who have spent thousands of dollars purchasing a puppy are now facing ongoing veterinary bills due to the animal’s poor health, due to their breeding conditions. 

“Some Australian states and territories are taking proactive steps to try and combat this cruel trade through tighter regulation on breeding practices, but consumer awareness really is key.”  

Elise Burgess, FOUR PAWS Australia

Nala’s story

In July 2018, lawyers from the Animal Law Institute launched legal action against breeders of a beagle-cross named Nala, to hold them accountable for the cruel consequences of their negligent breeding.  

“When Nala was born, she was so severely infested with worms and emaciated that she almost died,” said Erin Germantis.  

“Her family realised something was wrong soon after they purchased her, and sought urgent care. The treating vet reported that Nala's worm infestation would have been passed onto her from her mother in utero.”

Following the hearing, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal handed down its judgment in Nala’s favour. Nala’s breeders were ordered to pay over $15,000 for past and future medical expenses.

REVEALED: The puppy trade in Australia

Consumer choice can protect buyers and animals

While legal protections and better regulations are welcome, at the heart of this issue is consumer responsibility. It is consumers creating this demand for online pets, so it is the consumer who can end it.

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.

Elise Burgess, FOUR PAWS Australia

However, if people are determined to buy an animal from a breeder, we suggest that they use our Checklist to ensure they do not support the cruel puppy or kitten farming trade in Australia.

Tips to avoid puppy farming scams

Puppy trade

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About the Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic 

There are different legal avenues through which consumers can seek justice against a breeder or seller (such as a pet store) of a sick pet, depending on the circumstances. One way that consumers can take legal action is through the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Consumers can seek legal advice in relation to the ACL from a private law firm or a community legal centre.  

The Animal Law Institute (ALI) is a non-profit, specialist community legal centre that is dedicated to protecting animals and advocating for their interests through the Australian legal system.  

In response to the growing demand for puppies during the COVID-19 pandemic, ALI has established an 'Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic' to assist consumers with advice about their rights under the ACL in relation to their sick pet.  

Preliminary legal advice delivered through this clinic is pro bono (free of charge). The Anti-Puppy Farm Legal Clinic is supported by the Victorian Government.  

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

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Press contact

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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