Dogs Victoria and the puppy farmers

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Conditions dogs are kept in by one of the Dogs Victoria breeders, as documented by Debra Tranter from Oscar's Law

Dogs Victoria are an organisation that market themselves as representing the reputable dog breeders across Victoria. Peter Wicks has his doubts.

WHAT IS THE responsible thing to do when it appears that the “good guys” are seemingly not quite what is displayed in all the shiny packaging and fluffy social media posts?

For Oscar's Law founder and leading animal advocate Debra Tranter the responsible thing to do was to expose it via her Prisoners For Profit website.

Dogs Victoria are an organisation that market themselves as representing the reputable dog breeders across Victoria. Debra Tranter, however, has raised concerns regarding several breeders as well as an advertisement for a field officer position that gave the impression that Dogs Victoria were not overly concerned with animal welfare but far more concerned with protecting themselves and their members from the “collateral damage” of bad media exposure.

Within a few hours, Tranter was being criticised as being biased, deceitful, ill-informed and for not giving the other side of the story. As it turned out, that criticism came from a Dogs Victoria employee who took it upon herself to protect the organisation from the collateral damage that was surely coming its way. In all of her debunked critical commentary, not once did she declare who her employer was. Two sides to a story indeed.

The story in question regarded Dogs Victoria breeder, which Tranter had personally investigated and documented. In question was photographic evidence of one dog with infections so bad it ears oozed puss and was likely suffering perforated eardrums.

It had a bed full of holes, a floor covered in urine and faeces, causing chemical burning on its paws, and a bowl of putrid water.

If there is a side to this story that justifies this kind of cruelty, I’d like to know what it is. I guess we’ll leave that explanation to field officers at Dogs Victoria.

Dogs Victoria’s core membership is made up of reputable breeders, who must be absolutely livid that their reputations may be being called into question via guilt by association.

Some of the “reputable breeders” who have enjoyed Dog’s Victoria membership are...

Murray River Puppies, whose owner Jodie Knox is the former head of puppy factory lobby group AAPDB. Murray River Puppies is known for falsely claiming to be an RSPCA approved breeder, until the RSPCA took legal action against them.

Kerrie Fitzpatrick, charged in court with animal cruelty last year after the RSPCA seized more than 35 dogs from her property. Her partner Colin Ross was fined after council discovered him running a breeding business with no permit and 45 unregistered dogs.

The Sammut family, whose Wyndham Puppy Factory was eventually shut down after a year-long investigation by Oscar's Law, who vet-worked and re-homed all of the rescued dogs. Anthony Sammut was charged with operating an illegal business. There was a public outcry when Wyndham Council dropped the 12 cruelty charges against him.

One of the dogs on the Sammut's Wyndham property (Image: Oscar's Law)

Dogs Victoria come under the umbrella of the Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC). Also under that umbrella comes Dogs NSW, Dogs ACT, Dogs West, Dogs NT, Dogs NT, Dogs Queensland, Dogs SA, and Dogs Tasmania.

With Dogs Victoria under the spotlight, readers may recall some puppy factories that have been exposed recently from other states that enjoy ANKC membership

In NSW, there is Lisa Flanagan. Flanagan is current appealing Inverell Council's decision to close her Copeton puppy factory, which had with 345 dogs on it. It was closed down due to operating illegally and with unregistered dogs.

Also in NSW is Anne Press, who had 93 dogs removed from her Uralla property. A supplier to pet shops, including Jodie Knox’s AAPDB endorsed stores, Press was operating illegally with approximately 200 dogs on her property.

Both of these breeders enjoy Dogs NSW membership.

In SA, breeder Fiona Miller of Karoonda eventually had 176 seized by the RSPCA from a property at Strathalbyn, where paperwork seized indicated she was acting as a broker to retail pet stores, some of them AAPDB stores linked to Jodie Knox. Fiona Miller is a proud Dogs SA member.

Another interesting aspect to organisations under the ANKC umbrella is that they are self-regulated.

These organisations have no real powers in an investigatory or disciplinary sense. No powers of surveillance, no powers of entry, no powers of seizure, no powers to prosecute, no powers of enforcement and no powers of closure.

One only has to look at the canine industry bodies allowed to self-regulate in Victoria to get an idea of how well that self-regulation is going. There are only two: Dogs Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria.

Dogs Victoria have been shown recently to take up to a year to respond to reports of suspected animal cruelty. Greyhound Racing Victoria I probably don’t need to go into.

According to financial statements, Dogs Victoria made approximately $1.8 million in revenue from its membership fees and the registration of those members litters. Fair to say, that there is a lot at stake for Dogs Victoria, considering its product is its reputation. That reputation is based on the consumer having confidence a puppy purchased from a Dogs Victoria breeder has been bred in an ethical manner and is in no way associated with a puppy factory.

Dogs Victoria and ANKC breeders have enjoyed the recommendation of animal advocates and other authorities as places to purchase a companion animal ethically for decades; it remains to be seen how long that will continue. These endorsements were the principle reason a Dogs Victoria or ANKC membership represented a worthwhile investment for a breeder. These revelations and allegations now put the value of this membership under a huge cloud of doubt.

Other industry memberships are widely alleged to just be endorsements from puppy factory lobby groups. Organisations such as Pets Australia, AADPD, and PIAA are fronted by puppy factory owners, or have such owners on their board, are seen as simply the retail arm of the puppy factories that the public want to see shut down.

Where Dogs Victoria and other ANKC organisations were once seen as above all the rabble, they now find themselves in the centre of it.

If I were a paying member, I would be thinking long and hard before paying my renewal fee, as I don’t think there is any value in being classed in the same league as those above. Membership seems to have a lack of privileges.

Self-regulation? Yeah right…

You can follow Peter Wicks on Twitter @madwixxy.

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