#Animal Welfare
Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh, Premier Dennis Napthine, and Shadow Minister Jacinta Allan

Agriculture and Farmers in Victoria have been dealt a major blow by the Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh, the DEPI, Animals Australia and the RSPCA.

Minister Walsh is supposed to be looking out for the needs of farmers in this state but instead has given in to pressure from extremist animal rights groups and made an unpractical, non- workable Code of Practice which buries the farmer in paperwork and added expense in an industry already stressed to the maximum.

If you are a Working Dog owner in Victoria and have three or more intact females you will come under the new DEPI Code of Practice for the Breeding and Rearing of Dogs which will become law on April 11, 2014. You will now be considered a “Breeding and Rearing Business”. Unless you comply with all the restrictive requirements of this new Code, you will be breaking the law. You will have to register with your local shire as a Small or Large Business based on the number of intact dogs you own over two in number. Huge fines and penalties will be issued for non-compliance.

This new Code was drafted by the DEPI with major input from the RSPCA, a private business and Animals Australia whose policies are in line with PETA. Significant input from Working Dog Groups at multiple meetings was all but ignored by the Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh. In a recent ABC radio interview Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh referred to those who are questioning the Code of Practice as “mischief makers”; and previously Dr Hugh Wirth, head of RSPCA accused the Working Dog people of “interfering in the writing of the Code”. We believe that in a democratic society these remarks are unacceptable when referring to those who are questioning the validity of the new Code; the same people being those that the Code will affect the most.

The following are a few excerpts from the 43 page document making up the Code.

1. You must have and adhere to a written health management plan that has been formulated in consultation with a veterinary practitioner, and is reviewed on an annual basis and/or whenever veterinary practitioners change, whichever is more frequent. This health management plan has twenty three separate requirements that you must adhere to and document.

2. A female must have a general health check by a veterinary practitioner prior to first mating to assess whether she is physically mature enough to be bred with. Veterinary practitioners must provide a certificate to state that, at the time of examination, the female is suitable to breed. A veterinary practitioner must provide a general health check within 4 weeks prior to all subsequent mating seasons in which the owner wishes to breed the female; and within 8 weeks post-partum; or at least once a year, whichever is more frequent.

3. Visitors to the Business must be provided with access to hot and cold water hand washing facilities with soap.

4. Dogs must not be transported in the cabin of animal transport vehicles unless restrained or enclosed in a compartment or cage. Areas of the vehicle containing animals must be maintained between 10 and 32C at all times.

5. Copies of daily observation records, including feeding, pen cleaning, exercise, socialisation and handling must be kept for each dog. All records must be kept in a location that will allow for physical inspection by an authorised officer immediately on request.

6. The name, description, breed, sex and microchip number of each animal in a pen/cage must be displayed clearly on every pen/cage in the form of an identification card. Each identification card must also indicate whether the animals are receiving additional care and the type of care and, for females, the number, birthdate, sex and details of offspring.

7. All dogs regardless of breeding status must have a general health check by a veterinary practitioner at least once a year.

8. All male dogs must be retired from breeding at 6 years of age except where owners obtain veterinary certification to indicate that the dog is sufficiently healthy to continue breeding. Annual breeding clearance certificates are required for dogs continuing to breed from 6 years of age and onwards.

9. All working and guardian dogs, on days when they are not being used for working/guarding livestock or training, must be provided with a minimum of two 30 minute exercise sessions per day at least two hours apart.

10. Newborn puppies must be kept at an ambient temperature of 32C up until 4 days of age.
These are only ten points of law listed in a 43 page document that one must follow.

We believe that there are sufficient laws in place to prosecute animal cruelty within the Working Dog sector and that these new laws are unrealistic, cumbersome and impossible to follow. The added expense placed on Working dog owners will do nothing to promote animal welfare but may likely do the opposite.

This code places the breeding and future of the Working Dog in Victoria in the hands of backyard breeders with one or two dogs who are not breeding to improve the standard of Working Dogs but are merely breeding to have a litter of pups. More often than not these are the dogs that end up being dumped in shelters not the dogs from responsible breeders who have spent time and money improving their bloodlines.

We also believe that imposing the cost of adhering to this code on farmers is unnecessarily penalising these small businesses and reducing their ability to affectively use their dogs in their farming operation. These new rules also effectively restrict the ability of Working Dog breeders to continue to produce high quality Working dogs which are so necessary in all livestock management operations, therefore restricting trade.

We also believe this Code of Practice will place unnecessary burden on the taxpayer for the reason that the head of RSPCA Hugh Worth stated on ABC radio that there was not enough resources and funding within local government to enforce the code. Therefore he stated that funding must be obtained from State Government so that people with sufficient knowledge of the Code could be hired to enforce it. For example members of the RSPCA and Animals Australia.

We are petitioning the Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh and the DEPI to draft a separate Code of Practice for Working dogs based on informed information obtained from those in the Working Dog industry, not animal rights activists with a single-minded agenda.

We are petitioning Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh to draft a Working Dog code minus the cumbersome details in this current Code of Practice.

We are petitioning Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh to live up to the promises he made to the Working Dog community during the round of consultation in 2013.

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The Save the Working Dog in Victoria petition to Agricultural Minister Peter Walsh, Premier Dennis Napthine, and Shadow Minister Jacinta Allan was written by Victorian Working Dog Owners Against the 2014 DEPI Code of Practice and is in the category Animal Welfare at GoPetition.