Now that is a leading question…. no, I’m not talking about the ‘birds and bees’. I am talking about the Australian dog population.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE AUSTRALIAN DOG POPULATION – 2016
The latest estimated number of dogs in Australia is 4.8 million – Pet Ownership in Australia, 2016 – Newgate Research on behalf of Animal Medicines Australia. The research and surveys conducted by professional bodies show an increase in dog ownership each time with a 2.8% increase in the Australian dog population since 2013.
The Australian National Kennel Control (ANKC) estimates conservatively that 10% of the dog population dies each year, and their owners will want to replace them. That means in 2016 there needed to be 480,000 puppies available! (See A Forensic View of Puppy Breeding in Australia, 2017).
So where did these puppies come from?
In 2016, the ANKC had a membership registration of 33,341 members. During that year only 20% (6,525) of the members bred puppies – and of those 20% of breeders:
- 55% only produced 1 litter
- 21% produced 2 litters
- 10% produced 3 litters
- 5% produced 4 litters
- And 8% had 5-10 litters
- Only 1.3% had more than 10 litters
The total number of puppies produced by ANKC registered breeders in 2016 was 71,361.
That leaves a shortfall of 408,639 puppies to make up the 480,000 required to fill the market demand for that year. Where did the rest of the puppies come from? They came from backyard breeders, puppy farms and commercial dog breeding farms. Backyard breeders tend to breed occasionally, puppy farmers and commercial dog breeding establishments breed on an enormous scale. The purpose for breeding dogs in these set-ups is purely for profit.
So what are the differences between ANKC registered breeders and other breeders?
Importantly ANKC registered breeders:
- are bound by a code of ethics with emphasis on the welfare and health of their animals – over and above any government legislation.
- are, in many breeds, required to test breeding stock before they breed (if tests are available) for major debilitating diseases or for diseases that are known to be a problem in the breed .
- pay a levy to The Canine Research Foundation for every puppy born to fund research conducted by an Australian University into relevant canine health issues: To date, The Canine Research Foundation has funded research grants in excess of $890,000. The 5 page list of funded projects can be found here:
- must register every puppy so there is always a paper trail to the breeder via the puppy’s microchip number and registration number, no matter how often the dog has changed hands.
- are transparent about the numbers of puppies they are breeding, verified through the ANKC registration process.
- have to be transparent as to where their operations are located – again verified through the ANKC registration process.
- breed for a purpose other than income.
- are easily identified within their breeds, and there is a certain amount of peer pressure, professional rivalry or competitive contention that helps to keep them ‘honest’ and striving harder to breed better dogs.
People who breed dogs outside of the ANKC membership:
- are not bound by a code of ethics.
- do not contribute, for every puppy they breed, to canine health research.
- rarely have a paper trail back to them.
- have very limited or indeed no information available to the public about their breeding facilities or the numbers of puppies they produce.
- often work from an unknown location or several non-disclosed locations.
- usually breed crossbreeds or a number of different breeds and are not dedicated to a particular breed.
- have the opportunity to work ‘behind closed doors’ and are frequently not known to other breeders. This allows less than acceptable practices to go undetected or challenged.
- mostly consider breeding as an income and in the case of commercial farms it is their primary income. They will be very be conscious of the ‘bottom line’ in their business. Frequently these places do not meet best practices, and frankly, once past the age of breeding mothers are no longer required. It would not be practical, economical, or even possible to rehome all these older dogs who know nothing outside of their breeding life – and you can bet they will not be allowed to just ‘biscuit eaters and lap warmers’ – as a good friend of mine tenderly describes his older collies, retired from the competition rings and the nursery.
- There are no checks and balances for unregistered breeders.
Note: Of course there can be bad apples in any barrel, but there is a better chance there are fewer bad apples in barrels that are tended and observed.