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National | Animal welfare

Backyard dog breeders put pressure on animal shelters

Animal welfare groups want the government to set some rules to restrict backyard breeding.

While dog breeders are making money, Aotearoa’s animal shelters are taking the brunt of the surge of abandoned dogs.

Both the number of dogs and breeders have risen and there are no laws that limit breeding.

The influx of homeless dogs has become a national issue in dog shelters across the country.

“We are very concerned, we have been urgently calling the government to explore companion breeder legislation to address this issue and also just not the issue of overpopulation but also the issue of poor breeding practices which can impact the welfare,” SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughn said.

She says the SPCA looks forward to seeing the combination of regulations for breeder licensing and the existing code of welfare.

While the Animal Welfare Act and Dog Control Act cover some areas, there hasn’t been any specific legislation to restrain backyard breeding.

Call for regulations

“Our lot of work is in terms of advocacy and that’s why we have been urgently calling for government to change this and raising it with MPs. The current status quo is unacceptable,” Vaughn said.

The enormous increase in unwanted animals is not just limited to dogs but also is a “massive problem” with cats and rabbits.

An accreditation scheme is run for pedigree breeders but there is no legal requirement to be registered as a dog breeder.

Animal rights group SAFE’s head of investigations, Will Applebe, says it’s common that backyard-bred dogs end up abandoned as lower quality ones are breeding in large numbers often in inadequate kennels.

Many shelters are left with no choice but to euthanise the animals due to lack of space in the shelters.

He says that the problem is now nationwide and needs to be addressed on the government level.

‘So many unwanted dogs’

“This is the issue that hasn’t been given much priority at all and we shouldn’t be breeding dogs when there are so many unwanted ones in the shelters,” Appelbe said.

According to Auckland Council’s 2022-2023 report 2022, the dog population in the region increased 5.4% last year.

Council animal management manager Elly Waitoa says no legislation prevents people from breeding dogs.

“The backyard breeding is definitely an issue but any regulations need to be set by Parliament.”

She says it is the responsibility of the dog owners to make sure the dogs are properly looked after and get their dogs desexed to prevent unwanted litters.

Te Rito