Intensive breeding of dogs and cats for sale as pets will be illegal in the ACT from Tuesday as tough new anti-puppy and kitten farm laws come into force.
Domestic dog and cat breeders will be required to hold fee-free licences, and will only be allowed to breed dogs aged between 18 months and six years with a limit of four litters per dog. A dog can only have one litter within an 18-month period.
Breeders of cats will be required to only breed their animals between the ages of 12 months and seven years, with a limit of eight litters per cat, restricted to three litters within any two-year period.
New criminal offences for the intensive over breeding of female dogs and cats have been created, with penalties of up to $15,000 for an individual and $75,000 for a corporation found guilty of exploiting animals for Canberra's domestic pet market.
The new protections, part of the governance agreement signed by the Greens and Labor in the wake of the 2012 ACT election, are designed to stop abuses similar to those seen in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. The laws follow October 2013 moves to establish fines of as much as $11,000 for breaches of a code of practice in the ACT.
Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said the laws were a major step forward for animal welfare in the territory, and would stop dogs and cats being impregnated as often as possible.
He said animals forced to over-breed were "treated as money-making machines with no concern for the animal's health and welfare".
"This kind of breeding operation, otherwise known as puppy and kitten farming, sees female dogs and cats deprived of social interaction, exercise and responsible health care for their entire lives.
"The new legislation under the Domestic Animals Act 2000 introduces a licensing scheme for dog and cat breeders which allows for the inspection of breeders' premises to ensure intensive breeding is not occurring," Mr Rattenbury said.
The new breeding licences are designed to ensure irresponsible breeders cannot operate within the ACT.
"These breeding standards have been designed to reflect the minimum standards that legitimate breeders are currently applying, so it won't impose an additional burden on those already doing the right thing," Mr Rattenbury said.
Breeders will be able to apply for a licence until January 8, 2016, as part of a phase-in period for the new laws. Breeding organisations and those with licences for breeding have been contacted and given assistance to comply with the new requirements.
The ACT's first enforceable industry code for the sale of animals came into force in 2013, applying to pet shops, breeders and anyone selling animals as pets. The code set out minimum standards for hygiene and accommodation and can be enforced by RSPCA officers, police and municipal officials.
Information about requirements and penalties included in the new laws and applications for the breeder's licence is available from the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.