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Bond could ensure more dogs get to live another day

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Nicole Hasham

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The animal shelter

A look at the RSPCA's animal shelter at Yagoona.

PT0M0S 620 349

PET registration fees would rise and tenants could pay a "pet bond" to keep cats and dogs at rental properties under a policy shake-up to be considered by the state government.

The changes, designed to slash the number of dogs and cats destroyed at pounds each year, would also streamline pet registration and microchipping and crack down on "puppy farmers" who breed dogs in overcrowded conditions.

More than 70,000 dogs and 86,000 cats have been put down in NSW pounds in the past five years, representing one-third of dogs and almost 70 per cent of cats taken in.

Sad tail ... one of the many dogs at the RSPCA's Sydney shelter in Yagoona in need of a good home. A new policy could cut down on the number of dogs put down.

Sad tail ... one of the many dogs at the RSPCA's Sydney shelter in Yagoona in need of a good home. A new policy could cut down on the number of dogs put down. Photo: Peter Rae

A companion animals taskforce chaired by the Charlestown MP, Andrew Cornwell, a veterinarian, has recommended measures to stamp out poor pet breeding and selling practices, and increase microchipping, desexing and registration of pets.

It found that "pet-unfriendly" rental properties and strata homes drive up dumping rates and severely inhibit animal adoption from pounds and shelters.

"In terms of renters, we think there is scope to create some sort of 'pet bond' [on top of] a standard property bond," said Mr Cornwell.

Name: Sonic. Breed: Maltese
 M/F: Male. Age: 2 years Click for more photos

Unwanted Dogs

More than 70,000 dogs and 86,000 cats have been euthanased at NSW pounds in the past five years, representing one-third of dogs and almost 70 per cent of cats taken in. To adopt one of the dogs pictured here, please call RSPCA Yagoona on (02) 9770 7555 or visit their site here: http://www.rspcansw.org.au/shelter_repository/sydney_yagoona Photo: Peter Rae

"Some body corporates can also make pet ownership extremely difficult. There are many pets that make for a terrific companion animal in a strata environment, and there is no reason why you can't have greater flexibility."

The taskforce recommended an increase in cat and dog registration fees to fund animal management programs.

The existing "two-step" microchipping and registration process would be merged into one, updating registration details would be made easier, and rebates would be available to those who promptly desex their pets.

Breeding guidelines would be enforceable and breeding licences would be mandatory to assist a crackdown on "puppy farmers" and irresponsible operators. Dog and cat advertisements would also be required to display a breeder number, enabling animals to be traced.

"By having registration and enforceable guidelines, it sets very clear boundaries as to what is acceptable," Mr Cornwell said.

"At the moment [the guidelines] are open to interpretation and it makes prosecution difficult."

Minimum qualification standards would apply to pet shop staff, breeders and pound workers.

The taskforce comprised animal welfare experts, vets, council officials and breeders. A discussion paper will be released for public comment on Monday.

The RSPCA NSW chief executive, Steve Coleman, a taskforce member, said thousands of negligent backyard breeders were the biggest contributors to producing unwanted animals.

"It won't take long for one or two of those types of suppliers to be prosecuted … it will all become too hard for them and knock them out of the supply chain," he said.

The president of the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders, Kate Schoeffel, questioned whether mandatory licensing would capture all operators.

"There are so many people with a dog in their backyard that might want to breed, that trying to licence every single person is a challenge," she said.

A Tenants NSW senior policy officer, Chris Martin, praised moves to allow more renters to keep pets.

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