Puppy Farm Campaign History and Timeline
2005 Victoria, Australia

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Campaign History
Animal liberation Victoria is the only group in Australia actively exposing and campaigning against puppy farms. In Australia we kill over 100 healthy dogs a day. The problem is that we have too many dogs and too few homes available. The solution society has opted for is to kill the extras, to kill “man's best friend”. Puppy farms are a major contributor to the overpopulation crisis. An assembly line business where thousands of dogs are confined and treated like breeding machines pumping out puppies for the pet shop industry.

In 1994 ALV’s puppy farm campaigner Debra Tranter received information that a Liberal politician was breeding hundreds of puppies on a property in Ballarat to supply his pet shop and the Asian market. After three months of searching bushland in Ballarat Debra found the puppy farm and immediately organised a team of three activists to enter the property in the cover of darkness and film the conditions. What the rescue team witnessed that night was horrific and the campaign against puppy farms was launched.

The team spent four hours on the property that night. They later found out from Ballarat council that there were over 1000 dogs kept there even though the permit only allowed for 540. The dogs had no bedding or kennels. Some of the dogs were sleeping in 44 gallon drums tipped on their side. The dogs were a pitiful sight. Their long coats were matted and caked in mud, their spirits were broken from years of confinement and repeated pregnancies.

The next day the video was given to the RSPCA who informed ALV that they had been refused entry to the property 22 times. Over the next few months a number of ALV under cover inspections were carried out at the property and the media coverage was intense. The fact that a Liberal politician/vet (Dr. Ron Wells) was keeping dogs in appalling conditions was big news. The story was reported around Australia and media coverage lasted months.

Due to the media coverage ALV started to receive information about more puppy farms and inspections at Ballarat and other properties are continuing today.

Campaign Timeline
Animal Liberation Victoria's 10-year fight to shut down the largest puppy farm in Australia, including numerous open rescues of abused dogs, has ended victoriously with Ballarat Council announcing on May 3, 2005 that the farm will close at the end of July 2005. The announcement followed two solid days of noisy ALV protests at Ballarat Council offices. The closing of the puppy farm has received huge media coverage around Australia, alerting the public to the cruelty of puppy farms. Full report.

On October 31, 2004 an ALV open rescue team consisting of over 50 rescuers conducted a massive daytime raid at the Ballarat puppy farm. The raid uncovered horrific cruelty and resulted in widespread media coverage bringing attention to the plight of the animals on the puppy farm (including top stories on the major tv stations and newspapers). Several dogs were rescued. Full report.

On April 6, 2004 ALV’s open rescue team raided one of Australia’s largest puppy farms. The Ballarat puppy farm has been the subject of over twenty raids by ALV in the last ten years and our investigation team has uncovered appalling cruelty during each visit.

Debra Tranter, ALV’s puppy farm campaigner reports: "The dogs are filthy. They are kept in dirty pens and never bathed or groomed. Their fur forms huge matting, which can be quite painful. My hands were black from patting them. It's years of build up of dirt and grime. They are very, very frightened dogs. They are never brought into a home or put on a lead. In the middle of winter, it gets below zero and they sleep on a concrete floor with no bedding.”

The most recent raid received widespread media coverage including a double page feature in Sydney’s “Sunday Telegraph”. ALV have issued a complaint to the local council about the conditions of the breeding dogs. Click here to read ALV’s correspondence with the City of Ballarat.

August 2003 - On a cold and stormy night the ALV Rescue Team investigated the conditions at the Learmonth Puppy Farm. Previous visits to this puppy breeding factory uncovered appalling animal abuses.

The puppy farm confines up to 378 dogs, including Terriers, Spaniels, Pugs, Golden Retrievers, Maltese and many more breeds. The dogs kept on the property are used to breed puppies, which are then sold in pet shops.

The conditions on the farm were far from ideal. On the night of the investigation the temperature was close to zero degrees and the dogs were sleeping on the hard floors of their small kennels, without any bedding or blankets for warmth. The dogs are fed only dry food, which is scooped out of a wheelbarrow into the pens. Adjacent to the enclosures, there is a large heap of animal waste, which is rather like an open sewer, an obvious environmental hazard.

The ALV rescue team gathered video and photographic footage of the frightened, un-socialised animals and their living conditions, and rescued one of the cold and frightened dogs who is now living in a warm and loving home. The ALV investigation is continuing.

September 1997 – Photographs are taken of dead dogs who had been tossed into manure pits. This is reported to council and the E.P.A. Ron Wells announces he is resigning from his pet shop, veterinary practice and puppy farm stating “I will no longer touch a dog”.

August 1997 – after intense campaigning and media coverage ALV are successful in shutting down part of the puppy farm. Dr Wells is ordered to reduce the number of dogs on the farm to 348, employ an extra two full time staff and to spend money building housing for the dogs to comply with the code.

January – February 1997 – 97 puppies die on farm due to inadequate housing during hot weather.

  • Rob Hulls attacks Premier Jeff Kennett over his support for Dr Wells and insists he stand down as patron of RSPCA.
  • Debra reports to council the presence of labradors on the property which is a breed excluded on the permit.
  • Dr Wells in a Herald Sun article pleads for “animal activists to leave him alone”, claiming he was being victimised and it was hurting his political career.

1996 – Debra exposes Dr. Wells had been using Victorian Tax payers money to further his own business interests by way of parlimentary pager.

1996 – Debra contacts Rob Hulls Shadow Attorney General and they work together for a number of months and expose years of Dr Wells puppy farm violating permit conditions and failing to co-operate with council instructions.

June 1996 – Ron Wells after months of intense media pressure requests meeting with Debra Tranter at Parliament House. Meeting resolves nothing Debra continues with her campaign.

Dr Wells solicitors institute proceedings in the county court against Debra Tranter claiming damages for libel. Debra is given 7 days to publish a full retraction and apology, make an offer of damages and agree to meet Dr Wells legal costs. Debra refuses to comply with their demands and no further action is taken.

May 1996 – ALV attend council meeting to object to Dr Wells proposal that his permit be amended to be allowed to keep 650 dogs and asked that any animal under 18 months not be included in this figure. Council refused to grant extension of permit.

April 1996 –The Age newspaper write two page article on Ballarat puppy farm. “new” allegations were made that dogs owned by Dr Wells died from starvation and disease at the former knackery in Ballarat, where Dr Mike Sheedy, a vet who was an employee of Dr Wells at the time said he found animals starving.

1995 – First inspection of Ballarat puppy farm attracts widespread national media.

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