Every year hundreds of thousands of healthy animals are euthanised in Australia, their precious lives tragically cut short because they simply have nowhere else to go. This stark reality rings true all across the western world, with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimating a staggering 1.5 million dogs and cats are euthanised in US shelters every year (670,000 dogs & 870,000 cats). 

Buying companion animals unfortunately is far too often viewed as a novelty, rather than as adding a member to the family who will require love, time and commitment, as well as representing an ongoing financial consideration. 

Companion animals are bred in mass every year, and the Australian pet industry is estimated to be worth $8 billion annually; sadly when this kind of money is up for grabs, animals often suffer terribly in the pursuit of profit.

So why are so many animals being killed in shelters each year?

Spaying and neutering 

In Australia, there are hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats that have not been desexed. A female dog and her subsequent offspring’s reproductive cycles can produce 99,000 dogs in just seven years, and a female cat and her offspring can produce a huge 420,000 cats in the same timeframe. With numbers like this it starts to become clear why there is such a huge population of animals without loving homes or caretakers. In fact, it is estimated that between 2.1 and 6.3 million wild (often referred to as ‘feral’) cats live in Australia, a direct result of humans not caring for their animals properly.

As well as helping to reduce the overpopulation problem, spaying and neutering has been found to have both health and behavioural benefits for dogs and cats too. Spaying female dogs and cats helps to prevent urine infections and breast tumors, while neutering male dogs makes them less likely to escape and roam looking for a female. 

Breeding companion animals for profit

Aside from a huge lack of spayed and neutered animals, there is of course the issue of humans breeding animals to generate a profit. The most notorious example of these are puppy and kitten factories. A puppy or kitten factory is exactly what it sounds like; an intensive, commercial farm to breed animals for a profit. On these farms animals are often kept in cramped, dirty and barren conditions, seldom having access to healthy food, clean water or adequate shelter. Cats and dogs kept in these facilities are forced to produce litter after litter, often their offspring being sold to pet shops or to unsuspecting people on online trading sites. Once their bodies are so exhausted from this constant breeding cycle they are commonly killed and replaced by younger animals.

A dog kept to breed at a puppy farm. Image: Oscar’s Law

Often pups and kittens bred in these factories suffer from serious illnesses or genetic health issues due to poor breeding practices, are seldom provided with adequate vet care and can even die shortly after being purchased. 

Despite often priding ourselves on being a nation which loves dogs and cats, these horrendous places are still legally acceptable in much of the country. The only state in which puppy farming is heavily restricted is Victoria, thanks to the incredibly hard working team at Oscar’s Law, who are now pushing for similar laws to be brought into law in other Australian states to protect dogs.

What about small scale breeders?

Sadly, animals have been commodified to such a degree that the breeding and selling of them to make a profit has become an extremely profitable business. Despite being on a smaller scale, many of the issues that puppies and kittens face when bred in puppy and kitten factories are a reality even with small scale breeders, with many suffering from health and genetic issues, often not receiving required veterinary care, and many being separated from their mother at an early age.

What can I do to help?

Looking to add a companion animal to your family? Always adopt, never shop.

If you have the time, commitment and space to offer a loving home to a companion animal you have an incredible opportunity to change someone’s life in a remarkable way. There are companion animals in shelters and rescues to suit most homes, with extensive information about their background, temperament, health condition and any other requirements they may have. There is a common misconception that only unsuitable or badly behaved animals come through shelters, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – there is nearly every species and breed of animal you can think of in need of homes. It is important to be a part of the solution and not the problem; if you are looking to add a special someone to the family make sure to adopt and never shop – you could save someone’s life. 

Helpful link: https://www.petrescue.com.au/ 

Have you considered fostering?

Rescue groups are always looking for kind, loving and responsible people to temporarily house and care for animals awaiting their forever home. Foster carers play a vital role in the rescue and rehabilitation of abandoned, mistreated or unwanted animals. If you have the space, time and dedication, but are not looking to make a long term commitment, foster caring might be the perfect fit for you.

Not looking to adopt but want to help out, why not volunteer or donate?

You can donate or volunteer with a local rescue group or animal shelter to assist them in caring for displaced animals while they await new loving homes. Rescue groups spend a significant amount of money caring for and rehabilitating animals, in addition to the huge amount of time it takes their employees and volunteers to do so. Your time and financial assistance can make an incredible difference. 

Oscar’s Law is an incredible organisation to donate towards, to assist in campaigning against cruel puppy farming in Australia 

Alix Livingstone

Alix Livingstone is the Campaign Director of Kindness Project. Working in animal rights for the last four years, she has spent this time investigating, researching, writing, speaking, and educating on the different ways in which animals are exploited, particularly in our food system. Alix has a particular passion for advocating in the space where wildlife and farmed animals intersect and her work focuses closely on this area. Alix holds a Bachelor in Education and worked with children for a number of years whilst volunteering for animal protection groups, before having the privilege of working in animal rights full-time. Alix believes that the only way to dismantle the animal industrial complex is through advocating for all who are harmed by it; humans, non-human animals, and the planet alike. Alix trusts that through building community, empowering its members, and forging systemic solutions, a better world for all can be discovered.

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