Oversupply of animals

AS Australia’s population becomes bigger and more urbanised, the issue of companion animals becomes harder to address.

While more people are being forced to live closer together than ever before, their desire to keep pets is not abating.

That means more pet animals are living in closer proximity to humans. It also means more of those pets are living in smaller yards and houses and living closer to neighbours.

Dogs and cats need space, exercise and stimulation and many people are slow to recognise their fundamental inability to provide for those needs.

Thousands of unwanted pets are being euthanised in the Hunter each year as a result of this mismatch, yet an entire breeding industry continues to pump out animals for a largely ill-informed market.

Regular reports of dogs attacking humans or other animals, of cruelty and neglect against pets and of commercial exploitation of companion animals are forcing governments – in some cases perhaps reluctantly – to take steps to address some of the more obvious issues.

The Society of Companion Animal Rescuers has suggested that mandatory desexing of dogs – with penalties for owners who don’t comply – coupled with a licensing system for breeders, might help reduce the supply of unwanted animals.

A state government taskforce has also backed breeder licensing. It has, however, favoured offering incentives to dog owners to have their pets desexed, suggesting people are more likely to respond to a cash rebate than the threat of a penalty.

That is probably true of most people, but those dog breeders who choose to remain unlicensed – or who argue that they aren’t really dog breeders because they don’t derive most of their income from this activity – would hardly be likely to seek a cash rebate for desexing their breeding stock.

While these and other possible future legislative measures are debated, question marks continue to hang over the enforcement of existing companion animal laws.

Recent attacks on people by dogs that have been the subject of previous complaints to councils have raised queries about local government interpretation of dangerous dog provisions and about the broader issue of duty of care.

Resolving these queries about existing laws is probably more urgent than introducing new ones.

A PROPER study of pipi populations on Port Stephens beaches should take place before commercial harvesting is recommenced. The once-immense populations of the popular bivalve crashed after years of heavy harvesting. At one time, buses full of Sydney people would converge on the beaches each weekend, removing huge quantities of the mollusc.

After a moratorium on harvesting the numbers are recovering, but they remain well short of past populations and the average size of the shellfish is reportedly still small. The government seems set to end the moratorium. By all accounts that may well prove to be a mistake.

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