LOCAL dog breeders will be forced to cover the cost of Wellington Shire Council’s implementation of state legislation.
Council last week resolved to include a significant increase to registration fees for local animal breeding and rearing establishments within its draft 2015-16 budget.
The proposed increase, from $150 to $2500 per year with an additional $15 for each breeding female dog, will take effect from July 1.
Under the new fee structure, the shire’s largest dog breeder, Banksia Park Puppies, will pay more than $7000, while three others will pay more than $4000.
Victorian councils are responsible for making sure all domestic animal businesses comply with relevant legislation. As Wellington Shire has the highest number of domestic animal breeding and rearing businesses in the state, 18, the impact of these changes on resourcing is substantial.
The workload associated with recent changes to the Domestic Animals Act 1994 and the code of practice have added a projected cost of $100,000 per year to Wellington Shire Council’s expenses.
No additional resources have been provided to help cover these costs.
As council did not consider it appropriate to use ratepayer funds to manage these cost, it will seek to fully subsidise the expense through a new fee structure.
The changes, introduced last year, were designed to improve the lives of dogs and cats used for breeding purposes.
Wellington Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley said council wholeheartedly supported the new minimum standards for accommodation, management, breeding and care of the animals involved in animal breeding and rearing businesses.
“These standards support both the physical and behavioural needs of animals used for breeding purposes,” she said.
“Wellington encourages and advocates for responsible animal management practices and ownership. Our local laws staff are heavily involved in educating the relevant business owners and operators of the new standards and making sure that they comply with all legislation.
“Any business which fails to comply will be subject to enforcement actions. These may involve court prosecutions.
“However, council does not believe that ratepayer funds should, in any way, subsidise the significant cost to council that ongoing auditing and enforcement requirements of these businesses impose on our budget.”
Information has been provided to each of the breeding and rearing businesses in Wellington Shire.
The business owners and operators were invited to meet with council staff and have been provided with an opportunity for individual discussion. They will have further opportunity for comment through the coming budget submissions period.
“Council staff have met with the majority of the 18 of these businesses in Wellington,” Cr Crossley said.
“Whilst we acknowledge that this fee increase will be significant, it means an additional cost of over $7000 to our largest dog breeder, we cannot ignore the cost to our staff’s workload as a result of these changes.
“Council does not support general ratepayer funds being used to pay for this increase. It seems more appropriate that the breeding and rearing establishments themselves cover the estimated $100,000 additional cost to council that auditing and enforcing these new standards will involve.”
Bankia Park owner Matt Hams welcomed the rate increase, claiming it would boost resources to crack down on unscrupulous and illegal operators.
“We have a strong record of transparency and maintain clean, open facilities,” he said.
“My key priority is always the health and happiness of our dogs, so anything that enforces this across all breeders will be good for the community and for animal welfare.
“As part of the government working group providing advice into regulation issues we helped ensure that Victoria has world’s best practice breeding standards and regulations.
“However like any regulation, these elite standards need to be strictly enforced to ensure the health and safety of dogs and puppies. This rates increase will boost Wellington Shire’s capacity to ensure animal welfare is being held to the highest standard, and in accordance with the law.
“When it comes to animal welfare, Banksia Park Puppies and the entire community expect nothing less.”