PUPPY FARMS

REPORTER: Jonathan Creek

Once, we were a country built on the sheep's back. Now there are times you'd be forgiven for thinking: we're a puppy farm. Happy dogs roaming paddocks all destined for pet shops and designer dogs, made to order and selling for prices that rival a small mortgage.

Dogs in all shapes and sizes. Loyal companions, close mates....no longer do they choose us..we choose them right down to their genetic make up. Designer dogs, bred to please but when was the last time you thought about where the family pet really comes from? A public that's buying up dogs at a record rate. And with increased demand comes increased business opportunities meaning "puppy farms" are booming. Like most businesses breeders resort to gimmicks to entice the buyer schnauzers crossed with poodles or "scnoodles" and pugs crossed with cavaliers, known as pugaliers, now the latest must have breed.

And with half a million dogs sold in pet shops across Australia each year, with prices ranging from five hundred to fourteen hundred dollars, it's a lucrative business. It's no surprise that animal liberationists are against the farming of dogs. They claim the dogs are kept pregnant, which makes perfect business sense more pups means more profits. Animal rights activist Debra Rigaldi is campaigning to shut all puppy farms down. This video was taken by her team in an attempt to capture the poor conditions. They then use it to shame the authorities to act.

Debra's already had success, forcing a farm in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, to close after a very public ten year battle. All claims denied by the owners Colin Hams and his son Matt. They are the other side of the argument.

Colin and Matt have been running "ACA" breeding kennels for twenty years, and have close to three hundred dogs on site. When we arrived un -announced to discuss the vision taken by the animal liberationists. Colin and Matt invited us to take a look around for ourselves. Now I'm no expert but everything appeared at least clean. Colin and Matt don't shy away from the fact that they're involved in a controversial industry but find it unfair that they are now a target, particularly when they aren't breaking any laws. At ACA, Colin claims female dogs are restricted to two litters every eighteen months, as the regulations require.

Adult dogs are moved to a larger pen for four hours and day and those waiting to come into season are held in pens six times bigger than the minimum standard. Greg Boland is the chief inspector at the RSPCA in Victoria; the animal welfare organisation destroys nearly four thousand dogs a year. The RSPCA argues that puppy farms simply add to the death toll because there are too many animals already without a home. David Herman has moved to cash in on the change in public opinion. He operates pets at home. A pet shop that sources dumped animals from shelters. The initial response from the public has been so successful; David is already planning to expand and with puppy farms being established like never before it seems there won't ever be any problem with supply.