New Startup Creates Database to End Pet Heartbreak

Waffle the Dog

Four Sydney mates have created a start-up platform to take the cruelty of badly-treated dogs massed produced by unscrupulous breeders in puppy farms being offered for sale as family pets.

Nick Figliano, a 20-year-old University of Technology student in Sydney, wants his new website to raise standards of dog breeding and force unscrupulous breeders out of business.

ThePETspot.com.au will provide a forum where dog buyers can get guidance about their intended pet, the background of its breeder and exchange online experiences they have had with various breeders.

Nick’s push for greater scrutiny of dog breeding came when he suffered the personal heartbreak when his childhood pet, Rocky, a white Labrador, died of old age.

A grieving Nick, looked for a puppy on line. What he discovered filled him with horror.  

“I visited six breeders of labradors and golden retrievers and four of them had distressing conditions in their kennels,” he said.

“The puppies were eating and defecating in tiny cages. They did not look healthy at all. I reported the breeders to the RSPCA.”  

Puppy mills are big business in various parts of Australia as greedy breeders subject adult females to dreadful conditions and mate them incessantly to produce high-priced puppies that are keenly sought by unsuspecting buyers who have no idea of the heartless conditions their pet has endured.  

Nick didn’t want anyone else, looking online to buy a dog or cat, to be duped by unscrupulous, unregistered breeders.  

 “At the moment on most major pet seller websites you can post the breeder or shelter without any background checks,” he explained. 

To offer some protection Nick and three 21-year-old mates Joseph Commisso, who owns a beagle, Jersey Cavanna and Matthew Laforce, started their breeder and shelter registration regulatory body.

His starter-upper, ThePETspot.com.au, aims to go live in July. It will be the first all-in-one pet shopper’s website, according to Nick.

“It’s the first in the Australian marketplace to use strict vetting processes that helps simplify finding a pet from trusted breeders, shelters or rescues,” he said.    

Most importantly, breeders on ThePETstop must be members in good standing of two regulatory, investigative bodies.

For dogs it is the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and for cats, the Australian National Cats Inc. (ANCATS).     

“Creating a central website that cross checks government and legitimate websites with oversight of the breed will help shut down puppy factories,” he said.  

Around 450,000 puppies are sold each year in Australia. But only 15 percent of them are sold through breeders who are registered with top breeding associations.  

Down the road, Nick and his three co-founders will conduct spot-checks at breeder locations. “We want to set our own standard which is even higher than what we have in place in every state now,” he said,    

“It’ll provide peace of mind that the pets purchased have been raised in loving, nurturing conditions,” he said.    

The PETspot will also provide the pet community with a voice, because each user can review their experiences with breeders, shelters, and services.  

Aussies love their pets

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. About 62 percent of households own a pet. We own about 24 million dogs, cats, horses, birds and other animals, according to the RSPCA.  

That’s approximately 4.8 million dogs, or 20 dogs for every 100 people.  

In addition to ThePETstop acting as a central marketplace, Nick said he will only accept advertising from breeders he has personally vetted and approved.  

The website will make money by offering premium space to advertisers, such as veterinarians, groomers and trainers and breeders in good standing.  

ThePETstop’s main function, the breeder search registry, is free.   

“Hopefully we can make a good impact on the pet landscape in Australia,” he added.

As for finding a new best buddy, Nick is planning to adopt a Japanese hunting dog from a rescue shelter. 

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Weak laws

Puppy factories have long been getting away with unknown factors like selling sick, neglected dogs as well as starving puppies wallowing in filth and locked up in tiny, damp cages.

If the unscrupulous breeder is caught, the punishment is likely to be a mere slap on the wrist with a fine and no jail time. And it doesn’t prevent the convicted breeder from restarting their illegal business, often under a different name and at a new location.     

The puppy factories can rake in the big bucks with as many as 20 to 1,000 female dogs kept perpetually pregnant, according to animal rights group PETA.  

The farms are legal in Australia as long as the animals are given sufficient food, water, and shelter, according to PETA. 

In Victoria, the government has made a concerted effort to shut down these barbaric sites. NSW has yet to take similar tough measures, however from July, owners must microchip any dog or cat by the age of 12 weeks or risk a $180 fine. Sadly, puppy farms are legal in NSW with no limit on the number of dogs or litters. A Code of Practice is not linked to any legislation, so inspections by authorities are rare.