By Angelo Risso
It’s the photo that galvanised more than 70,000 signatures, but it may not be exactly as it seems.
The image of the injured beagle puppy, which has a bandaged leg and a cone around its neck, went viral on social media two weeks ago after being published on the Facebook page of animal advocacy group ‘Oscar’s Law’.
The puppy was for sale at a pet store in the Westfield shopping complex in Carindale, Brisbane. The Facebook post spawned a change.org petition calling for the prohibition of live animal sales in Westfield shopping malls, signed by more than 70,000 people.
But the RSPCA has defended the pet shop owner, labelling the social media campaign “totally berserk”.
RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty told City News the owner of the Companion Petz store, Scott Sheppard, has taken care of the injured puppy adequately, and that the RSPCA is fully satisfied with his efforts.
“The vet concerned had no qualms whatsoever that the pet store owners were doing the best they possibly could by the injured puppy. We said that we had investigated the matter and we were well and truly satisfied that there was nothing wrong,” Mr Beatty said.
“Unfortunately people just kept carrying on, and to be honest I feel sorry for the owners.”
Mr Sheppard said he planned to take the animal home but decided against placing the puppy in an animal carrier as it became too distressed.
The Queensland Code of Practice for pet shops requires that no sick or injured animals be on public display. However, the code is not mandatory.
President of Oscar’s Law Debra Tranter said that was a poor excuse for inaction, and that there were a variety of superior alternatives available for injured pets.
“The pet shop has the option of placing that puppy in foster care in a home environment so it could heal and recoup,” she said.
Ms Tranter said Australians should purchase their pets from registered breeders rather than pet stores.
“It’s not acceptable to display animals as products in glass windows. It’s a critical period of socialisation in a puppy’s life.”
Lynda Stoner of the Sydney-based Animal Liberation advocacy group said pet stores lend themselves to impulse purchases, often to the detriment of the pet.
“People tend to buy these animals on the spot, and they’re ill-equipped to look after them,” she said.
“These animals get sent to pounds to be killed, and so the cycle just goes on and on.”
In February, the NSW government flagged support for a number of recommendations including the creation of an official breeder licensing system, encouraging people to buy pets from rescue organisations and greater grant funding for microchipping and desexing programs.
These measures follow on from long-term pressure applied by Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who in 2007 unsuccessfully attempted to ban live animal sales in pet stores.
Westfield did not respond to requests for comment.