NARACOORTE Lucindale Council says a local "puppy farm" does comply with legislative requirements despite a damning report on Channel 9's TV news.
The report on Monday night - which has now been widely circulated through social media - said up to 150 dogs were being kept in sub-standard conditions at a property east of Naracoorte. It featured footage of the animals filmed by animal rights group Oscar's Law.
Oscar's Law president Debra Tranter told the Herald her group was adamant about the only course of action for the property, owned by an unidentified man: "We'd like to see it shut down completely."
But the council issued a statement in the wake of the story explaining that it was aware of the intensive dog breeding facility (puppy farm) and as far as it was able to ascertain, it complied with regulations.
The statement said the council was contacted about the property by the RSPCA a few months ago, but "on inspection it was found that the animals were in very good condition and well cared for, with a report back to the RSPCA stating the findings.
"Over the last few years council has visited the property five times; three of these visits have been with the RSPCA.
"The property owner has been operating a dog breeding business on the property for many years and has appropriate facilities for dog breeding in accordance with council's development plan requirements.
"On a recent visit, RSPCA and council officers reported that the dogs are mostly well cared for, however officers suggested that reducing the number of dogs on the property would improve care of the dogs.
"The property owner has been working with council and RSPCA to ensure all requirements of operating a dog breeding business are met. The property owner has registered and micro-chipped the dogs."
But the council stance has not convinced Ms Tranter, who said the farm was overstocked and dogs were being kept in below-par conditions when Oscar's Law members filmed their footage in the last week of July.
"The conditions were really bad," she said. "It was freezing when we were there, (the puppies) were outside in muddy dirt pens, surrounded by electric fences.
"There was no maternity area for birthing, they were unsupervised and being left to fend for themselves (after birthing). It was typical of these commercial breeding operations.
"We'd like to see it shut down completely. It's inherently cruel to keep dogs specifically for breeding purposes in these conditions."
Ms Tranter said the situation was frustrating, because the Oscar's Law group could only observe and pass on information to bodies like the RSPCA rather than take action itself.
"All we can do is report to the authorities, because we don't have power.
"He's not breaking the law, but the law is totally inadequate when it comes to protecting these dogs."
Oscar's Law was originally made aware of the situation at the Naracoorte property by an anonymous phone call following a raid on a puppy farm in the Adelaide Hills in June, when 100 dogs were rescued.
"That raid generated a lot of good media for us and a lot of phone calls, and the good thing is that we are starting to be known as an active body," Ms Tranter said.
RSPCA CEO Tim Vasudeva concurred with the council statement that the RSPCA had attended the property in question three times, and agreed their major concern was overstocking.
He said cases like the Naracoorte property underlined the challenges facing the RSPCA. The Animal Welfare Act was structured in such a way that bodies like the RSPCA could only be reactive in dealing with potentially harmful situations for animals, rather than being proactive.
"We're bound by the act," he said. "There's a perception that we can go and do what we want, but that's not the case."
Another major problem was that animal breeders weren't required to register their operations, meaning they could be in business for five, 10 years before coming under notice of the authorities.
"We're damn sure they're out there," he said. "But because they're not required to register that they're operating, they could go on for years doing what they like with no one knowing."
An additional challenge was that the RSPCA only had eight inspectors and five rescue officers to service the entire State because of its limited resources. It receives limited government funding but is forced to make up a significant funding shortfall through its own fundraising.
Pleasingly, Mr Vasudeva said the State Government had put together a select committee which after seeking feedback from industry and community representatives had made 12 positive recommendations.
They included that a breeder licensing system be introduced, involving the RSPCA so it could become actively involved in monitoring and supporting legitimate breeders, while weeding out rogue operators.
Mr Vasudeva said with the prevalence of pet owners in Australia, the vast majority of people would like to see more regulation in breeding operations.
"Sixty per cent of Australian households have a dog or a cat, and they don't want to be supporting cruel breeding practices," he said.