SPCA advocates that farm dogs must only be kept where a person has the knowledge, ability, and means to provide them with a Good Life where they experience positive welfare and their physical, health and behavioural needs are met for their whole life.
Farm dogs are working dogs used on farm to assist with moving farmed animals, usually sheep or cattle. SPCA recognises that farm dogs play an important role on the farm and typically benefit from physical exercise and mental enrichment while working closely with their handler.
SPCA is concerned about access to veterinary treatment for farm dogs.
SPCA advocates that farm dogs must be provide with appropriate health care in accordance with veterinary advice across the animal’s lifetime. Farm dogs require both preventive and therapeutic health care (e.g. vaccinations, parasite control, treatment and monitoring of health problems or injuries, and desexing, if not intended for breeding).
Owners should also be able to recognise the decline in an animal’s quality of life, and decisions should be made in consultation with a veterinarian regarding reduction of work, retirement or, in more serious cases, appropriate end-of-life care (e.g. palliative care, hospice, euthanasia).
SPCA advocates that all farm dogs housed outside must be provided with insulated kennels with raised beds and offered appropriate bedding. Kennel runs must allow sufficient space to urinate and defecate away from sleeping and eating areas.
SPCA opposes prolonged tethering or confinement of dogs.
The nature of farm work can mean that dogs are worked sporadically. As a result, some farm dogs could go without the exercise and enrichment associated with work for extended periods, leading to negative welfare. It is important that dogs are provided with daily access to exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction and that the dog’s housing provides a warm, comfortable environment, and dogs are able to toilet away from eating and sleeping areas.
SPCA advocates that farm dogs are trained using low-stress, force-free training methods, which focus on positive reinforcement.
Consideration should also be given to the welfare of other animals who may be involved in the process of training farm dogs.
SPCA advocates that care is taken when transporting farm dogs on the open deck or open trailer of a moving motor vehicle.
SPCA acknowledges that farm dogs actively involved in driving or managing livestock are exempt from the legal requirement that dogs must be secured in a way that prevents them from falling off or hanging off the open deck or open trailer of a moving motor vehicle on a public road. However, SPCA urges the use of cautious and considerate driving techniques to minimise the risk of dogs falling (e.g. avoid hard braking or acceleration, gentle cornering, etc).
SPCA advocates that farmers should maintain responsibility for all the dogs they breed or otherwise acquire as working dogs. This should include consideration of their future welfare if they prove to be unsuitable for work or are no longer able to work.
Farm dogs are typically selected for high activity levels and intelligence, which means they can easily become bored and frustrated. SPCA advocates for consideration of how a dog’s exercise and enrichment needs will be met if they are unable to work.
In some cases this may include facilitating adoption into a home as a companion animal. SPCA advocates for early socialisation practices to reduce stress throughout their lives and improve potential adoption success.