A chance sighting on Friday led to the City of Ballarat and the RSPCA seizing 53 dogs from a Ballarat breeder who is now accused of running an intensive breeding operation and cruelty.
Fiona McCoy from Maryheather Kennels said she recognised they should have registered the working dogs and domestic operation but denied running a “puppy farm” or hiding them to avoid a planned council inspection.
Authorities found 57 dogs in the reserve on the corner of the Ring Road and McKenzie Drive on Friday, a mix of kelpies, border collies, Australian cattle dogs and stumpy tail cattle dogs. Four were not seized.
RSPCA Inspectorate and Special Investigations Unit manager Allie Jalbert said Ms McCoy had purposefully tried to hide the size of the operation from inspectors.
“Allegedly these dogs had been brought, in packed cages, from an intensive breeding facility, as the operators of the facility were believed to be attempting to hide the dogs whilst a scheduled inspection was being undertaken by the local council,” she said.
A Ballarat council spokeswoman confirmed the dogs had been left in the park before an inspection.
“A total of 57 dogs were located at the reserve, unattended and in cages, without adequate care. The animals were identified as belonging to the owner of the property to be inspected,” she said.
Ms McCoy denied trying to dupe the council.
She said they had brought in dogs from all over the state before transporting them north to a property near Wodonga.
“It was just a case of ‘the opportunity’s here (with transport), let’s just go’,” she said.
She said the council notice had said the property would be inspected but did not think to let them know she would be moving that group of dogs out that morning.
“I often move dogs to shows. I don’t ring the council every time I move dogs.”
The spokeswoman said the inspection had been prompted by a concerned neighbour.
Ms McCoy said she was now concerned about the welfare of the dogs, as they would not be easily re-homed.
She said they had helped council and RSPCA on Friday, and she was now letting down farmers who had been promised dogs, including people who had lost dogs in South Australian bushfires.
Peter Senior, a friend of Ms McCoy’s who was there on Friday morning, said it was laughable she permanently kept that many dogs at her suburban home.
“They’d be stacked one on top of another,” he said.
Mr Senior said his dogs were among those seized, and he was shocked at how the dogs were treated on Friday morning.
Additionally, he said he still had not been told where his or McCoy’s dogs had been taken.
The RSPCA said there was an ongoing investigation. No charges have been laid.