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Saturday, September 25, 2021

FAQ - Field Officers

Dogs Victoria employs a full-time Field Officer to assist and educate Dogs Victoria members and affiliates to ensure they fulfil their obligations as responsible dog owners and breeders.

The Field Officer reports to both the Dogs Victoria Administrator and the Breeder Committee.

FIELD OFFICER VISITS

Why does Dogs Victoria undertake Field Officer visits?

The Dogs Victoria Field Officer undertakes inspections of Dogs Victoria members’ facilities to ensure they meet the minimum standards for the quality of life, health and wellbeing of dogs.

All Dogs Victoria members agree to be bound by our governing framework, which includes:

Dogs Victoria is approved by the Victorian Government as an ‘Applicable Organisation’ under provisions in the Domestic Animals Act 1994. As an Applicable Organisation, Dogs Victoria must educate and monitor our members’ adherence to the governing framework.

What happens during a Field Officer visit?

Dogs Victoria will notify members in writing when they are approved for a Field Officer visit. Next, the Field Officer will contact the member directly to schedule an appropriate day and time for the visit.

The Field Officer visit is a standardised procedure to ensure consistency and fairness:

  • The visit commences with an introduction and briefing;
  • The Field Officer will ask to view the dog housing, feeding and exercise areas; and ask members about their husbandry procedures, including veterinary care, hygiene and enrichment;
  • All dogs on the premises at the time of inspection will be examined and scanned with a microchip reader;
  • The Field Officer will ask breeding members to present their records for inspection, and discuss their whelping, rearing and sale/disposal procedures;
  • The Field Officer may note any other general observations; and
  • Both parties will sign a statement confirming the visit has taken place.

The Field Officer will document the visit. For transparency, a copy of the report is provided to the member afterwards via post or email.

A primary aim of the Field Officer program is to identify any areas for improvement for Dogs Victoria members to increase compliance with the governing framework.

In a broader sense, the Field Officer program will help identify trends and patterns that may provide further insight to improve the educational offerings of Dogs Victoria.

How are members selected for a Field Officer visit?

All Dogs Victoria members should reasonably expect a Field Officer visit at some point during their membership. Dogs Victoria has thousands of members across the state and only one Field Officer located in metropolitan Melbourne.

Accordingly, the selection strategy for Field Officer visits is set at a committee level and primarily focuses on visiting our breeding members. To ensure the efficient use of Dogs Victoria resources and due to state-wide travel distances, geographical reasons can influence selection for a Field Officer visit.

Members may also be selected for Field Officer visit for a specific purpose, including: registration issues such as colour inspections or DNA collection, or as directed by the Compliance Committee for alleged or suspected non-compliance (such as advertising issues, complaints, welfare issues, etc.). 

Members may also request a Field Officer visit if they feel they need assistance or when required to, such as to apply for reinstatement after a period of suspension.

Who authorises a Field Officer visit?

The Management Committee authorises Field Officer visits under VCA Regulations:

“3.7.7 It shall be a condition of membership that a person, or persons, so authorised by Management Committee may inspect the premises of any member and examine the dogs on the premises at that time.”

“4.3.1 A member shall keep proper records of their breeding activities and all such records so kept shall be open for inspection by any person authorised by Management Committee. Any such person shall be at liberty to take extracts therefrom.”

Management Committee has delegated responsibility to the Chief Executive to initiate internal arrangements; however, Management Committee can also issue their own directives.

Are Field Officer visits mandatory?

Yes, members must comply when requested to facilitate a Field Officer visit. If a member refuses to facilitate a Field Officer visit, their membership may be placed on immediate suspension until the inspection has occurred. Refer to VCA Regulation:

“3.7.7.1 Failure by a member to facilitate an inspection by the Field Officer of the member’s premises and to examine the dogs without reasonable cause shall result in immediate suspension of the member’s privileges until that inspection has taken place.”

How can members prepare for a Field Officer visit?

Dogs Victoria recommends that members familiarise themselves with the following VCA Regulations:

  • 3.7.7 Management Committee authorisation of Field Officer visits
  • 4.3 Breeding Records
  • 20.1 Code of Practice (Ethics, Breeding and General)
  • 20.8 Code of Practice for Breeding Animal Health Management

For ease of reference, a 20-page extract of these Regulations (as at 15 March 2021) is available for download here. See the full VCA Regulations for the latest version.

For transparency, a template copy of the Field Officer – Record of Audit/Inspection V1.1 is available for download here.

What are the possible outcomes of a Field Officer visit?

The Field Officer report is graded on the following scale:

Satisfactory Satisfactory, with Education Provided Unsatisfactory Welfare Concerns
Score: 76%-100% Score: 51%-75% Score: 0%-50% Score: N/A
Other contributors:
No welfare concerns No welfare concerns Possible welfare concerns Welfare concerns
  Education provided, and member accepts the recommendations Education provided, but the member does not accept recommendations Dogs require veterinary treatment
    More than ten fertile female bitches without a permit Failure to provide shelter, food, or water

Please be assured that the Dogs Victoria Field Officer (and Dogs Victoria as a whole) will take measures to assist members within the scope of the Rules/Regulations.

Inspections/audits rated Unsatisfactory or Welfare Concerns may be referred to Dogs Victoria Management staff, the Management Committee, the Compliance Committee, or the Breeder Committee, dependent on the individual member’s circumstances.

To ensure the process is objective and fair, Dogs Victoria Management staff or the relevant Committee will decide if a supplementary Field Officer visit is appropriate.

Does Dogs Victoria report to Government agencies?

Dogs Victoria as an ‘Applicable Organisation’ has statutory obligations under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 and Domestic Animal Regulations 2015.  An example of such is Dogs Victoria must submit an Annual Report to the Victorian Government of certain information, including the number of site inspections undertaken and the number and type of events of non-compliance with our governing framework.

When requested by Authorised Officers of law enforcement agencies such as Council, RSPCA and Victoria Police, Dogs Victoria must disclose necessary information for Authorised Officers to properly execute their duties under legislation.

It is important to note that the Field Officer is not an Authorised Officer under the legislation, and the role is to assist and support members through education.

The Field Officer may act as an intermediary between Dogs Victoria members and Authorised Officers, where doing so would represent the organisation’s or the member’s best interests. These cases involve oversight from Dogs Victoria Management staff or the relevant Committee.

CONTACT

To request a Field Officer visit or to speak with the Field Officer, please refer to the contact information on our Dogs Victoria Staff webpage.