BIG BREED: Susan Simons with her Alaskan malamute Willow. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
BIG BREED: Susan Simons with her Alaskan malamute Willow. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

Another dog from Gympie breeder with genetic disorders

WHEN Susan and Geoff Simons purchased a beautiful malamute pup four years ago, little did they know they would be thrown into years of genetic health problems.

Their dog, Willow, was purchased from Peter and Faith Dykstra of Sandown Alaskan Malamutes in Chatsworth and has been suffering with hip dysplasia due to the negligence of the breeders.

"She was diagnosed just before her second birthday. I didn't know when I bought her but I got involved in malamute rescue groups about six months after I got her and started to hear more and more about others having issues with the breeders," Mrs Simons said.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder that causes the ball of the hip to not sit properly in its socket, causing pain, restricting movement and leading to arthritis.

Mrs Simons said Willow's hip dysplasia would get worse in time and that it had already cost a pretty penny in vet visits.

"So far we manage her with a six monthly injection which is $90 each time, supplements and anti-inflammatorys. We took her to the vet recently because she is starting to get worse and that was a $350 visit," she said.

"She hurts herself weekly. If she has to have both hips replaced it will cost $12,000 for the surgery."

When Mrs Simons found out about the disorder, she contacted the breeders to inform them and was told that they weren't the problem.

"Peter came back to me via email stating that I had caused it myself and that Willow was underweight. She is actually the perfect weight for her age," she said.

That prompted Mrs Simons to create a Facebook group, where she found a lot of people with similar stories.

"A group of us then decided to go to Office of Fair Trade to get something done," she said.

The two Gympie dog breeders were on Wednesday ordered to pay $22,143.35 collectively in fines and compensation by the Gympie Magistrates Court after being charged by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for making false and misleading claims about their dogs.

Mr Dykstra, 79, and Mrs Dykstra, 72, were each found guilty on seven counts and pleaded guilty to a further two counts of engaging in misleading conduct in connection with the sale of goods, an offence under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The sale of pets is captured under the ACL which means businesses must not make false claims about their characteristics.

The court heard that between October 2011 and December 2013, Mr and Mrs Dykstra sold Alaskan malamute dogs to consumers, several of whom later complained to the OFT after the dogs developed symptoms of the genetic condition hip dysplasia.

The OFT investigation found Mr and Mrs Dykstra misled the consumers by claiming the condition was not genetic. They instead blamed the consumers for causing any ill health conditions by providing an incorrect diet.

In January 2014, the pair advertised in a local newspaper claiming their breeding program was "15 years free of genetic defects", despite being informed of numerous instances of dogs purchased from them having hip dysplasia.

The court heard the malamute puppies were sold to consumers for between $800 and $1000 and the defendants did not test their breeding stock for genetic conditions.

Several scientific studies confirm hip dysplasia has a genetic component and Mr and Mrs Dykstra were provided this information in July 2011 by an Alaskan malamute club in Victoria, several months prior to their first offence.

The Gympie breeders are also not registered with any Alaskan malamute breeders clubs.

In sentencing, the court considered Mr and Mrs Dykstra's motive in justifying selling dogs with genetic defects as having a wilful disregard for scientific facts and lack of responsibility when making representations to the community.

Mr Dykstra was fined $14,000 and ordered to pay $1143.35 in compensation to a consumer affected by their offending, while Mrs Dykstra was fined $7000 for the same offences under parity principals.

The court also ordered Mr and Mrs Dykstra to issue a public apology and provide written notice to prospective buyers, at least 48 hours prior to sale, stating their breeding stock was not screened for hip dysplasia.

Mrs Simons said she was relieved with the outcome.

"It is a weight off my shoulders because it has been going on for a long time," she said.

"It has been heartbreaking to watch Willow in pain. She is our baby and we want to give her the best life possible."

"I just want to get the message out to people to be aware that, just because they are not buying their dogs from Sandown, it still could be a pup bred from a Sandown dog so do your research."

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