The Number Twenty

In response to the news that the City of Calgary will be considering a pet sale ban in the fall (hooray!) and that Mississauga, Ontario is poised to become the third Canadian city with a pet sale ban, the National Post printed the article Cities barking up wrong tree with pet sale ban, critics say.

The criticism the headline alludes to – that retail pet sales should not be a municipal concern – has already been addressed many times over the course of discussion on this topic, which apparently had been missed by the Post:  here, from when Richmond, B.C., instated their ban; and here, readily available on the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) website.

Therefore, I am not going to revisit that issue at this time.

Instead, I would like to focus on something the Petland representative said in his quote to the National Post, which was “We carry about 20 puppies in my store at any given time.”

This figure is about right, because I went into that mall Petland location, which sells dogs from “Petland Certified Breeders” (whatever that means), this week and counted over 15 puppies on display.

Back when I went on my fact-finding field trip to Petland, staff there informed me a puppy is in the store for an average of about 10 days before it is sold – same day as arrival sales are not unheard of, but 10 days is the average.

So, if the average stock of that one store is 20 dogs, there for 10 days, I think it is reasonable to conclude that store sells approximately 60 puppies per month.  That would result in an estimate of 720 per year.

And I can’t tell you otherwise, since a lack of transparency on Petland’s part doesn’t only mean no breeder or inspection information.  So I’m going to move forward on the information I have and welcome any clarifications.

In addition, unlike rescue organizations, where the pets you adopt are spayed/neutered prior to them going home with you, pet store puppies usually come intact, with only a $50 incentive to get them fixed down the road (noting the costs of spaying/neutering in this city are ridiculously high, though the City does have its No-Cost Spay/Neuter Program to assist low income residents).

The risks of 720 (which are some sort of unregistered purebred “type”) unfixed puppies entering Calgary’s pet community are obvious, but here’s an illustration of what two can do.

Photo from

Suffice it to say that backyard breeders and so-called “oopsie” litters are a major contributor to pet overpopulation and the hundreds of ads you see on Kijiji.  And if these people are getting their breeding animals from stores, the stores are not helping combat this problem.

There is also another way to look at this number 20.

Twenty is the number of dogs currently up for adoption through the City’s Animal Services.  These are stray or unclaimed dogs in need of rehoming, which the City also spays/neuters before they go out for adoption.  This figure does not include the dogs that are simply impounded.

Instead of a turnaround of 10 days for these dogs, based on the ones it currently lists, it looks like the average stay for an adoptable dog at Animal Services is over a month, with many having been there for over two months.

Based on the 2010 report numbers, the City adopts out 9% of the dogs that end up its care, which works out to about 390 dogs per year, or about 30 per month.  86% of dogs get returned to their owners, and the remaining percent would be dogs that do not get adopted or are deemed not fit for adoption.

In other words, the retail pet sales from one store are double the City’s adoptions.

I do not know the daily cost to house a dog or cat at the City’s Animal Services, but these are costs that are paid out of the City’s budget, and other municipalities have released figures we can use to estimate the cost.

So, using the $15/day figure (not including staff salaries and other overheads, extra medical costs, microchipping, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and your complementary adoption kit and food), and knowing the average stay for a dog at Calgary Animal Services is over a month ($15 × 35 days), the average cost for a dog or cat to stay at Animal Services is at least $525 – which is obviously not fully covered by a $200 adoption fee (or $150 for a cat).

This means that the City pays at least $300 for each adoptable animal in its care.  And multiply that by the 390 dogs adopted per year, that’s a minimum cost of $117,000.   For the approximate 235 cats they adopt in a year (again based on the 2010 report, that’s another $82,250 (at the cost of $350 per animal, since the adoption fee is only $150).

Sure, it’s an intentionally low and very rough estimate, but it works out to at least $199,250 of Calgary’s dollars directly spent per year on housing, caring for, and adopting out animals.

And this figure does not include animals that are impounded, or animals that are housed and cared for but never eventually adopted or later deemed not fit for adoption.

Now imagine if the retail front, which sells 720 dogs per year, switched and gave exposure to the City’s 390 adoptable dogs per year.  And lets include the 235 cats, too.   Not only would the animals find homes faster, be adopted out already spayed and neutered so they couldn’t contribute to overpopulation (and the intake of the City, the Calgary Humane Society, and the other dozens of local rescues), but there are indirect benefits, too: people would be more exposed to and therefore better educated about ethical pet procurement generally.

But my point right now is: a retail pet sale ban would cost the City less.

Now imagine the pet stores decide it’s once again financially beneficial to sell animals and reinstate the practice – if one store can stock 20 dogs at once and sell about 720 per year, how many can 8 stores sell?

Sure, the courts have determined that “promoting the welfare of animals provides an intangible moral benefit to humanity in general“, but, as you can see, there’s a financial benefit to consider, too.  So if concerns about unethical breeding and selling of companion animals don’t speak to you, maybe some numbers and financials will.  If a pet sale ban can reduce unwanted pets and save money, what has the City got to lose?

After all, if pet over population is directly costing municipalities money, why wouldn’t they look at and implement all possible solutions?

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

11 Responses to The Number Twenty

  1. 2browndawgs says:

    Interesting post. I see your point, but I am not sure all of your assumptions are correct. If a store was selling 720 puppies a year with health issues, don’t you think word would get out pretty quickly? In these days of the Internet don’t most people google? Gosh in the pure-bred world, a breeder selling unfit dogs, word spreads around like wild fire.

    I am not sure what your definition of backyard breeder is, but I know some very reputable breeders who advertise on Kijiji. Too long to go into here, but briefly, the pups are not de-sexed (there is real evidence that early de-sexing can cause big time health issues later). They do limit the purchasers ability to sell any pups should the dog eventually reproduce. They are selling offspring of their Champions with all health clearances so not exactly an inexpensive proposition or oops.

    But that is not the real point of your post. I know everyone wants to think that if people just see adoptable pets they will fall in love and they will all find homes. I do not believe that is the reality. Not everyone wants a shelter dog and all the baggage that can go along. I would argue that not everyone is prepared for the baggage that goes along. If people really wanted to get serious about clearing out the shelters they would lower those adoption fees. I would never pay $200 for a shelter dog with no history or health clearances. There I said it. The facts are that municipalities should not be in the business of running shelters because of the cost. I think that is a job better left to the private sector. Or as we have here, a group adopts a city shelter and become friends of the xyz animal shelter. They fund raise and foster where they can. (I donate to one of these regularly). They also get the word out about the dogs and cats and help to socialize them. And they find different places to hold adoption events outside of pet stores, such as festivals, farmer’s markets, the zoo. Since they provide funding, they keep adoption fees low. If people really really want to help, I think this is a great way and would move far more shelter dogs than worrying about what a retail store is doing. Is this scenario not a possibility in Canada?

    • thatjenk says:

      Though I know we’ve never agreed on the idea of a legislated retail pet sale ban, I actually think a lot of your arguments above equally apply to pet stores. The animals sold there are not sold with any lineage or health information, and while the customer is expected to trust the company has done its due diligence screening its breeders, without any information on that screening process, it’s hard to do. Do the best practices always result from self-regulation?

      Since the inception of ASLC, I have been approached and emailed with dozens of stories about seriously ill dogs and cats obtained from retail environments, so while I was initially concerned with the breeding environment, impulse purchases, and the marketing of pets as commodities, it really opened my eyes to the consequences the buyers can later face.

      And while an adoption fee for a rescue may set you back $200 (to compensate for medical costs of the animal while in the rescue’s care), it makes even less sense to be buying a dog from a storefront that cannot be classified as purebred because it is unregistered (noting kennel clubs do not permit retail sales) with a price tag of over $1000.

      The issue of pure bred rescue – often affiliated with the local kennel club – further muddies the water. We gave a $250 donation for Alma as our adoption fee, knowing she is from an AKC breeder a few communities over (had she not been adopted in a couple of weeks, the breeder had wanted her back in his care to rehome her himself, so she was not a burden on the rescue).

      As for backyard breeders, that title doesn’t include those responsible, caring breeders who are affiliated with kennel clubs and do the proper health clearances – even if they advertise on Kijiji. The term is to refer to breeding and care practices, not any advertising strategies.

      I also completely agree with your concerns about pre-pubertal spaying and neutering (especially with giant breed dogs), and it was a major factor for us and Moses. But I think for the average pet owner who may not be as informed as you, erring on the side to prevent over population outweighs those concerns.

      As for the baggage of rescue animals, no not everyone wants that (even though I could argue that assumption may be broader than its reality). But those people should either look to rescue puppies (too young for “baggage”) or reputable breeders – there’s really no shortage of either.

      As always, thanks for the lively discussion!

      • 2browndawgs says:

        Maybe I painted with a bit of a broad brush regarding recuses and whether people want or are capable of caring for the challenges those dogs may pose. But spending as much time with dogs as I do, I have heard many horror stories. I have seen them with my own eyes. More than a few. I guess it is like your assumption on the health of pet store dogs. If we hear the stories, it is reality to us.

        I do enjoy your posts and thinking through these issues. I guess we will agree to disagree on many of them. 🙂

        Just to be clear, I am not in favor of people buying from a pet store, or buying expensive designer breeds. I have warned people off these. I have even warned a friend off a breeder I did not feel did the minimum of health clearances. In all cases the person went through with the purchase. So it did not matter, pet store, designer dog off the net, breeder, all dogs I would not have purchased. Luckily I was wrong and so far the dogs seem to be working out.

  2. Very well thought out post, and I totally love your logic. The picture w/the Goldens and their pups sure puts into perspective how much harm two unfixed dogs can do. I understand not everyone wants a shelter pup, but there are tons of rescue groups and reputable breeders out there for purebred dogs…I really see no need to buy a pup from a pet-store.

  3. jt8675309 says:

    Maybe for your next article, you could ask the City of Calgary and the Calgary Humane Society about the offers they have had to feature and showcase their adoption animals in retail storefronts. Ask them what politics are getting in their way. Ask them what’s more important, saving lives or something else?

    • thatjenk says:

      I completely agree. If the stores are asking to partner with a rescue and use the adoption model, past practice should not make the decision, and politics and ego should be set aside to do what is best for the pets.

  4. Pingback: If Pets Were Products « Back Alley Soapbox

  5. Pingback: Mississauga and the political fight to end puppy mills « Christie Lagally

  6. gold price says:

    Yes, goldfish. And guppies, gobies, gouramies, glowlight tetras, German blue rams. No fish, no fowl, no reptiles, no amphibians, no cats, no dogs, no gerbils, no rats. If it flies, crawls, runs, swims or slithers, you would not be able to buy it in the city named for the patron saint of animals.

  7. Pingback: BtC4A: Uniting for Rescue « Back Alley Soapbox

  8. silver price says:

    In 2010, the West Hollywood City Council in California voted to ban pet stores that sell any live animals unless those stores sell rescued animals or animals bred in humane conditions. The city grandfathered in current pet stores to allow them time to adjust.

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