One Ban Down, One To Go

Today was a good day for Calgary – and I don’t just mean the end to 10 days of western-themed debauchery.

As I’ve written here previously, I support a ban on shark fin for Calgary, and today our City Council voted 13-2 to ban the  possession and sale of shark fin in Calgary!  City Council will even lobby for a federal ban!

It might seem a little bit odd to ban shark fins in land-locked Calgary, but cutting of the demand of this product in the few places that sells it not only chips away at a larger problem, but sends a large public message.

Sounds, familiar, doesn’t it?

While obviously my personal focus has been advocating the pet sale ban, I’ve also been following the shark fin ban campaign and progress.

And even though I may be a little envious that they seem to have mobilized after us and reached their goal before us, I’m of course thrilled the ban passed.

Because it really should help pave the way for ASLC and the pet sale ban.

To illustrate, I’ve done a little comparison of the two campaigns:

Shark Fin Soup Retail Pet Sales
Does the practice cause harm to animals? Yes – the practice of finning is horrendous and decimates populations of sharks.  Look it up if you don’t believe me. Yes – High volume commercial breeders (aka “puppy mills” and “kitten factories”) are notorious for animal abuse and neglect, and the connection between these establishments and pet stores has been proven time and time again (look it up if you don’t believe me).  The onus is on local pet stores to meet the demands of informed consumerism and be transparent about their pet sources, and they have not done so – what is one left to think? Not to mention, perpetuating the notion that animals are disposable commodities is also harmful to them.
Does this practice harm people? Yes, indirectly – decimating the shark population will come back to bite us (pun intended). Yes, the retail sale of commercially bred animals is bad for the customer – buying a mystery product that often costs more down the road.  Forbes magazine reported  ”So you’re buying a defective product at over-inflated prices, even if you don’t care about what happens to that puppy’s parents, it’s a bad, bad deal for the consumer.”
Will the ban affect our local animals? Of course – though indirectly.  Over-finning populations is a serious problem and the oceans are the world’s largest ecosystem.  Even though Calgary is landlocked, ceasing demand for shark fin locally is a benefit. Of course – and even more directly, since ending pet store sales can help increase adoptions of hundreds of local dogs and cats.  And awareness of the broader issue helps to educate the public and put an end to local puppy mills and back yard breeders, too.
Will a ban affect consumers? Yes – the ban means you won’t be able to go into a restaurant and order shark fin soup (though I’m given to understand there are imitation options available). Yes – it means any dogs or cats you see in a pet store will be adoptable through a local rescue instead of for sale through the store.
Will the ban affect a lot of consumers? Not really.  Shark fin soup is often characterized as a traditional Chinese sign of status, but younger generations are moving away from it. Not really.  Not many pet stores still sell dogs and cats in Calgary, and you can see the younger generation having a greater focus on rescue and adoption.
Will the ban affect retailers? Obviously, but not many – the ones that still have shark fin on the menu have until October to get rid of it.  Many stores have discontinued the item on their own, though the ban ensures blanket compliance. Obviously, but not many – while some remain, many pet stores in Calgary have already voluntarily switched to an adoption model for dogs and cats.   A ban will ensure blanket compliance.
How will the ban affect the market? Shark fin soup was a status symbol – it was not enjoyed for its unique culinary capabilities and the flavor of the soup actually comes from the other ingredients.  As a food ingredient, it is pretty unnecessary except for the ability to show off the price tag (as bowls range from $50-200 in Calgary).  That’s a high price for a pointless ingredient.  If you really miss it, there are tonnes of other expensive food items you can buy to show off (caviar? white truffles?), or there are even imitation shark fin alternatives. Like shark fin soup, puppies at pet stores have an unnecessary mark-up; you are paying purebred prices for a dog that cannot be purebred, since the Canadian Kennel Club prohibits its members from selling in retail environments.  You are also playing health roulette, since you don’t know the genetic history of these animals nor do you get to see where the puppy was raised.  The elimination of pet store sales will not affect anyone’s ability to get a dog or cat, since there are dozens of local rescues at capacity as well as reputable breeders to contact.
Is the suggestion of a ban met with cries of “nanny state” outrage and “social engineering”? Yep. You betcha.
Do critics say “why is city council wasting their time on this when I’m stuck in traffic every day?” Heard it.  You know, there are complete departments dedicated to those problems, too. Yawn – what they said; what else you got?
Is Calgary the first place to ban this? Not even close!  Toronto is one example of another Canadian city with a shark fin ban.  The state of California has also banned it, as well as China. Not even close!  Toronto also has a retail pet sale ban, as does Mississauga and Richmond, BC.  Dozens of American cities have also instated them.
How did these things pass in Toronto? Toronto city council voted 38-4 in favour of the ban. Toronto city council voted the retail pet sale ban in unanimously.
What does the Director of Animal and Bylaw Services, Bill Bruce, say about this? In favour.  “I think [the bylaw itself] is probably a stronger message than the enforcement of it.”  (As told to the Calgary Herald, July 16, 2012. In favour.  “You’re talking about a life here — you need to have more consideration to that than you would to buying a pair of shoes,” he explained. “The retail sale of cats and dogs is probably not in the best interest of the animal, because it’s an emotional buy.”  (As told to Metro News, June 16, 2012)
What does Alderman John Mar (Ward 8) say about this? After voting in favour of the ban, “He quipped that he and sharks have an agreement: ‘I don’t eat you and you don’t eat me’.” (As told to the Calgary Herald for a July 16, 2012 article.) After indicating he would not vote for this ban, “Why on earth would we? That’s going a bit far.” (As told to the Calgary Herald for a June 30, 2012 article.)
What does the Calgary Herald editorial board seem to say about this? For.  See editorial ‘A Soup in Bad Taste’, July 12, 2012. Against.  See Herald blog ‘Banning sale of dogs and cats in pet stores and arf-ful idea’, dated June 27, 2012 and the editorial ‘Puppy Love’ of June 29, 2012.
What is the purpose of the ban? 1.  To stop an unnecessary practice that is harmful to animals and to which the ceasing of will not negatively affect Calgarians.2.  To bring education and awareness to the public about a larger problem. 1.  To stop an unnecessary practice that is harmful to animals and to which the ceasing of will not negatively affect Calgarians.2.  To bring education and awareness to the public about a larger problem.
Is there high-profile support for this cause? Have you ever seen Sharkwater?  If not, watch it! Well-known dog advocates from Victoria Stilwell to Cesar Millan stress the importance of adopting pets and avoiding pet store sales.
Is there local support for this cause? Yes!

Shark Fin Free Calgary has:

– over 8200 petition signatures

– Alderman Brian Pincott collected over 20 letters from Chinese Calgarians in support.

– over 500 supporters on Facebook

– over 250 supporters on Twitter

Yes!

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) has:

– over 12,000 petition signatures

– after Pet Expo this May mailed over 300 letters to City Council of Calgarians in support of the ban

– over 1000 supporters on Facebook

– over 250 supporters on Twitter

– over 30 local businesses hosting the petition, both inside and outside of the pet community

– over 35 local businesses and rescues that have pledged support of the cause

Sharks are awesome; does this ban help protect them? Yes!  Yay, sharks! No… but it does protect these little guys:

Interesting comparison, if I do say so myself.

Both bans are designed to protect animals against the commercial exploitation and abuse of certain people – with added consumer awareness concerns about the pet store sales (a bowl of soup is for a meal, a puppy or kitten is for 15+ years).

And as far as the pet store ban goes, the public support seems greater and more widespread.  Not to mention the local and immediate advantages to Calgary’s rescue organizations, pet owners, and pets is clear.

But there remain some certain local critics with loud voices, who, oddly, favour the shark fin ban but not the pet sale one.  I’d really be thrilled if someone could explain what makes one okay and the other not.

Jason Markusoff, Calgary Herald civic affairs writer, tweeted today that shark fin soup is “pricey, ethically murky, and soon to be illegal”.

And retail pet sales?

Pricey?  Check.

Ethically murky?  Double check.

Soon to be illegal?  Fingers crossed for September.

If Pets Are Products

Don’t like the idea of a by-law that prohibits stores from selling commercially-bred pets for profit?

Dislike nanny-state politicking and feel like a ban would infringe on your rights as a consumer?  Or the stores’ rights as retailers?

Then this post is for you!

Under Canadian law, pets are property, so lets talk about this issue within that framework for a second, and leave out the animal welfare concerns.  If you’re a fiscally conservative type, I talked about monetary implications of a ban yesterday.

The retail pet sale model is familiar to most people in North America.  You walk into a pet store, and you can walk out with a puppy or kitten.  Sometimes they’ll even let you finance that purchase (O.A.C., of course).

From the perspective of the store, presumably the biggest advantage is having the animals in the store to begin with – they draw people in to look at the cute animals, and while they’re there, maybe they can pick up some pet supplies, or maybe even go home with a new pet.

Whether or not the sale of the pets themselves garner a huge profit is hard to tell, because the stores report two different things depending on the question; sometimes they allude to high overhead based on the cost of providing top-notch care for those pets while at the store, but then other times they argue that ending retail pets sales targets them financially.  Suffice it to say, if having pets for sale in the store was a huge financial drain, it wouldn’t happen, because that sort of thing doesn’t make for a successful business.

When it comes to stores that have ceased selling pets and optionally moved to an adoption model by partnering with a rescue organization, two different reasons are cited.

The national chain, PJ’s Pets and Pets Unlimited, which does not have any Calgary stores, but does have Edmonton locations, cited ethical reasons for the move, acknowledging that their position could better be used to find homes for adoptable pets and creating a positive impact on local pet communities.

The decision made by corporate Petland to cease retail animal sales (a decision that does not apply to franchise locations, which is why some have not switched), was a decidedly financial one.  Petland made it clear it was a business decision (no attempt even made at cause marketing), since they have seen a reduction in their own animal sales.  They have attributed that reduction to increasing online pet sales.

Therefore, if businesses are making the switch to both help the community and their own bottom line, those few locations that still grasp on to retail pet sales seem to be falling behind the industry trend.  They label themselves unfair targets of pet sale bans, when doing so may be doing themselves more harm than good.

But I suppose it’s a business’ own right to decide to fail, so why would we interfere with a pet sale ban?

Because the other side of this perspective – the consumer’s – also needs to be taken into consideration.

Think about the product you are purchasing if you get a pet from a pet store.  You have not seen where this pet comes from, and information about where it was bred and how it made it’s way to the store is not disclosed.  And any requests for this information and more transparency into retail pet sales have been denied.  You actually cannot make an informed decision, and buying a pet from a store violates most guides on how to pick out your next pet simply due to the lack of information and history of the pet you are given.

You know these pets do not come from registered kennel club breeders who have a practice of extensive health clearances and screenings before breeding even takes place; kennel clubs forbid their members from selling puppies through retail environments.  Instead, you simply must take the word of the sales person at face value that the breeders treat their animals well with health in mind.  After all, you don’t want to buy a lemon puppy with a health disorder that could be expensive down the road; that’s not a wise purchase or a good investment.

And when the pet store tells you their breeders have gone through inspections, you are also forced to take that at face value, because the inspection requirements are not disclosed.  Better yet, the pet stores are responsible for checking their own breeders and determining their own criteria for these inspections – there are no third parties involved.

In other words, there are no government regulations overseeing or inspecting commercial breeding practices of companion animal breeders, and pet stores are vetting their own breeders.  Since when did a self-regulating industry – with no transparency or accountability – have the best interests of the consumer in mind?

The problem is that with pet sales, unlike with purchasing a car, for example, it’s much harder for the consumer to be unbiased, and much more likely for them to believe what a sales person is telling them.  After all, if you’re staring at the cute face of a kitten your kids are playing with, and the store is reassuring you that your “new family member” will be with you, happy and healthy, for a long time, you’re going to want to believe them.

These things basically sell themselves.

Once you’re in the store, it’s unlikely you’re going to shop around any more than that.

Or if you are, and you do happen to go online, the exact problem Petland cites is indeed the case; you can purchase the exact same sort of unregistered purebred “type” dog from a backyard breeder on Kijiji for the fraction of the price the store sells them.  The buyer has the same lack of information and health history on the animal, but instead of buying it for $1,500 in the store, you find it for $500 online – and you probably don’t even have to fill out warranty paperwork or give them your home address.  The only difference is that the store props itself up as a legitimate business and household brand that wants you to assume it has the best interests of animals in mind – but the product is actually the same.

And, just like any other products, when sales numbers and profit take precedence, quality always suffers.  The only difference here is that the product is a living animal, and is marketed to you as a future family member.

More simply put, the retail model is no longer profitable or a wise choice of an informed consumer, and any sense transparency, legitimate industry regulation, informed consumerism, or quality product guarantee as always been missing.

Even Forbes magazine acknowledges that a pet store is the worst place to buy a puppy, noting that animals that come from mills have a 50% chance of having some sort of medical condition that will cost you even more down the road: “So you’re buying a defective product at over-inflated prices, even if you don’t care about what happens to that puppy’s parents, it’s a bad, bad deal for the consumer.”

In Chicago, customers are currently suing a pet store chain for selling defective products, after owners of six puppies found their animals to have serious health problems the store’s bare-bones warranty wouldn’t cover, even though the store advertises healthy puppies from reputable breeders.  This is just one example of several lawsuits lodged against pet stores and online retailers south of the border for misleading consumers and selling unhealthy animals.

The purpose of a retail ban is to put an end to this practice that is not in the best interest of the customer – or of the product.

If you are concerned your ability to find a new dog or cat will be limited, you are sadly mistaken.

The adoption model in which pet stores feature adoptable animals from local rescues, while the adoption still takes place through the rescue, highlights the number of available animals in our City, and also ensures pets are still in the stores when you go there to play with them.  The pet store even retains the large marketing benefit of featuring dogs and cats in store to draw in customers.

And should I even bother mentioning that an adoption fee of $150 or $200 is far less than the cost of a pet store puppy, and likely even less than most of those Kijiji breeders?  They even come fixed, which saves you a few hundred dollars down the road. It’s a major win for the consumer.

Pet selection will also not be reduced – rescues are frequently flooded with puppies, and there are several local breed-specific rescues if you are looking for a purebred dog.  And, of course, the reputable, kennel club-accountable breeders will still be around, to ensure you can find your happy, healthy purebred puppy.

Not to mention, the greater exposure given to homeless animals can result in customers wanting to adopt rather than buy from Kijiji, indirectly putting a dent in online pet sales.  And the increased adoptions of spayed/neutered animals from rescues will also help to combat potential new generations of backyard breeders, as well as the population of homeless pets burdening our local rescues, the Calgary Humane Society, and the City’s Animal Services.

So there you have it: pet stores are not only bad for the puppy – they’re also bad for the customer.

And just like government bodies are there to ensure consumers can’t be sold cars that will break down, drugs that have terrible side effects, or food that doesn’t meet quality standards, there’s a role to be played in the retail sale of pets.

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 stlspayneuter.org

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?

BtC4A: Kijiji Pet Sales and the CHS

It’s that time again!

This quarter, I would like to bring attention to the latest development between the Calgary Humane Society and the online marketplace, Kijiji.

Now, everyone should know by now that searching for a new pet through websites like Kijiji is generally a bad idea.  Everyone should.  But, because it remains prolific, clearly they don’t.

Why are Kijiji sellers bad?

Easy.  Because there is no transparency or regulation.  Online pet sales are where puppy mills, backyard breeders, and accidental breeders do their business.  And as soon as your money goes into their pockets, you have helped them to profit and condoned their practices.

Taken straight from the Calgary Humane Society’s official position on breeding companion animals:

There are a variety of types of irresponsible breeders and the CHS strongly opposes the practices of the following:

• Backyard Breeder: A backyard breeder breeds an animal for financial gain and not for the purpose of betterment of the breed, with little or no thought regarding the consequences for or the well-being of the animals. Backyard breeders usually breed animals without proper regard for pedigree, proper planning for future homes, spay/neuter planning for offspring, and/or little knowledge of proper rearing techniques.

• Puppy Mill: “A puppy mill is a breeding operation in which dogs are repeatedly bred for financial gain and are kept in substandard conditions” (Ontario SPCA, as cited in No Puppy Mills Canada, 2001).

• Accidental Breeder: An accidental breeder is someone that has not had his/her animal spayed/neutered and an unplanned breeding occurs as a result. Many animals end up in shelters as a result of such accidents. Failure to control animal breeding is connected with other forms of neglect.

These three categories of breeders play a significant part in buyer misinformation and pet overpopulation.  Ease and price often cause the public to seek out these sources for new pets, rather than researching reputable breeders or adopting from a shelter or rescue agency.

Rescue agencies have long been aware of this fact and have made endless attempts to educate the public.

And now the Calgary Humane Society is blazing a trail with a new strategy.

Earlier this week it was announced that CHS and Kijiji have teamed up to regulate breeders selling pets online.

The CHS will inspect and certify online breeder listings through a new Breeder Inspection Program.  Approved breeders will then be given a particular badge on their ad that acknowledges their certification and CHS approval.

To earn the badge, the CHS must approve the provided space and shelter, sleeping conditions, supply and quality of food and water, the number of animals in the home, general cleanliness, and vet inspections.  There will be follow-up inspections to ensure the “breeders” remain credible.

One of over 300 Calgary ads for cats/kittens currently on Kijiji - also an example of an Accidental Breeder.

Now, before you start nit-picking, I request you acknowledge the innovativeness of this new idea and that is really is better than nothing.

In fact, I must remind myself of that, as cynicism often takes over.

Do I wish Kijiji ads were now limited to ONLY breeders who receive CHS approval?  Sure.  I mean, this badge strategy will not reduce the number of pet ads online, nor will it make it more difficult to advertise on Kijiji or find a pet breeder on Kijiji.

Do I wish the solution was a bit more active than passive on the part of buyers?  Of course.  People will still be able to see non-CHS approved breeders in with the CHS-approved ones, and only people who’ve heard about the program will know to look for a CHS logo.  Not to mention it does little to stop the impulse purchase of that cute kitten based on a picture – regardless of what badges appear.

Do I wish we educated the public so greatly that they didn’t go to Kijiji for a pet in this first place?  Indeed.  This may be considered an example of treating the symptom and not the problem.

But you know what?  As I said, it’s still better than nothing.

It’s a concrete step forward that other cities have yet to take.

And if it causes just one person to re-think their potential purchase of a backyard bred puppy, then I say a small improvement is better than none.  And if the press release about the partnership educated more people about the perils of online pet ads – great.

There are many pieces to the puzzle of pet overpopulation.   This is one.

It would be a mistake to think we’re done now, though.

To watch the news report on this program – and see ASLC’s comments – check out the CTV video by clicking here.

One of over a thousand current Calgary Kijiji ads for dogs/puppies.

To see what others are writing about for Blog the Change for Animals this April, view the list by clicking here.

BtC: Actions Speak Louder (Calgary)

I do apologise in advance if I come across as a bit of a broken record for those who stop by quarterly during the Blog the Change for Animals campaign, but, while the cause is the same, I am happy to provide some exciting new updates from the front lines!

I first participated in BtC4Animals in October 2010 as a new blogger, inspired by Richmond, B.C.’s movement for a ban on the sale of dogs in pet stores.  And I really have to give BtC some credit for igniting the fire when I look back on the path that I have since travelled.

In January my BtC entry was a tale of continued commitment to the cause in spite of little to no recognition, alluding to a forthcoming bigger movement regarding the elimination of retail pet sales.

And now, I am happy to write to you all today about the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign!

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) (ASLC) was founded by a group of us who were sick of sitting around and just talking about how change in the pet industry needs to be made – we wanted to do something about it.  And so ASLC was born and officially launched in early March 2011.

The first priority and focus of ASLC is retail pet sales, and we are currently in the process of obtaining petition signatures that ask the City of Calgary to implement a bylaw that will ban the sale of dogs and cats on all commercial and public properties.  Adoptions through legitimate rescue organizations, of course, are exempt, and we would be thrilled to see those retail stores that do currently sell dogs and cats retrofit themselves to enable collaboration with a rescue organization instead.  So no, we are not saying you will not be able to see a dog or cat in a pet store.  Instead, we would like to see an end to the breeding of these animals purely for profit and the treatment of these animals as a commodity to be bought and sold on a whim.

Do we think this is going to solve all animal welfare problems?  No, certainly not.  But it is an important – and very visible – first step, and has so far successfully got many Calgarians thinking more about the issues.

Sure, when we initially sat down we wanted to target pet stores, puppy mills, backyard breeders, online pet sales… you name it.  But in order to avoid being bogged down in the details or spread too thin among several issues, we decided to focus; one step at a time.  And the most visible, effective way for ASLC to start the movement here is at the municipal level.  Then, if enough municipalities follow suit (and the movement is growing), as in the past, that is when provincial – or even federal – governments begin to take notice.

While pet stores may indeed be a small part of the bigger overall problem concerning responsible pet procurement and guardianship, to suggest a municipal pet sale ban is entirely the wrong approach is to write them off as an non-issue altogether, which is inaccurate.  This is a good first step – emphasis on “first”.

And when I say ASLC has started to get Calgarians thinking more about where their pets come from, I am not kidding.  A full list of the our media coverage can be found here on our website.  Highlights include:

The Calgary Herald, March 21, 2011: Petition calls on Calgary council to ban selling of companion pets
CTV Calgary, March 26, 2011, article & video:  Local animal group not allowed to petition at Pet Expo
Calgary Herald, March 28, 2011:  Calgary Petland stores fight petition against selling dogs, cats

And most recently, this televised debate between an ASLC founder, a Petland store owner, and a veterinarian:

Alberta Primetime, April 7, 2011, discussion:  Selling Pets in Alberta (video)

As you can tell from the many comments to the online news articles, this is an issue many in our city are very passionate about.

In addition to media coverage, we have also received overwhelming and very encouraging public support.

The list of businesses and rescue organizations that hope to see ASLC successful is growing regularly, and include rescue organizations such as the Edmonton Humane Society, The Meow Foundation, and Pound Rescue; ethical pet retailers such as Pet Planet, No Bowndaries Pet World, Pet Valu, and Rocky Mountain Tails Pet Shop & Spa; and dog training companies such as Clever Canines and Dogma.  Not to mention those on the list outside of the pet community that have endorsed ASLC and helped to spread the word!

ASLC also currently has 39 locations around the city – and we add more to the list regularly – that have opened their doors to the cause and allowed us to have our petition available for their clients and customers.

So what can you do?

Spreading the word is key – we want to get Calgary (and everyone, really) talking and thinking!

No matter where you’re from, like us on Facebook!  Follow us on Twitter!  Tell your friends about ASLC and why they should care.

If you’re from Calgary, of course sign the petition!  While upwards of 60,000 signatures in a 60 day period would be required for a plebiscite (forced bylaw), ASLC would simply like to petition through the summer and obtain as many signatures as possible and continue to educate Calgarians about the issues.   It is Council’s job to address issues important to the City, so change can and will still come about if Calgary shows it cares and would like to see change – which is exactly why the City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services is also supporting the ASLC petition.  So, say we obtain the 60,000 signature target, but it takes longer than 60 days?  Or even just 20,000 signatures?  Those numbers are enough of a representation that City Council will raise its collective eyebrows and undertake a consideration of the issue.

If you would like to volunteer your time at an event, become a petition host, or have your company included as a supporter, contact us at info@actionsspeakloudercalgary.ca and we will make it happen.

We also have ASLC t-shirts and bandanas for sale and hope to add additional merchandise locations in the near future.  Or just pop by one of our events advertised on Facebook, sign the petition, and pick up a sticker or two.

If you’re not from Calgary, but would like to initiate Actions Speak Louder (YourCityHere), get together with a group of committed and like-minded individuals and drop us a line – we would love to assist from here in any way that we can!

To read about more causes from more bloggers, visit the Blog the Change for Animals link list here.

ASLC: Launch Success!

Whew!  What a weekend!

It was so great to see all of the support Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) received at the adopt-a-thon this weekend.  The petition got a lot of signatures, we sold some t-shirts, and we got a lot of offers from people and businesses interested in helping out, which was always welcome.

Like I said earlier, this is my first experience on the front lines of any sort of “activism”.  And I will be the first to deny I am a “people person” in any way, so it was quite something to be striking up conversations with as many strangers who walked through the door as possible, seeking support for the cause and a signature on the petition.  I know our petition requires an address, but take it up with the Municipal Government Act (Alberta) – I promise we won’t turn it into a mailing list of any sort!

It was also a great learning experience and good practice for more events to come in the near future.  For example, next time we will have additional signage: sorry folks, the stickers are actually for sale.

And best of all, it was a great gauge for public reactions to the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign.  Of course, being at an adopt-a-thon, an overwhelming majority of people were decidedly in favour of a retail pet sale ban for Calgary.  Some of my favourite comments over the weekend were:

– I read about you in the Calgary Herald and came down to sign!
– I wondered when Calgary was going to do this.
– It’s about time!
– I’m so glad to hear someone has started this.
– I won’t even buy poop bags at a store that sells live animals.
– I got my dog from a pet store – never again.
– I only adopt rescue animals.
– Let me know how I can help.

Definitely the bulk of people, when asked to sign the petition, would simply say “of course” or “that’s great” and happily sign away.  A smaller group of people would gladly sign after getting more information and learning exactly what ASLC was all about.  Here are some of the common questions we were asked:

“I live in Okotoks, can I sign?  Can my kids sign?”

Unfortunately, the legal requirements of the petition mean only signatures of electors of the City of Calgary are valid.  Which is very unfortunate, because we had to turn away many people who wanted to be counted.  I encourage these individuals to lobby for a similar ban in Okotoks, Airdrie, or where ever you’re from!

“So where will I get a dog then?”

This one kind of made me giggle (no offence).  We were in the middle of an adopt-a-thon that had over 100 dogs and cats up for adoption; they just had to turn around and look.  The removal of commercial pet sales is not going to result in a pet shortage.  I assure anyone with this concern that they will still be able to find dogs and cats at shelters and rescues, and with reputable breeders.

“Shouldn’t we regulate breeders?”

ASLC is focusing the initiative on the sale of dogs and cats on public and commercial properties only, and the petition wording concerns only that.  This will end the retail pet sales that promote a pets-as-commodity perspective, and prevent puppy mills and backyard breeders from distributing and advertising on public and commercial properties such as roadways and parking lots.  Commercial sales are the most visible sales medium of substandard and unintentional breeders.  The truth is, reputable breeders would never surrender their puppies or kittens to a pet store for sale.  The Canadian Kennel Club prohibits pet store sales, and reputable breeders want to ensure themselves that their animals go to good homes.

“What about the pet stores that feature rescues?”

They will not be affected.  We would love to see more collaboration between big retailers and rescues to get adoptable animals showcased.  Adoptions in these instances still need to go through the rescue organization, but the store serves as a way to introduce the public to the other options out there.

“But I just like to go to the pet store to play with the puppies for a little while and nothing else.”

Don’t worry, if pet stores opt to feature rescues (and some already do), you can still go in for an hour of socialization.  You can also go to places such as the Humane Society, where you can meet the animals, or even volunteer to walk the dogs and play with the cats.  If you’d like a slightly longer, but still not permanent, commitment, offer to foster for one of the rescues.  And many of the pet stores I know that refuse to sell animals still have the employees’ or owners’ dogs or cats in the stores most days to visit with.

“What about my breeder – are you going to shut them down?”

No.  Well, as long as they are responsible and reputable, we aren’t.  We would like only the responsible, reputable breeders to be the people you go to when you have a particular breed of dog in mind (well, them and breed-specific rescues).  Reputable breeders are those who put the health and care of the animals – both the offspring and the parents – first.  They do not breed females every heat, or often even yearly.  They do health and lineage checks.  They will provide you with lifetime support and advice, and will offer to re-home your dog for you if circumstances change and you can no longer care for them.   They will also put you through an extensive adoption application, usually requiring in-person meetings to see how you interact with their dogs before they determine you will be a suitable guardian.  They will also often contractually require you spay or neuter your dog by a certain age unless there is an alternative breeding agreement in place.  And when they say their animals come with “papers” and pure bred registration, that means the CKC.  I will again note that the CKC prohibits its members from selling their dogs to pet stores.  ASLC has already had some great feedback from breeders in support of a pet store ban.

And, of course, we did get a small number of people – no more than half a dozen all weekend – who did not sign the petition or agree with the ASLC cause.  As they say, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and that includes opinions.

For example, there was one couple who seemed personally offended by the cause because they had bought their dog from a pet store (actually, their teenage son did, and they inherited the dog when he moved out).  I understand that reaction, especially if they did not have a particularly negative experience, and because they could view the ASLC cause as telling them they got their pet the wrong or uneducated way.  Indeed, we are saying that and I stand by it, but I do hope they went home and looked into the concerns about pet store pets a little more and give the issue some serious thought.

However, for a very small group of nay-sayers, there was a much larger population of whole-hearted support, which was certainly encouraging.

Thank you, Calgary, and everyone at the adopt-a-thon, for a successful launch!

Keep an eye out for more ASLC over the coming weeks, and check the website for locations if you’d like to buy the merchandise or sign the petition.

 

This is Kiwi. She was at the adopt-a-thon with AARCS, and was one of many dogs and cats who found a forever home over the weekend.

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary)

The Soapbox is starting to gather a thin layer of dust since I’ve been so neglectful.

But my time has gone to a good cause – I promise.

I am very excited to announce the official launch of the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) (ASLC) campaign this weekend!

If you’re in the area, come on down to the multi-rescue adopt-a-thon taking place at BowDog Canine Specialists (6909 Farrell Road SE) between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm Saturday and Sunday to learn what ASLC is all about, sign the petition, and buy some merchandise.

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) can also be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter @ASL_Calgary.

I’m very optimistic about the potential here for some serious change and improvement for Calgary’s pets.  A small amount of buzz has already been generated; ASLC was mentioned in a blurb in today’s Metro News – Calgary (page 6), and we’ve got over 100 fans after less than a full day on Facebook.  I’m confident this is an issue Calgarians will enthusiastically get behind.

And I am honoured to be involved with such a great group of intelligent, creative, and kind-hearted people behind the cause.  While my personal support for the goal itself dates way back, this is the first time I have actually been directly involved in an official, organized campaign like this, and I’ve been learning something new every day.  It’s been an insanely busy week getting everything ready for the weekend, but it’s easy to do when you know it’s all in the name of a good cause and everyone has been working really hard.

Once the website goes live (www.actionsspeakloudercalgary.ca), it will be ASLC headquarters for news, information, and updates.

In the meantime, here’s a bit about ASLC:

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) is a campaign established by like-minded Calgary and area citizens concerned with animal welfare and who are interested in seeing a municipal bylaw introduced in the City of Calgary that will ban the sale of companion animals in pet stores.

As you may know, Richmond, B.C. recently became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores, with their bylaw taking effect on April 30, 2011. Talks of similar bans are being proposed in Toronto, St. John’s, Winnipeg, and Langley, B.C., and several cities in the United States already have similar bans in place, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, South Lake Tahoe, California, West Hollywood, California, Austin, Texas, and (as of February 15, 2011) Lake Worth, Florida.

Preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores does three things:

1. It will eliminate a medium through which puppy mills sell their dogs and “kitten factories” sell their kittens;

2. It will help to prevent the impulse purchase of pets; and

3. It will allow rescue organizations and reputable breeders to fill the niche. Shelter adoptions will increase, and as a result euthanasia will decrease. Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, has noticed a shelter adoption increase of 23% and euthanasia decrease of 35% since enacting their ban in 2006.

The purpose of the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign will be to gather widespread public awareness and support for a retail pet sale ban in Calgary, through a petition and advertising, and ultimately bring the issue before City Council for consideration. ASLC welcomes support and sponsorship from corporations and individuals.

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) is aware and advises that opposition to the campaign can be expected from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC) and some affiliated pet retailers. However, the concerns that will be voiced are anticipated and have already been considered, and ASLC stands firm beside its goal as the best option available to ensure the well being of Calgary’s pet population.

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) is readily aware that, no, a retail pet sale ban like the proposed will not completely solve the problem of puppy mills and unwanted pets; internet pet sales are also a significant concern for those interested in responsible pet ownership. That is why, after the campaign for a retail pet sale ban is complete and successful, ASLC will then move on to a second phase of animal advocacy, drawing attention to and educating the public about the problem of online and underground pet sales.