BtC4A: Local Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

It’s that time again!

The first Blog the Change for Animals for 2014 is here, and you can visit the BTC website and read the other posts by other bloggers by clicking here.

BlogtheChange

All of my previous Blog the Change posts have been about companion animal rescue efforts or campaigns, which makes a lot of sense for a dog blogger. And, of course, these are always extremely worthy recipients of donations, awareness, and volunteer efforts.

For this instalment, however, I’d like to change the focus.

Say your cat gets a hold of a bird in the yard. Say your dog goes after a porcupine or rabbit or skunk at the off-leash park. What if, after investigating a loud thud against the window, you find a dazed bird? What happens if a fawn is orphaned by poachers or some young goslings are orphaned by traffic? What if a family of foxes decide under your deck is their new home?

AIWC mule deer fawn

A mule deer fawn rescued during Calgary’s June 2013 floods

You might know to take your pets to the vet after wildlife encounters or even know pet first aid, but what about the other party to those situations – the wildlife? Do you know what to do with them?

Chances are there’s a wildlife hospital operating in your area for these very reasons: to help sick and injured wildlife as a result of human interaction.

Just north of Calgary you will find the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (www.aiwc.ca).

AIWC patients: Great horned owls

AIWC patients (and our provincial bird): Great horned owls

AIWC was founded in 1993 and is an ABVMA-certified wildlife hospital and trauma centre. AIWC treats and rehabilitates native wildlife injured or orphaned as a result of interactions with people.

AIWC operates in conjunction with Alberta Fish & Wildlife, the City of Calgary, and several local veterinary clinics who take after-hours patients until they can make their way to the centre.

Porcupine

Adorable AIWC patient: porcupine

In addition to providing care and treatment, AIWC is also a resource for information – found a bird in your yard unable to fly and not sure whether it needs intervention or is just a baby fledgling bird? You can call them and they can help out over the phone or send a rescue driver your way.

And if you’d like them to attend your school, community group, or event and present and educate on local wildlife, they do that, too (and have education ambassadors to bring along with them!).

Nighthawk

AIWC patient: Nighthawk

AIWC also provides Wildlife Conflict Solutions, providing a humane, non-lethal, and permanent solution to resolve conflicts you may be experiencing with wildlife on your property.

AIWC bohemian waxwing

Bohemian waxwing

AIWC isn’t the only wildlife centre operating in the area, either.

In southern Alberta, there is also the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, the Cochrane Ecological Institute, and the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, among others.

If you’re in Edmonton, there is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton.

Vancouver? See the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby.

Saskatoon? Check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.

Manitoba? There’s the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Toronto? Try the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

New Brunswick? Contact the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk; a saw-whet owl; and a red-tailed hawk

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk, a saw-whet owl, and a red-tailed hawk

Those are just to name a few. There are centres like this operating all over the world to help local wildlife. Google [your location] + wildlife rescue and I’d be surprised if you didn’t get more than one nearby institution doing this important work.

Because it IS important.

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

These animals are often harmed or orphaned by no fault of their own or of natural circumstance, and the continual expansion of urban areas, agriculture development, and other industries make human-wildlife interactions inevitably more common.

Always Here

And it’s not just us; it’s our pets, too. Environment Canada reported in October 2013 that domestic cats are the number one killer of song birds – just another reason to keep those kitties indoors! (The Oatmeal also did this awesome infographic on just how much wildlife our cats kill.)

And we all know dogs with a keen interest in rabbits, porcupines, squirrels – you name it. Sometimes those dogs get lucky.

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

These wildlife centres run on donations and volunteer support to help mitigate some of that impact and give some of those animals a second chance.

Just like any other conservation effort, wildlife rehabilitation is good for everyone, maintaining as much of our natural ecosystems as possible.

Now for your mission:

Make note of the nearest wildlife rescue or hospital and their contact information. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it might be useful one day.

Find them online and on social media. Like their pages and spread their information – if you don’t know much about them, chances are others don’t either.

And, if you’ve got time or resources to spare, see what they need and how you can give.

Like any charity or non-profit, wildlife institutes are sustained by funds, time and supplies graciously donated by their supporters. See what they’ve got for ongoing fundraising campaigns (animal adoptions make great gifts for those hard to buy for people in your life!) and supplies wish lists.

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox - all 2013 AIWC patients

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox – all 2013 AIWC patients

And if you’d like to see more adorable patient photos from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation like the ones I’ve shared here, go like their Facebook page here. The person behind the camera for many of the photos there and the ones you’ve seen here may already be familiar to you ;).

Once you’ve completed your mission, go visit the Blog the Change for Animals blog hop and check out what everyone else is writing about.

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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.

BtC4A: Not So Fast

On Friday, September 9, 2011, Petland Canada released to the media the announcement that they would begin phasing out the sales of dogs and cats in their stores.

This is a hot topic for this round of Blog the Change, where Mary wrote this great post about rallying bloggers around this cause this quarter, asking Petland USA to follow suit.

This cause is so very, very near and dear to my heart, and I am thrilled to see this great blogging community get behind the cause and put some pressure on Petland USA.

However, before we sing the praises of Petland Canada, I ask for a moment of pause.

Here, when the other national pet store chain, PJ’s Pets (together with Pets Unlimited), made their announcement that they would cease the sale of dogs in their stores, the situation was much different.

When PJ’s made their announcement in August, they did it in conjunction with the Every Pet Deserves a Home campaign, acknowledging that their new policy aims to help find homes for rescue dogs and that they “can provide a significantly positive effect on local pet communities by working with adoption agencies to help them find homes for their pets”.  It was an extremely positive release, touting the benefits of the switch, and set a firm deadline for the end of sales at September 1.

Quite starkly different was Petland Canada’s announcement.

When I heard that Petland made the announcement to stop the sale of dogs and cats, my response was something like “ohmygodthat’sawesomeareyouserioushooray!”

Then I read the details.

The decision was based on “business fundamentals” because of a “decrease in puppy sales”.  Not because they want to help home rescue pets or acknowledge a problem with retail pet sales or that they could have a more positive impact on the pet community.  Nope.  It was because retail pet sales are no longer as profitable.  In fact, one Petland spokesperson made sure to point out to the media that pressure from advocates to cease sales had “very little” to do with their decision – it’s all dollar signs for them.  And no timeline to said phase-out was given – just a statement that it would happen.

In fact, on the point of retail pet sales, the Petland Canada website still shows this (accessed this week):

Petland’s was a very different message than PJ’s, even though both chains made a similar move; and Petland is still defending old practices.

But you know what – at first I didn’t care.  Who cares why they’re doing it as long as they are doing it.  As we’ve been saying, actions speak louder.

Then reports started to roll in.  Reports that people were going into Petland locations around Alberta, still seeing dogs and cats for sale, and being told by staff that there were no immediate plans to begin their phase out.

I knew from a previous field trip that one Petland here in Calgary had transferred to the adoption-only model even before the press release came out.  But what about the others?  According to their website, there are 54 locations across Canada.  How are the rest of them measuring up to this promise?  I mean, to the press, the CEO said “all Petland stores will be required” to participate in the phase-out.

Even after Petland Canada's announcement, other stores such as Pisces Pet Emporium in Calgary, will continue to sell dogs/cats (photo from July 2011).

So I decided to check up on Petland Canada’s promise.  Was it being kept?

I started locally.  There are 8 Calgary Petland locations listed on their website.  I knew the Coventry Hills one had already made good on this policy, so I picked 3 others in the city.

I started with the Market Mall location, and simply asked the lady who answered if they still sold dogs/cats.  When she answered in the affirmative, I asked “but I thought Petland announced they would be phasing out the sales?”  I suspect they get these questions often and, at the risk of editorializing, I seemed to put her on edge.

She explained to me that they had commitments to breeders into next year and would not start the phase out any time soon.  After all, they wouldn’t want breeders to be stuck with puppies Petland was supposed to take  [now, knowing the average dog’s gestation period is 63 days, your breeders would be fine given 3 months notice, but hey, that’s just me].  She also informed me that, contrary to the CEO’s announcement, the phase-out really only applies to corporate-owned stores; franchises do not have to participate.

Next I called the Westhills location.  They informed me that they do still have dogs and cats for sale currently, but are to begin their phase out next week.  I was told they are a corporate-owned location, and that corporate Petland is phasing out one store at a time, so it will take a while before they all have done it.

Then I called the South Trail location that has no more dogs for sale, but does have a few cats remaining.  The gentleman on the phone said they were looking forward to organizing weekend adopt-a-thons with local rescues in the future, but have not been able to set those up yet.

With the exception of my first call, my otherwise positive results prompted me to make some calls to locations outside of Calgary.

Lethbridge, Alberta was first, during which call I was sternly advised that they are an independently-owned franchise location that will not be following what corporate Petland is doing and has no plans to phase out dog/cat sales.

Damn.

[Update 10/15: Calls to the Kamloops, BC Petland location also confirm that they are a franchise location and will not be participating in the phase-out to adoption only.]

But my other calls to Grand Prairie, AB, Red Deer, AB, St. Catharines, ONT, and Vernon, BC all yielded positive results, with each location either well into the process or having already completely phased out sales and moved to the adoption model.

My favourite conversation was with the Red Deer location, who was extremely positive and enthusiastic about their adoption-only model and their relationship with Riverside Kennels.

Before I made my telephone calls, and based on what I’d been hearing about Petland’s following through – or not – on their recent promise, I had planned to title this BtC4Animals entry “Put Up or Shut Up”.  However, it looks like, for the most part, they are putting up.

But not entirely.

Hence: Not So Fast.

Before we go on to praise Petland Canada’s landmark decision (made reluctantly for “business” reasons only), I say we wait until they have fulfilled the claims made in September and continue to pressure the franchise locations that refuse to make the change (as well as Petland US and any American franchises).

For example, if you (like me), don’t like the Market Mall location’s feet dragging on this issue, take a page from this recent announcement of Macerich Shopping Malls, who have recently decided to ban the sale of live animals in their 70+ shopping centres throughout the United States (said ban to take effect in 30 days).  Write to Market Mall management company, Cadillac Fairview, and ask them to follow in Macerich’s path and also ban the sale of live animals in their facilities.

At the end of the day, it’s not what they say about ending – or continuing – pet sales; it’s what they do about it.

The campaign isn't called "actions speak louder" for nothing.

To read what the other fantastic bloggers participating in Blog the Change are writing about, check out the list here.

BtC: Breed-Specific Rescue

It’s that time again!

I’m even going to do you guys a favour by switching it up and not blogging about Actions Speak Louder (Calgary).  But don’t get too excited; I’m not straying too far from that sentiment.

When advocating for the end of retail pet sales, a surprisingly common question that gets asked is “well, then where will people get pets?”  The answer is simple: rescue or reputable breeders.

But the problem with that answer is that it seems to divide animals – or dogs specifically – into two separate categories: mixed breed mutts (rescue) or purebred companions (breeders).

What I think often gets forgotten is that you can rescue a purebred dog.

Purebred dogs, or purebred-type dogs (in other words, non-registerable), often wind up in your large, local, well-known rescue organizations that such as your local pound, SPCA, Humane Society, or other similar organization.

They also are often taken in by your lesser-known or smaller rescue operations.  Take, for example, Pound Rescue, out of Okotoks, Alberta: their Facebook page recently released a photo of Sophie, a purebred Bloodhound now in their care and up for adoption.

Sophie - Pound Rescue

And if the idea of routinely sorting through your local rescues in the hopes a dog the breed you’re looking for happens to come up for adoption, there’s always Pet Finder.com, which does the work for you.  Just plunk in your location and the breed you’re looking for and voila!  Dozens, if not hundreds, of results – all dogs available for adoption through rescue agencies.

But another approach, and what seems (to me) to get less visibility than any of the above options, is to look for a local breed-specific rescue.

Take Calgary and area, for example.  I lived here for a long time as a member of “Joe Public” before I became involved in the pet community and I had no idea the multitude of local rescue agencies that exist outside of the Humane Society (both breed-specific and not).

Looking for a little dog, but flexible on breed?  Then check out Little Mutts Rescue – they have lots!

Interested in a beagle?  Beagle Paws can help you out.

Maybe you’d like a bulldog?  Alberta Bulldog Rescue are the folks to contact.

In the market for something bigger? Say, Great Dane?  For the Love of Danes Rescue Society will be happy to help.

Bubba is a successful adoption tale from For the Love of Danes Rescue Society

Looking for a loveable pitbull?  Pitbulls for Life are run out of Spruce Grove, Alberta.

Keera is currently up for adoption through Pitbulls For Life

My point?

For nearly every breed, there is a breed-specific rescue somewhere. Canadogs.com has an extensive list here of breed-specific rescues around the country.

Gitta is up for adoption through Southern Alberta Rottweiler Rescue. http://www.albertarottweilers.com/index.html

And coming back to that familiar tune: I beg you to tell me how these options are not better than a pet store purchase.  Seriously.

Not sure where your rescue dog comes from or who the parents were?  You don’t know that with a pet store purchase either.

Nor can you guarantee that the pet store will have the exact cockeryorkapoowhatchamacallit you want any more than a rescue can meet your exact parameters.

Not to mention rescuing a dog from a nonprofit (where adoption fees just cover care, admin, vet bills, and spay/neuter) is significantly different than emptying that spot in the store window just so another commercially bred puppy can fill it.

Shadrach is up for adoption through the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Canada. http://www.bmdcc.ca/dogs_for_adoption.htm

To sum up: the change I’m blogging and would like to see is more visibility and preference for breed-specific rescue organizations.

Thanks for the readership and see you all in October for the next Blog the Change for Animals!

To read how others are blogging the change, find the official July Blog Hop here.

Rocket here is currently looking for a home through Calgary Basset Rescue. http://www.bassetrescuecalgary.com/

A note for full disclosure: aside from a fleeting reference or two, reputable breeders have been left out of this post because that it not what it’s about. The intent here is to draw attention to a lesser-known adoption option.  Period.  My own dog is purebred and did come from a reputable breeder; and I would do it again. I am not one of those to call an end to all dog breeding or the CKC.

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.

BtC: Advocating a Retail Pet Sale Ban for Calgary


Back in October 2010 I participated in the Blog the Change for Animals for the first time.  The city council in Richmond, B.C. had just agreed to pass a by-law banning the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores, which is an important step in curbing the puppy mill industry.  In my post, my first point for how the average person can easily help combat puppy mills was to canvass your local government to implement a similar ban in your city.

And that got me thinking: I should practice what I preach!

Calgary, while a remarkable city in many ways when it comes to Animal & By-Law Services, currently does not have such a ban in place or any other restrictions that would help to prevent puppy mill sales (i.e. required breeding licensing, for example).  And I think it should.

Such a ban will help prevent both impulse pet purchases in pet stores and puppy mill pet sales.  It will also help ease the strain on local rescue organizations, with statistics coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico that show a 23% increase in shelter adoptions and a euthanasia decrease of 35% only a few years after enacting their ban.

Four days later I sent my letter to Mayor Nenshi and all council members requesting consideration of a ban in Calgary prohibiting the retail sale of companion animals (specifically, both dogs and cats).

And then what happened?

Nothing.

I e-mailed, I faxed, I posted my letter online and I literally received zero response from anyone.  A big fat goose egg.  Not even a form “thank you for showing an interest in your local government, now PFO”.

I waited a couple of weeks and re-sent my letter.

Crickets.

Well, not entirely.  Someone did notice, and that someone was Corporate PetLand.  I went back and forth with the nice folks over there for a while on the issue, and even that has since died off.

But you know what?  I’m not giving up.

In fact, my goal for 2011 is to band together with a group of like-minded individuals and hopefully generate a higher profile voice that won’t get filed in the city’s shredder.

Because while I truly enjoyed discussing the issue with the PetLand representatives and learning about their opinions on this subject, I remain to be convinced that this is a detrimental approach to the problem.

In fact, since I initially wrote my letter in October, Austin, Texas has enacted a similar ban of its own.  St. John’s, Newfoundland’s council has also received a proposal for a similar ban, and there is a group actively advocating for a ban in Toronto as well.

More locally, a St. Albert store, Paradise Pet Centre, has voluntarily ceased selling dogs and cats (after 30 years of retail pet sales) in order to encourage rescue adoptions.  If all other pet stores were similarly minded, I wouldn’t have to be writing this.  Unfortunately, they’re not, so implementing a ban will essentially force compliance for the benefit of the animals.  I’m okay with that.

Of Paradise Pet Centre’s new policy, the Edmonton Humane Society says: “The Society does not support the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.  The EHS feels that a pet store selling animals for a breeder is ultimately encouraging irresponsible breeding….  Many times pet stores sell animals that originate from puppy mills and sometimes do not even know it.”

Edmonton Humane Spokesperson Shawna Randolph adds: “We hope that [other pet retailers] will follow suit and recognize that a humane business model in a pet store is successful.  It’s estimated that Canadians spend about 6 billion dollars a year on their pets, which proves that stores do not have to sell animals to make a profit.”

Calgary has recently taken a number of steps to help curb pet overpopulation, including a spay/neuter assistance program and the national 2011 Year of the Cat initiative that focuses on responsible pet ownership to combat the ever-increasing population of unwanted cats in shelters and rescue organizations.

With the acknowledgement that there is an abundance of homeless, unwanted or rescue animals within the city, it seems logical that retail pet sales only add to the problem.  Instead of commercially purchasing a new pet, there are more than enough out there in need of adopting.  In fact, retail pet sales actually add to the unwanted pet population when pets purchased on an impulse later get surrendered.

So if you agree that there are enough companion animals out there already in need of homes without the consideration of commercial pets sales, and want to help prevent puppy mill sales and impulse pet purchases, I ask you to join me (or begin a similar campaign in your own city or municipality).

How you can help:

–        Send a letter to Mayor Nenshi and your Alderman (or all of city council), asking them to consider and implement a ban on retail pet sales.

–        Spread the word and help create buzz.  Animal advocacy is (sadly) not the “sexiest” political issue out there, so extra effort is required to create headlines and achieve results.  Tell your friends and anyone you know in the pet industry who is willing to speak out (trainers, groomers, rescues, etc.) and advocate a ban – get the industry behind us!

–        Don’t shop at the stores that do sell pets; if they get the message and willingly opt to feature shelter adoptions rather than sell pets, then we don’t even need said ban. Win-win!

–        Know anyone looking for a new family member?  Promote adopting a rescue dog or thoroughly researching reputable breeders.

–        Don’t be discouraged.  It’s hard, but a worthy cause.

Help prevent puppy mills and homeless pets!

In March 2010, Valerie Berenyi of the Calgary Herald Blog My Dog Sez wrote advocating a ban on the sale of dogs in retail outlets.  If you’re not going to listen to some unknown blogger like myself, listen to her.

As I appear to be technologically challenged and cannot get the blog hop list to appear properly, please visit the Blog the Change website to see the list of other participants in the BtC event, visit their blogs, and read about their causes.

Preventing Puppy Mills

Preventing Puppy Mills – Blog the Change for Animals

This month, Richmond, B.C. became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores.[1]  The by-law is expected to be finally adopted in November and take effect April 30, 2011.[2]

While pet shop owners who financially benefit from these sales may not be impressed, this is an important step when taking action against puppy mills.  We Canadians are actually behind our neighbours to the south in this respect, with many American cities having long ago banned the sale of puppies in pet stores, including cities in California, Florida, New Mexico and Missouri.[3]

How does this help?  Well, pet stores are just one of the many mediums through which puppy mills are able to sell their puppies.  And I should note, there is a similar concern about “kitten factories”, as well.  While many puppy mills still flourish through online sales, banning the sale of puppies in pet stores remains an important step in prevention and public awareness.

What is a puppy mill and why is it bad?  Well, essentially a puppy mill (or kitten factory, for that matter) is a high-volume breeder.  Dogs are bred in sub-standard and inhumane conditions, often in dirty, cramped kennels, literally living in their own feces.  The parents (the “breeding stock”) experience zero socialisation with other animals or human beings, and are malnourished and over-bred.  There is no concern for hereditary health conditions or inbreeding; the goal is to produce and sell as many puppies as possible.  Look it up – horrors will make your stomach churn.

The products of these puppy mills – the puppies often seen in those pet store windows – are yes, an extremely sad case, but not an ideal pet.  These puppies are taken from their mothers long before the recommended age of 8-10 weeks, to ensure they are still adorable for those window shoppers.  This early removal results in numerous potential behaviour problems.  In addition, the squalid conditions they are born in and the disregard for proper breeding standards often result in serious undiagnosed and hereditary medical health problems.

While bans like the one in Richmond do not completely prevent the problem, they are a significant step.  They create awareness, put a dent in puppy mill sales, and often allow rescue organizations to fill the void and adopt out more dogs. 

These bans also prevent the “impulse purchase” of companion pets, effectively – I believe – preventing many instances of bad owners and animal cruelty in private homes.  Owners who did not properly think through their purchase and what they were getting into are a large supplier of rescue dogs in the first instance.

So what can you do?  Lots!

1.  Lobby your local government (i.e. city council) for bans similar to those in Richmond, B.C.  Lobby your federal and provincial government for better regulation of commercial breeders and stronger animal cruelty laws.

2.  If you’re considering a pet, look for a reputable breeder or seek out a rescue organization.  Reputable breeders and many rescue organizations will make you fill out long applications and interview you before determining whether or not you’re a suitable candidate for one of their dogs.  This is not a bad thing.  If you’re not sure what to look for in a breeder, do some research.  There are lots of helpful resources out there.[4]

3.  In addition to not buying from a pet store, avoid the other mediums for puppy mill sales – largely the internet and newspaper ads.  Be aware of pets sold through Kijiji and similar websites, and always insist on making a location visit prior to picking up your new family member.  Ask to meet the puppy’s parents.  If they are willing to give you your puppy prior to it turning 8 weeks old (at minimum), walk away.  There are lots of puppies out there in need of a good home.

4.  Don’t support pet stores that sell companion animals.  At all.  Many pet stores opt to feature pets from local shelters, or just sell supplies – this is great!  Give your business to them.

5.  Speak up!  If you suspect a puppy mill, report it.  The Humane Society of the United States actually has a toll free number you can call to report suspected puppy mills: 1-877-MILL-TIP.[5]  Don’t let them go unreported.  In Canada, make reports to your local SPCA or Humane Society.  You can also report suspected cases of animal cruelty to your local Animal & By-Law Services.

Be the change for animals: http://btc4animals.com/