BtC4A: Uniting for Rescue

It sneaks up on me every time, but it’s that time again – the quarterly Blog the Change for Animals event.

And this time there is a united front, where we’ve been asked to publicize the importance of dog rescue this time around and promote July 23’s upcoming online event: Bloggers Unite for Dog Rescue.

Calgary has a lot of rescue organizations.  A depressing amount, really.

There are several general rescue organizations, such as the Calgary Humane Society, Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), Pound Rescue, and Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

There are more specific rescues, such as the Meow Foundation for cats, and Little Mutts rescue for small breed dogs.  There’s also no shortage of breed-specific rescues operating locally, such as Alberta Bulldog Rescue and For the Love of Danes Rescue.

And for the most part, these rescues are pretty good at being visible when you’re looking for local rescues, and promoting their causes and services at local events.

But I think one rescue in particular often gets overlooked – at least from my perpective.

That’s Calgary Animal Services.

The City’s Animal and Bylaw Services just doesn’t impound dogs at large and collect licensing fees – they also adopt out dogs and cats who have been impounded for too long, or that are surrendered.

As of today, Animal Services lists 34 dogs up for adoption on their website and 63 in impound.  27 cats are adoptable, and 61 additional are impounded.

This adorable feline has been at Animal Services since May 19, 2012.

As I noted in a recent entry, if it costs about $15 per day for the City to care for an animal (not including overheads such as staff salaries and facilities costs), these 185 animals in the City’s care cost the City $2,775 per day.

This pup has been at Animal Services since May 31, 2012.

My point is not that the City should cease providing this service because of the cost – they absolutely should be.  My point is that every effort the City can make to promote rescue and curb pet overpopulation in Calgary makes sense fiscally and when it comes to animal welfare and responsible pet ownership.  Because any increase in adoption rates will translate to Animal Services as well as the other rescues.

From the Canada Revenue Agency website:  “In the context of animal welfare, the courts have determined that promoting the welfare of animals provides an intangible moral benefit to humanity in general. As a result, the very act of showing kindness to animals in need of assistance or care satisfies the public benefit requirement under common law.”

As with many other things, the fact that some people may not agree has meant that the courts have weighed in on something I know at least the audience here will see as common sense; animal welfare is more than just good for animals.

Coming full circle with the tone of the Soapbox recently, City Council will be considering amendments to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw this September, and the amendments include things such as limiting the number of pets to repeat violators of the bylaws and a ban on the retail sales of dogs and cats in stores (obviously, stores may still opt to feature adoptable animals from local rescues).

Calgary is already well ahead of the curve with its progressive and effective pet bylaws (click for info on The Calgary Model), but these sorts of amendments to promote rescue and address abuse can really put us over the top.

It’s great to see these high-profile sorts of moves taken by municipal councils, and the general publicity given to these sorts of changes really gives rescue more visibility to the general public.

It’s nice to see blogging events coordinated to create a joint effort for a particular cause, but I often feel like these sorts of things are preaching to the choir.  Therefore, you need to draw attention of those to speak beyond the choir, so they too can share it.

So, if you’re in Calgary, take a couple of minutes and tell City Council you want to see these changes made.

If you’re not in Calgary, contact your municipal representatives with a similar message – not only to they have a wide audience and influence, they are also in the exact right position to facilitate real improvements for local rescues and companion animal welfare.

It’s completely free to contact your municipal, provincial (or state), and federal representatives, and representing their constituents’ interests is exactly what they were elected to do – make use of it!

And, of course, be sure to read and share the efforts being made on July 23 to promote rescue and adoption!

This stinkin’ cute puppy is also up for adoption at Animal Services with some littermates.

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: 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.

An Open Letter to Mayor Nenshi et al.

After motivating myself with my most recent post, Preventing Puppy Mills, I have sent the following letter to all addressed.  I encourage any like-minded individuals to sign and send a copy of this – or a similar – letter themselves.  All the contact information you need is below.  Let’s make a change!

 

October 19, 2010

Mr. Naheed Nenshi
Office of the Mayor
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5Via E-mail: themayor@calgary.ca
Via Facsimile: 403-268-8130   
 
Aldermanic Offices (8001)
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station M
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5
V
ia Facsimile: 403-268-8091 and
403-268-3823

 

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

Congratulations to all for your recent election wins!  And congratulations on making this the most exciting civic election Calgary has seen in recent memory.

I know you’re all going to be very busy, adjusting to working together as a team, and tackling issues like the budget, Enmax, and the airport tunnel.  But once the dust settles and you’ve found your groove, I have a request.

As you may or may not know, this month Richmond, B.C. became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores.  Their by-law is expected to be finally adopted in November and to take effect on April 30, 2011.

I would like Calgary to follow suit. 

I am requesting that our new city council work together on a by-law to prevent the sale of companion animals (dogs and cats) in pet stores.  This is a slight expansion on Richmond’s by-law, since I am proposing Calgary ban the sale of all companion animals in pet stores, not just dogs.

Calgary is a very progressive city when it comes to its By-Law and Animals Services, and we are held as an example world-wide on how we deal with our animal laws.  As our city’s population grows, the number of “aggressive dog incidents” is on the decline, and it is no coincidence; we hold owners responsible for their pets’ actions.  We don’t discriminate on size or breed, and our city is also a leader in pet licensing, with estimates stating over 90% of pet dogs in our city our licensed.

A by-law preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores can only add to our résumé.

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

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

2.  It prevents the impulse purchase of pets. 

Point (1) should be obvious.  Puppy mills and “kitten factories” are high volume breeders who have little to no regard to the mental and physical well being of both their “breeding stock” animals and the offspring they sell.  The animals are bred in sub-standard and inhumane conditions – often in dirty, cramped kennels, literally living in their own feces.  They 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 and kittens as possible.  Look it up – the horrors will make your stomach churn.  These puppies and kittens are then taken from their parents well before the recommended 8-10 week age, resulting in inevitable behaviour issues, just so that they are young and cute for the pet store window.  The squalid conditions they are born in and the disregard for proper breeding standards often results in serious undiagnosed and hereditary medical health problems.  And then, once owners are faced with these unexpected problems, these animals usually end up in shelters.

This leads us to point (2), preventing impulse pet purchases, which will help reduce the population of rescue animals.  Pet 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. 

In addition, not allowing pet stores to sell companion animals 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 has noticed a shelter adoption increase of 23% and euthanasia decrease of 35% since enacting their ban in 2006.

No, bans like the proposed will not completely solve the problem, since the internet is still a popular tool used by puppy mills and the like, but it does remove one medium of sale while also creating public awareness.

And if we look to Richmond, B.C. as an example (and the several American cities with similar bans in place), such a by-law is generally met with widespread public support.  Granted, a couple of pet stores will undoubtedly voice their opposition, but Richmond’s Mayor Brodie said it best: “It seems to be acknowledged by all the parties that there is a problem with so-called puppy mills, that sell dogs in very high volumes and that are subjected to inhumane treatment.  So it’s a question of how do we deal with that. At the local level, there are only a few levers at our disposal, and we want to do what we can.”

I would like Calgary to do what it can.

For this, I would like to provide you with the section of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances on this issue as an example (Ch. 9, Article 2):

§ 9-2-4-4   SALE OR GIFT OF AN ANIMAL.

(A) Public Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of an Animal upon a street, sidewalk, public park, public right-of-way or other public property.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor, or any adoption events held by a Rescue Group or Rescue individual are exempt.

(B) Commercial Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Animal upon commercial property including parking lots, with or without the property owner’s permission.  [Permit] Holders are limited to the property the Permit was issued for.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor are exempt.

(C) Residential Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Companion Animal puppies or kittens upon residential property without a Litter Permit.

(D) Sales Incentives.  No Person shall offer a live Animal as an incentive to purchase merchandise or as a premium, prize, award, or novelty.

(E) Advertising.  No Person shall advertise puppies or kittens for sale in any local periodical without a valid Litter Permit number conspicuously listed in the advertisement.   No Person shall advertise any Animal for sale in the City of Albuquerque using any roadside signs, flyers, handbills or billboards.

With this in mind, I request council consider a similar addition to Calgary’s by-laws.

I thank you very much for your time.

Yours truly,

Jen _________
Voter; Ward ___ Resident

 

Copies To:
Dale Hodges, Ward 1 Alderman, dalehodges@telus.net

Gord Lowe, Ward 2 Alderman, gord.lowe@calgary.ca; gordlowe@gordlowe.org

Jim Stevenson, Ward 3 Alderman, ward03@calgary.ca
Gael Macleod, Ward 4 Alderman, ward04@calgary.ca  
Ray Jones, Ward 5 Alderman, aldjones@telus.net
Richard Pootmans, Ward 6 Alderman, ward06@calgary.ca, richardp@richard4ward6.com
Druh Farrell, Ward 7 Alderman, ward07@calgary.ca
John Mar, Ward 8 Alderman, ward08@calgary.ca
Gian-Carlo Carra, Ward 9 Alderman, ward09@calgary.ca
Andre Chabot, Ward 10 Alderman, ward10@calgary.ca
Brian Pincott, Ward 11 Alderman, ward11@calgary.ca
Shane A. Keating, Ward 12 Alderman, ward12@calgary.ca, shane@shanekeating.ca
Diane Colley-Urquhart, Ward 13 Alderman, ward13@calgary.cadcolley@calgary.ca

Pe
ter Demong, Ward 14 Alderman, ward14@calgary.ca

City Clerk’s Office, cityclerk@calgary.ca

City of Calgary, Animal & By-Law Services, via facsimile: 403-268-4927

 Calgary Humane Society, humane.education@calgaryhumane.ca

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/