A Like-Minded Torontonian

This just in: I am not alone!

While I have been barraged with folks telling me that banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores is the wrong approach, and have had little “official” support or response from city council on the subject thus far, I am happy to learn there are others out there – east of B.C., even – with similar concerns and propositions.

Which is great, because I am downright tired of being called things like “misguided”.  We all know that’s just a polite way of saying stupid.  As in, “That Glenn Beck… he’s very passionate; he’s just misguided”.

My cohort, if I can be so bold as to call a complete stranger that?  Dean Maher.

Mr. Maher has been in talks with city council members in Toronto and Mississauga in Ontario and St. John’s in Newfoundland to propose by-laws banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.  His drafted by-law for Toronto can be found here.  Updates about and support for his crusade can be found on his Facebook page here.

Like yours truly, his position:

Animal shelters across Canada are full or nearly full, he argues, so why continue selling animals in retail locations?

“I don’t understand why people would buy a cat (or dog) from pet store when there are so many animals waiting for adoption,” he said.

A ban would have the additional benefits of eliminating impulse buying of animals and would be the first step in the larger goal of putting “puppy mills” out of business, he said.


He’s also under no illusions.

A person selling puppies can still advertise online or in the media, they could also move to a nearby community and start over.

Maher calls his proposal “a small but significant step towards that greater goal,” of shutting down abusive animal sales.

But it would seem his proposal already has at least one supporter in [St. John’s].

When contacted for her opinion on the matter Debbie Powers, SPCA shelter director,  was nothing but supportive of the idea for a ban.

“In a ideal world wouldn’t that be wonderful,” Powers said.

Given the approaching holiday season the issue is timely, the 35 year SPCA veteran said, given that impulse buys of cats and dogs are at their highest during holidays.

Powers brought up one example to illustrate her point.

Last Christmas two MUN students came to the SPCA asking to adopt two dogs. Given the potential for the home to be unstable the SPCA refused the request. Those same students then went to a local pet shop and purchased two puppies at considerable expense. A few months later those puppies were dropped off at the shelter because their new owners couldn’t handle them.

Stories like that are heartbreaking, Powers said.

“It’s not right … but you’re not going to stop people when they decide they want something,” she said.

Mr. Maher proposed such a ban for Toronto during his (unsuccessful) run for city council this October, saying the goal is to reduce the number of unwanted animals in Toronto and he pointing to alarming statistics that show more than 25,000 dogs and cats were euthanized by Toronto Animal Services between 2002 and 2007.  Canada-wide, roughly 400,000 animals are euthanized in shelters annually – a completely preventable occurrence.

Along with some media attention, Mr. Maher’s campaign has also garnered some support, in addition to the SPCA endorsement in St. John’s noted above.

Veterinarian Dr. Kenneth Hill (owner, Bloor Mill Veterinary Hospital) wrote a letter of support, asserting that such a ban would help reduce the number of puppy and kitten mills that often keep pet stores stocked.  Dr. Hill also pointed out that pet store employees are often poorly-trained and under-informed when it comes to properly advising prospective pet owners.  “This results in pet owners who become dissatisfied with their pet or who are unable to cope with breed-specific behaviour and health issues.  Dogs and cats are then prone to suffer neglect or in worse case scenarios show-up in veterinary offices to be euthanized.”

The Etobicoke Humane Society also officially released support for Mr. Maher, writing:

The Etobicoke Humane Society wishes to publicly voice its strong support for the recent proposal by Toronto Council Candidate Dean Maher, to ban the sale and/or giving away of cats and dogs in Toronto-area pet shops and retail venues. And we applaud the fact that this proposal would allow Humane Societies and rescue groups to continue to operate adoption programs through retail venues.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of homeless animals are euthanized in shelters across North America. Much of this tragedy is the result of inadequate, irresponsible and often last-minute decision making by well-intentioned members of the public. Responsible pet-selection and pet care – with the intent of providing a forever home – requires thoughtful decision making, based on advanced research and planning. Such elements are too often missing in the retail purchase of pets, not to mention the use of retail properties by individuals giving animals away. Animals are sentient, feeling beings whose future lives are literally put at risk by such action; .actions which strengthens the concept of animals as property – a concept that the Etobicoke Humane Society, and many other Humane Societies and rescue groups have long fought to dispel.

The Etobicoke Humane Society is thankful to have the opportunity to operate a shelter that never euthanizes any animal due to lack of space, taking in only those animals for which we have shelter and/or foster space. However, we are painfully aware of the huge loss of animal lives due to animal overpopulation and homelessness.


There are hundreds of thousands of wonderful animals, of all ages and sizes, including pure-breds, waiting in shelters and foster homes for someone to come along and adopt them and give them a proper and loving forever home. In most of these situations, individuals are carefully screened before being allowed to adopt an animal, and a great deal of related education also takes place. However, if one has determined that they want only a specific breed of cat or dog, and has made sincere but unsuccessful effort to find them in a shelter or rescue group, there are well-respected, reliable and caring breeders out there, but one should devote time and effort to finding them.

We hope that candidate Maher’s proposed ban is successful, and that related discussions serve to highlight the need for further protection of animals and the importance of responsible pet selection and care by the public.

So what do I get from this?  Well, encouragement, confidence, and motivation to continue to forge ahead.  And the idea to pester some people with louder voices and bigger circles of influence to sign on in the name of animal welfare.  Because for some sort of positive change to happen, someone’s got to be that nagging voice.  May as well be me.  Apparently, I’m pretty good at it.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of some famous, inspiring words:

We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting – till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions – of the world.

I don’t recall exactly who said that.  Probably Gandhi.