Why Ban Pet Sales?

Well the debate sure has heated up here on the Soapbox as a result of my request for the City of Calgary to implement a ban on the sale of companion pets in pet stores.  The proposed by-law amendment is similar to ones already in place in several US cities and the one recently passed in Richmond, B.C.  Richmond is the first Canadian city to introduce such a by-law, and it looks like Langley, B.C. might soon be the second.

And why am I proposing this ban?  A couple of simple reasons.  To review:

1.  Decrease the sales of puppies bred in “puppy mills” and bring a more widespread awareness of the issue of puppy mills in the first instance.  Pet stores are the most visible sales medium for these substandard, high volume breeders.

2.  Put an end to impulse pet purchases.  The addition of a dog or cat to the family is not something to be taken lightly, but it often is, resulting in the surrender of dogs and cats to rescue organizations when unprepared purchasers will or can no longer care for them.  To ban the sale of companion animals in pet stores will decrease these impulse pet purchases, relieving some of the strain on local animal rescues.  Since the City of Albuquerque, NM, imposed a by-law banning commercial pet sales, they report animal adoptions have increased by 23% and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35%. 

Of course, implementing a ban such as this has some pretty strong critics, not the least of which is Petland, as anyone following my blog knows.  I can only assume such a ban will detrimentally affect their bottom line, or they wouldn’t be so opposed to the suggestion that they instead feature pets from rescue agencies in their stores.  (I should note a Petland location in East Liberty, PA has in fact opted to do this anyway, even though the city has no such ban in place.)  The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJACC) also openly opposed the ban in Richmond. 

The critics claim a widespread acknowledgement that banning the commercial sale of pets is the wrong approach and that provincial legislation is more appropriate to put an end to puppy mills (think Prop B in Missouri).  Of course that kind of solution also has many critics (again, think Prop B in Missouri). 

First, I actually find that this “widespread acknowledgement” isn’t really there.

The BC SPCA writes “Reputable breeders do not sell to pet stores; puppy mills do.”

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies writes: “Many pet store puppies are born to suffering, malnourished dogs in puppy mills.”

The Humane Society International/Canada writes: “HSI Canada applauds Richmond (a Vancouver suburb) City Council for drafting a bylaw amendment that will ban the sale of puppies in commercial pet stores. […] Investigations have shown time and again that the vast majority of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, cruel mass-production facilities where the breeding dogs are often confined to small wire cages for life and often deprived of the basics of humane care, solely to produce puppies for the pet trade. HSI Canada hopes that Richmond’s actions will inspire other councils across Canada to take similar actions to combat the cruel conditions in which dogs are factory-farmed for profit, and congratulates Richmond for having the courage to be the first city in Canada to take this important step towards reducing the demand for puppy mill puppies.”

And while I certainly would support most provincial initiatives to regulate, monitor, and otherwise police high volume breeding facilities in an effort to put an end to puppy mills, the fact is that a municipality banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores is still a quick, effective, and important step to take.  Consider, for example, the City of Richmond, which found upwards of 90 pet store dogs per year were surrendered to the city-run shelter for various reasons – and Richmond only has three stores that actually sells pets (until April 2011, that is).  It is not only a burden upon the shelters who to care for and re-home these animals, but also the municipality and its taxpayers who pay for the shelter services.  Not to mention that a municipal solution is going to be the most effective, as it is more easily implemented (to the best of my knowledge, the provincial government doesn’t currently have this issue on the agenda), and it is the individual cities who regulate businesses with their respective by-laws.  And finally, while the province may regulate breeders within its borders, pet stores still often obtain dogs and cats from out-of-province, and even out-of-country, sources.  Instead, a city by-law amendment covers all these bases.

While considering this issue, I decided look back and see how Richmond determined to push through and become the first Canadian city to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores, and the following is taken from City Council Minutes.

Council Meeting, Monday, February 8, 2010

Marcie Moriarty, General Manager of Cruelty Investigations for the BC SPCA, was in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Moriarty spoke of concerns related to dogs being sold in stores, noting that although pet stores claim that their dogs come from loving homes, these stores often hide behind puppy brokers.  In March 2009, CBC aired a documentary that exposed Hunte Corporation, a puppy broker, and showed the conditions in which puppies are kept.

Ms. Moriarty noted that currently there are no regulations or authority that oversees dog breeders.  Thus, pet stores can claim anything on their websites.  In regards to Richmond pet stores’ claim that their dogs come from ‘licenced breeders’, she questioned who licenced them.

She commented that neither the members of the Canadian Kennel Club nor other reputable breeders sell to pet stores as they do not know where their puppy will go. […]

In response to queries from Committee, Ms. Moriarty advised the following that (i) puppy mills are only in business because they have buyers; and (ii) although some puppies from mills may be healthy, they are bred in poor conditions.

Christie Lagally, volunteer with the Richmond Animal Protection Society (RAPS), distributed materials and spoke in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Lagally stated that RAPS would like to see a full ban as many puppies purchased from Richmond pet stores are surrendered to RAPS within the first two years.

She spoke of figures related to surrendered or abandoned purebreds, and noted that almost every jurisdiction in BC consistently only sees 25% of purebreds surrendered or abandoned.  However, in Richmond this figure is 57%.

Ms. Lagally advised that surrender forms are included in the materials she distributed and noted that many of the forms indicate that the dogs were purchased from Richmond pet stores.  Also, she referenced a petition in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.

Ernest Ang, owner of the Richmond Pet Habitat, was opposed to the proposed ban.  He stated that Richmond pet stores comply and perhaps exceed the standards of care set out by the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association, humane societies, and the SPCA.  He advised that Pet Habitat only receives puppies from government certified facilities.  Mr. Ang was of the opinion that the banning of puppies being sold in Richmond stores would increase unregulated ‘backyard breeding’ and would create unfair competition for Richmond pet stores.

In response to the previously referenced CBC documentary, Mr. Ang noted that the video was one-sided and as such CBC has removed the link to the video on its website.  He concluded by stating that pet stores want to be part of the solution and he invited the City to work with them. …

Discussion ensued regarding Richmond’s current dog bylaw, and in reply to a query made by Committee, Wayne Mercer, Manager, Community Bylaws, advised that only three dogs are permitted per household.  He clarified that puppies are not considered dogs until six months of age.  […]

Discussion ensued regarding the CBC documentary and in response to comments made by Committee, Mr. Ang advised that Pet Habitat is against puppy mills and he has visited Hunte Corporation breeders.  He noted that he would share more information regarding Hunte Corporation.

Sarah Henderson, representing PJ’s Pets, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in pet stores, and noted that a 2008 study conducted by Ipsos Reid indicated that only 10% of dogs owned by Canadians came from pet stores.  The remaining 90% come from other sources, therefore, selling dogs in stores is not a problem.  Ms. Henderson was of the opinion that a ban of the sale of dogs in pet stores will decrease jobs in Richmond as PJ’s Pets has a particular position that solely deals with the care and wellbeing of puppies:  Kennel Technician. …

In reply to queries from Committee, Ms. Henderson advised that (i) an employee of PJ’s Pets selects breeders; (ii) PJ’s Pets puppies come from a family-oriented environment within Canada; (iii) puppies are checked by PJ’s Pets’ veterinarian once they arrive at the store; and (iv) Kennel Technicians receive in-store training.

Cheri Simmons, former Store Manager for PJ’s Pets, was opposed to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  She was of the opinion that this ban would take away accountability and responsibility to find good homes for dogs.  There are no rules regulating breeders, therefore pet stores, which are regulated, are better places to purchase dogs. 

Ms. Simmons spoke of PJ’s Pets efforts to work with RAPS and indicated RAPS’ Board of Directors declined to work with them as they did not endorse the sale of animals in pet stores. 

In reply to queries from Committee, she noted that (i) better records should be kept in relation to where puppies come from; and (ii) PJ’s Pets does screen potential puppy buyers in order to match the future owner to the proper dog. […]

Gary Batt, President, Petland Surrey, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Mr. Batt spoke of his involvement with the National Board of Directors of the Pet Industry in Canada and highlighted his participation during the creation and implementation of regulations related to dogs being brought into Canada.

Mr. Batt spoke of dogs being members of families, and companions. He stated that many parties are concerned with the proper breeding of any animal, and noted that his pet store attempts to regulate breeding and care as much as possible.  Mr. Batt stated that he does not support puppy mills and believed that pet stores are not the problem, but instead part of the solution.  He commented that often he sees puppies for sale on the side of the street and there are lists of puppies for sale in the classified ads of newspapers and on the internet.

Also, Mr. Batt advised that Canada does not licence or regulate the breeding of dogs, therefore there are no standards for kennels, no regulations, and no inspections.  He noted that such licences and regulations fall under the Provincial governments’ mandate.  […]

Council Meeting, October 12, 2010

For the ban:

Christie Lagally, Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition (AWAC), spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Lagally referenced the gratitude that had been expressed to her and other animal welfare groups since the City’s proposal to change Business Licence Bylaw No. 7538 to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores.  Ms. Lagally then had all members in the audience in support of the ban raise their hands to illustrate the support to Council.

In conclusion Ms. Lagally read a statement from a City of Coquitlam Councillor who expressed her support for a province wide ban of the sale of dogs in pet stores, as well as increased sentences and fines for animal abuse and abandonment. 

Lori Chortyk, General Manager, Community Relations BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Chortyk indicated that there is a perception that banning the sale of dogs in storefronts would drive the puppy mill industry underground.  She pointed out that the puppy mill industry is already underground, and that is why the industry has managed to survive.  In conclusion, she thanked Council for its consideration of this issue, noting that the BC SPCA has been inundated with feedback from people who are saying that proceeding with the ban would be a landmark decision, and that many other jurisdictions are watching this matter closely.

Helen Savkovic, Richmond Animal Protection Society, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  In an effort to create an image of the living conditions and dangers that puppy mill dogs are exposed to, Ms. Savkovic referred to a number of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Reports for various breeders’ sites and provided examples of infractions and spoke of the related dangers.

Kristin Bryson, Director, BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Bryson spoke about how some US exporters of puppies being brought into the City of Richmond as well as numerous other Canadian cities, suggest that those puppies are from a licensed USDA source and that those puppies come from parents that are healthy and humanely cared for when they are not. 

Ms. Bryson made reference to the May 2010 report entitled “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dealers”, from the USDA Inspector General’s Office, (on file City Clerk’s Office), and advised that the Inspector General identified the following concerns: (i) the enforcement process was ineffective against problematic dealers; (ii) inspectors did not cite and document violations properly, or support enforcement actions; (iii) inspectors mis-used guidelines resulting in lower penalties for violators. 

She also advised that at this time there are only 99 inspection officers employed by the USDA and that they are responsible for inspections of dog breeders as well as other animal facilities such as zoos and labs.  Ms. Bryson further noted that when violations were actually recorded, enforcement action beyond an official warning was only given in 4% of the cases.

Rae Goodridge, Manager, Richmond BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of puppies in storefronts, and described her experience when purchasing a puppy from a breeder.  Ms. Goodridge advised that she had to go through an intense approval process which included a three page application form.  She noted that this breeder had allowed the dogs to live in her home and play in her yard.  She commented that animals that are shipped to pet stores are usually treated as livestock rather than pets.  She also noted that the SPCA provides information on reputable breeders for anyone searching for pure bred puppies that may otherwise be difficult to find in rescue shelters.

Don Clintoff, Richmond resident, spoke as a taxpayer, stating that he financially supported the animal shelters and that he did not see any shortage of animals for adoption in Richmond.  He expressed his belief that the pet stores do not have a strong argument against the ban on the sale of dogs in storefronts as they sell other products.  He remarked that unless there is a very large mark-up on pets, the marginal impact associated with the proposed ban  should be minimal to the pet stores.  In closing, Mr. Clintoff stated that the shelters are subsidized by taxpayers funding to collect and store animals, and that something had to be done to protect the taxpayers from expenditures that should not be happening.

Naz Gamadia, Richmond resident, stated that when searching for a puppy for herself, she researched breeders, shelters, and pet stores for approximately one year.  Ms. Gamadia stated that she found that most of the employees of the numerous pet stores she visited in Vancouver and Richmond did not have much knowledge about the dogs that were for sale in the stores.  She noted that the breeders and rescue shelters were able to provide far more information regarding different breeds and best care practices.  She also stated that pet stores do not take puppies back after seven days, whereas the rescue shelters will always take the animals back if the owner is no longer able to provide proper care.

Against the ban:

Roger Somm, National Director, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC), spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, and spoke of his involvement in the development of the Province of Manitoba’s Animal Care Act (on file City Clerk’s Office).  He also spoke about some of the regulations within the Act, including: (i) mandatory reporting of suspected abuse; (ii) increased fines for animal abuse; and (iii) licensing of pets stores, breeders, and shelters across Manitoba.

In answer to queries, Mr. Somm advised that it took approximately a year and a half to implement the new regulations in Manitoba, and that he had not made contact with the provincial government in BC to start a process similar to the one in Manitoba.

Robert Church, National Director, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, advocate for responsible pet ownership, and pet store owner, provided an overview of the work he has done in the pet industry for the past 25 years.  He spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, and requested Council to take a leadership role in abolishing substandard breeding operations across BC by encouraging, lobbying, and demanding that the provincial government establish an animal care act that licenses, regulates and inspects all breeders, pet stores and animal shelters.  Mr. Church questioned the rationale of the proposed ban which would “shut down” the only visible source of puppies that the public, the City, and animal protection officers are able to monitor.

Margaret Schmitky, Sr. Field Representative, Pet Land Canada, spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, and stated that Pet Land Canada was one of the largest full line pet stores in Canada, and that their 400 employees across Canada loved pets.  She advised that Pet Land has been regulating itself in accordance with PJAC guidelines and the Canadian Code of Kennel Practices.  She further advised that every Pet Land location has one or more companion animal purchaser and that their job is to actively investigate and inspect every puppy breeder before purchasing pets.

Ms. Schmitky stated that she personally believed that the proposed bylaw to ban the sale of dogs in storefronts had been brought forward with good intentions and emotion, but lacked futuristic and logical thinking.  She expressed her belief that the proposed ban would leave the public with little choice but to purchase puppies outside of their jurisdictions or directly from puppy breeders.  In conclusion, she stated that the only viable option to eradicate puppy mills is by implementing provincial legislation for regulation and licensing of breeders.

Gary Batt, owner, Petland Surrey, and formerly a representative of the PIJAC, spoke against the banning of dogs for sale in storefronts.  He stated that the pet industry was nationally setting standards to find a real solution to deal with the issue of puppy mills.  Mr. Batt stated that the provincial government should bring in strong licensing and regulation requirements. He expressed his belief that the City of Richmond’s proposed action was wrong and attacked the only publicly visible source of puppies in Richmond.

In conclusion Mr. Batt advised that he operates his pet store in the highest standards and has a willingness to work with City Council.  He urged Council to table the proposed ban and refer the matter back to staff for further investigation.  He encouraged the City to approach the province to regulate puppy breeding, and to join together with the Richmond Animal Protection Society (RAPS) and the BC SPCA to resolve the puppy mill problem in BC.  He also stated that pet stores behave much more responsibly than many believe.

Tim Hansen, Assistant Store Manager, PJs Pets, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, stating that the City was about to make a huge mistake by driving the supply of dogs even further underground, which would result in uncontrolled and unregulated sale of dogs.  Mr. Hansen stated that pet stores represent a known reputable source for the community to purchase pets.  He suggested that the City undertake more regulatory measures to deal with the matter and questioned where people would get their pets once the reputable sources have been eliminated. 

Mr. Hansen advised that an online poll indicated that the majority of residents were opposed to such a ban.  He also provided information related to the number of dogs for sale in Richmond pet stores in comparison to internet sites such as Kijiji.  In conclusion, Mr. Hansen stated that if the City of Richmond approached the provincial government regarding regulation of dog breeding operations, it would have the pet industry’s support. 

Ernest Ang, owner of the Richmond Pet Habitat, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, and expressed his frustration, stating that he had been a proud member of Richmond’s business community until the issue of puppy mills and cruelty to animals had emerged.  He stated that his store attracts business into Richmond because a portion of his customers are from other jurisdictions.  Mr. Ang concluded by stating that he would like to work with the BC SPCA and RAPS, and advised that he has suggested that they work together to market and find good homes for unwanted pets in Richmond’s rescue shelters. 

Josef Demcak, Richmond Resident, spoke against the banning of dogs in storefronts, expressing his belief that his rights were shrinking.  He stated that every time a group decided to speak up, the City implemented a new bylaw and the City’s residents were stripped of their basic rights.  He expressed frustration that the proposed ban would take away the right to go to a neighbourhood pet store to buy a puppy.  Mr. Demcak stated that people needed education on this matter rather than a bylaw. 

Bob Harrison, Richmond resident, spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, expressing his belief that such a ban would drive the sellers underground.  He noted that pet stores are the only controlled source of puppies.  Mr. Harrison stated that responsible laws to outlaw puppy mills and abuse of animals are required and urged City Council to think seriously about maintaining control over the industry and solving the problem rather than banning dogs from the pet stores. 

The End

Even the inattentive should notice that the debate that took place last month in Richmond is the same as the one going in my little blog.  Even some of the cast is making an encore appearance, and the arguments and objections sound very familiar.

Will such a ban completely solve the puppy mill problem?  No, unfortunately it will not.  As long as there are irresponsible people out there purchasing puppy mill dogs, they will remain in business.  But we should do what we can – and what will be effective – in the meantime.

And, finally, to those who may think puppy mills are an American phenomenon, and need not be a pressing concern for Calgarians or Canadians: you are absolutely incorrect.  Here are some select examples of puppy mills discovered in our midst:
Abbotsford, B.C., September 2010
Southern Alberta, February 2010
Edmonton, Alberta, October 2009
Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 2008
Langley, B.C., December 2007
Bruce County, Ontario, December 2003
Toronto, Ontario, August 2001

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In Response to Petland

Well it appears that my letter to Mayor Nenshi and Calgary’s City Council has garnered a little bit of attention – much to my own delight!

At the time of writing, six Petland employees have addressed my concerns in the comments section.  Six!  This is great!  Because while I didn’t actually mean for my letter to be any form of attack on Petland specifically, as the sellers of companion animals they are obviously on the other side of the issue.  And I’m honestly thrilled to have both sides represented.  I mean, mostly I want people to seriously consider these issues, and then if they agree with me, all the better!

Field Trip

In order to formulate my response, I thought perhaps a field trip was in order.  A little sleuthing, If you will (once a Nancy Drew fan, always a Nancy Drew fan, I guess).  So I went to my neighbourhood Petland.  I mean, I hadn’t been to a Petland in quite some time, so I thought I should make an updated assessment of the place.

And you know what?  In one respect at least, I was pleasantly surprised.  I’m talking about their nutrition aisles.  Recalling my last visit to Petland (over a year ago, for sure), I remember shelves mostly stocked with several big-name brand dog and cat foods, which I think we all know aren’t great, and a very small selection of quality, grain-free options such as Origin.  And, of course, while you can still find poor quality foods in Petland, the quantity and selection of quality foods has increased quite a bit, which I was happy to see.  I didn’t see any raw food options, but I suppose they could’ve been there and I just didn’t find the freezer.

I was also impressed with the openness and patience of the staff.  I asked a lot of questions, and even obtained a tour of the area behind the kennels (I didn’t even have to ask, but apparently anyone who asks can get one).

On the other hand, there was certainly still room for improvement in several areas:

1.  Obviously, I’d prefer a complete elimination of poor quality kibbles and other foods for cats and dogs, as well as detrimental treats such as rawhide.  Several other pet store chains focus specifically on high-quality pet foods, so I don’t think this is an unreasonable request.  I mean, if Petland is all about the best for pets, this is a pretty key component of that.

2.  The “child soup”, or in other words, the public playpen, where puppies are put into an x-pen in the middle of the store to socialize with people and play.  My main complaint is that these pens are unsupervised (by staff; inattentive parents who are just glad their children are occupied don’t count) and there didn’t seem to be any sort of time or population limit.  For two puppies, I counted 9 children tugging and playing and screeching in the small space.  Socialization is good, but that strikes me as uncontrolled and overwhelming.  Not to mention, just anyone who requests can ask to hold/meet a puppy that’s on display in a kennel.  Perhaps that’s where the screening process should start.

3.  Which brings me to my next point: I’m pretty sure I could’ve walked out with an impulse puppy purchase in about an hour.  I didn’t even have to ask to see the puppy I was looking at; he was brought out to me because I seemed interested.  And impulse pet purchases, as we know, are a main concern of mine.  I was walking around with a cat water dish and had a cute yellow lab puppy in my hands in no time.  And while I didn’t go as far to actually fill out any paper work, obtained and reviwed it all, and I’m certain that if I was so inclined they would have sold him to me.  I got no indicators from the staff that maybe I should think about it more, research it more, etc.  And during my tour in the back, I noticed an announcement for a staff competition, where each person is encouraged to earn points.  Pet adoptions, of course, earn you the most points.  Petland talks a lot about matching pets and “guests”, but they’re still a company trying to make sales.  Fun fact: I learned the average puppy is sold in about 10 days, but being sold upon day of arrival is not unheard of.

4.  During my inquiries, I asked about how old puppies are when they arrive at Petland.  The response I received was that they don’t arrive at the store before 8 weeks old.  Well, most of the time.  Because they receive pets at the end of the week, sometimes the puppies arrive a couple of days short of 8 weeks.  I’m sorry, but I don’t care for the grey area.  Especially if it’s a day or two of travel from a breeder in Saskatchewan.  8 weeks of age removal from the mother and littermates should be an absolute minimum, and I’d prefer Petland be absolutely stringent on this policy.  What could the harm be in waiting until the next week, when instead of just under 8 weeks old, they’re just over?

5.  I’m sure it’s an issue with FIOPP, but if so, maybe the breeders should just agree to have their organizations disclosed, because if you buy a puppy from Petland you’re not actually provided with any breeder information.  You get some parent information, yes.  I mention this because I would personally not be comfortable buying a dog from a completely unknown source, no matter how rigorous Petland’s checks may be.

6.  Petland has an extensive flexi leash selection.  I note this, of course, because it is a personal pet peeve of mine; I don’t think they’re quality or useful pet tools.  Not to mention they contravene Calgary’s by-laws.

7.  The sale of particular training tools to just anyone.  I’m uncomfortable with the thought that just anyone can go and purchase a prong or choke collar (or even have one recommended) without having to seek proper training to use such a serious tool.  In the wrong hands, or used on the wrong dog, these training accessories can actually severely aggravate the problem.

8.  While I was there, my attention was drawn to a cute bulldog puppy.  He was 9 weeks old, had been purchased already and was returned.  And he was neutered already.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for the promotion of responsible spaying and neutering of pets, which is a huge factor in unwanted and rescue pets.  However, already neutered at 9 weeks didn’t sit well with me.  Too early.  I am of the particular school of thought that males should not be fixed before at least 10 months old and females should be spayed after their first heat (barring some sort of specific issue that dictates otherwise).  The delay is to benefit proper psychological and physical growth, and these standards are supported by PAACT, the Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers, among many other independent dog associations.  And while I’m certain the bulldog puppy was neutered too early, I also have concerns about Petland’s general spay and neuter policy/incentive: if you buy a pet from them, and get that pet fixed within 5 months, you are refunded a $50 deposit upon showing the receipt.  This will mean that most Petland puppies are fixed before 7 months of age.

9.  While in Petland’s care, I’d like to see the puppies fed better quality food.  I will try to leave the kennel condition criticisms to others, but I would prefer to see the puppies (if you’re selling them) fed something grain-free and better than Nutrience.  They deserve the best right?

10.  Actually, what I would really like – and what I think is a great idea – is for pet stores to showcase rescue animals.   Since a couple of the employees below hint to a working relationship with local humane societies, it would be much better if rescue animals were featured.  Potential owners would of course still have to go through the rescue agency for adoption, but it would ease the burden on the rescue organization and provide more exposure.

And while those are my standing concerns, I’m also going to take a moment to address the comments individually – and thanks again to each for taking the time to reply.  It’s clear that each is proud of their company and their careers.

Sherry Wasdal, Training Coordinator

Your post has actually provided me with a lot of follow-up questions.  I’ll fire away.

How often does a breeder get investigated?  What is the process for investigating the suppliers of local “accidental” litters?  What exactly happens when you come across a sub-standard facility?  Have you seen any shut down?  What exactly serves as “corrective action”?  Are you in collaboration with local humane societies or SPCAs to shut down and bring attention to these vendors?  Can we see an example of your checklist?  Do you have any statistics on Petland’s charge against puppy mills – exactly and specifically how it has helped?

Speaking of statistics, do you have any on having to re-home your animals?  How often is your “Pets for a Lifetime” policy acted upon?  What happens if you receive an adult animal and cannot re-sell it?  Or does that even happen?  Are the adults treated and housed in the same fashion as puppies?  Do they get walked daily, or just play-pen time?  How do you deal with returned animals who have behavioural issues?  How do you determine a price point for a returned adult animal?  Do you actually canvass rescues for Petland surrenders?  How often?

I honestly do not think that Petland is the only organization checking into high volume breeders, but I welcome evidence that suggests otherwise.

And, of course, the obvious question is that if pets are such a burden to the bottom line, then wouldn’t no longer selling them actually create more profit?  Stores that do not sell pets do not have to invest in the same types of costs, so of course you pay more.  Another fun fact:  I asked when I was at the store today: the bulldog puppy was going for over $3,300, and Petland paid the breeder $1,800 for him.

Trish

My solution helps.  Since implementing this type of ban in Albuquerque, NM, animal adoptions have increased 23 percent and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35 percent.  These are significant numbers.

Stronger regulation of breeders is a much more contentious issue than you think.  Consider Prop B in Missouri, which is being touted as a victory against puppy mills; it’s not quite that black and white.  In fact, Prop B reiterates many of the regulations already in place in the state, and if they weren’t enforced before, why should people think they will be now?  But perhaps the biggest problem with solutions like Prop B is the serious ramifications it can have for livestock farmers, and the suggestion that it can be used as an “in” for the HSUS to more strictly regulate that industry is legitimate.  Companion animals (unfortunately or not) are governed differently, and the solution I have devised here does not impact the livelihood of farmers and our food producers.  Prop B is a potentially slippery slope and I’m not willing to see where it leads.

As far as breeders, I have not – and do not – suggest that some sort of purchased “certification” is good enough.  Instead, each person considering a new pet should do some research, make a visit, and ask as many questions as possible.  Reputable breeders will then have an extensive application process themselves, ensuring their puppies are going to good homes.  And many good breeders – like where I got my dog, for example – do provide warranties and return policies.  Not to mention information on the parents, an open door for advice, and even pet sitting if necessary.  I am also calling for every prospective pet owner to spend some time investigating and researching as much of the history and habitat of any potential pet as possible.

Yes, internet sales are already a problem.  And perhaps like Craigslist has shut down the “personals” section, maybe it and Kijiji should no longer have a pets section.  I’d be all for that.  In the meantime, public education is key, and I stress that no one should ever buy a pet online.

Martina Frensemeier, Companion Animal Warranties, Manager, Behaviour Consultant

While the warranty seems well-intentioned, I’m curious on how often it’s called upon – do you have any statistics?  I also cannot resist the temptation to point out that $1,000 is not that much, and I hope Petland still promotes pet insurance.  Actually, is Petland affiliated with any pet insurance companies? Maybe they should be.  That could be a worthwhile collaboration.

Also, if you are selling top-health animals, would it be too tongue-in-cheek to suggest they shouldn’t need a warranty?  Or that a year is often too short for many potential hereditary or congenial problems to appear before it has expired? 

I had the opportunity to read Petland’s warranty today and it was exactly as you said, and though it sounds good and you’re all clearly proud of it, I can’t decide if it’s unnecessary or insufficient.

Jennifer Brown, Director of Animal Care and Kennel Operations

Thank you for your comments.  I would like more specific details regarding your breeder and puppy selections and investigations, because my concern is that it is all easier said than done.  And while I am aware American Petlands are not associated with Canadian ones, the name association is unfortunate.  The American Petlands made the same promises, but it turned out not to be exactly the case.  I’m looking for more/better reassurance that Petland is as diligent as you all say.

As for impulse purchases, they still happen.  I nearly made one today.  And people with glazed-over puppy eyes can easily say what it takes to get adoption approval in a quick interview.  And in addition, the print and television advertising of Petland certainly promotes impulse pet purchases.

Of course, and as I’ve said, I do not, in any circumstance, promote getting a pet online.

As to your warranty, many reputable breeders now cover pet insurance to a certain age (i.e., 3 months, 6 months, 1 year), so you’ve got some stiff competition in the warranty area.  All good breeders will take a pet back.  In the case of a hereditary or congenial disease, some will even replace your pet from the next litter at no cost in the event it dies from the ailment.  That’s pretty extensive!

Janine Saurette, Kennel Operations Supervisor

Your post provides me with more questions.

You say you do not accept puppies that fail inspection upon arrival.  How often does this happen?  Do they get returned to the breeder?  In all cases?  Do you have statistics?  I assume a returned puppy means you will cease using that breeder and explain why to the necessary people?

I was told today that sometimes puppies are sold the day they arrive – I suppose this means they miss their day 2 vet check-up or are sometimes sold without a complete health assessment?

I’ve heard complaints about the grates in the kennels, that they’re hard on the feet.  The response I received today was that the grate was only half of the floor, but in all cases I saw today, the other half of the kennel was mostly covered up by a dog bed, and not often walked on by the puppies.  What about the concern about too much lighting?  Or that the minimum kennel standards are just that – minimums?  If Petland is going for the best, I expect a great exceeding of minimum standards.

And of course, I would like specific examples and information on how Petland helps prevent sub-standard breeding and care facilities.

Margaret Schmidtke

I would like to be clear: my personal agenda is to bring attention to the issue, prevent “puppy mill” sales and impulse pet purchases.  I am not a PETA member, and am very wary of any association thereto.  As a dog and cat owner, I certainly do want people to be able to have pets, but I also want those pets to always be treated ethically, from the sale throughout the duration of their lives. 

Your proposed provincial solution – higher regulation of breeders – is similar to Prop B in Missouri that I mention in my reply to Trish above.  I also mention my concerns with such a solution, which would actually be the more favoured solutions for institutions to the HSUS, as they open the door to all other sorts of regulations.  So I actually find a contradiction here, in your strongly anti-HSUS post, as they were proponents of Prop B.

And while I see you’re passionate in your stance against the HSUS, I am concerned about stores here, upon which they have no jurisdiction.  But since you brought it up, in my discussion in person with Petland staff today, they completely acknowledged the tarnished past of American Petlands, regardless of the HSUS’s ultimate agenda.  American Petlands were found to be selling many puppy mill puppies, and as much as you are critiquing the HSUS, you are not saying much about that study or its findings.

And on a side note, when you mention Manitoba, my first thought is actually to Winnipeg’s breed ban on pit bulls, which is legislation I am not at all in favour of.

I’ve been to Petland, and while you accuse the HSUS of “manipulating people’s emotions”, I would argue that your advertising does the same, with the result being impulse purchasing.  Putting a cute puppy in my hands today – well, the little guy practically sells himself!

The End

I am truly enjoying this thorough discussion of the issue and I thank all of the above for their responses, and I am looking forward to even more follow-up.  Clearly, I’m not convinced yet, and I hope my (several) questions get answered and I am met with more specifics, details, and numbers.

It’s clear that these Petland employees believe in their company, and also that this isn’t their first rodeo, so-to-speak.

And though Petland has many assurances, the Humane Society of Canada still advises that if you’re going to obtain a new pet “don’t buy a pet from a pet store”.  The Alberta SPCA and Calgary Humane Society of course also promote rescue adoptions as favourable alternatives.

And, of course, my proposed by-law amendment will not solely affect Petland, but all sellers and advertisers of companion animals on public, commercial, and residential properties.

More Kudos For Calgary’s Animal Services

A tip of my hat (toque?) to Calgary’s Animal Services for now providing a no-cost spay and neuter program for low income pet owners.

I’ve said it before: Calgary’s Animal Services department and by-laws are great examples for how things should be done most everywhere.  And the new spay and neuter assistance program certainly adds to that.

Individuals with yearly incomes less than $18,895, or couples with a combined annual income of less than $23,523, can receive the procedures free from the Animal Services Centre Clinic. 

This will take a huge weight off the shoulders of low-income pet owners, because typically these services do not come cheap.  Just last month when I was calling around for information before getting my cat spayed, I was quoted anywhere between $200 and $600 for the procedure.  While that turned out to be a wide price range, even $200 low end can be quite a lot for many Calgarians.

The new no-cost program is paid for with the revenue received from cat licenses – just another good reason to license your pet, in addition to the city’s new I Heart My Pet rewards program, which offers discounts at local businesses for owners of licensed pets.  

Obviously, this program will help to reduce the number of unwanted pets that end up in shelters in Calgary and the surrounding area.  In 2009, the City of Calgary reports having had to euthanize 22 dogs and 16 cats for reasons only listed as “other”, in other words, not because of a health or behaviour issue that required the animal to be put down.  And the city has recently asked for help with cat adoptions, noting that they are currently at capacity.  Hopefully the no-cost program will help make these numbers lower or even non-existent in the coming years.

And, of course, I think we all know what I propose Calgary’s next big step to be when it comes to our pets: banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores.  Such a by-law will also help diminish the population of rescue animals in the area (no more impulse pet purchases) and help to curb puppy mill sales.  I’ve written this letter to Mayor Nenshi and City Council on the subject, and I encourage anyone else to do the same.

After all, while our city may be pretty great – especially in this category – it can always be greater.

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