One Good Apple

Guess where I went today.

Probably not that surprising.

This is one of Calgary’s many Petland locations.  And I went to confirm some rumours I’d been hearing.

And I probably don’t need to tell you that I haven’t been inside of Petland, well, since that last time.

I first sensed the light breeze of the Winds of Change when I came across this ad in advance of the weekend:

Since Petland actually does sometimes use the word “adopt” to refer to retail pet sales, I was pretty cynical when I saw it.  And I was even more cynical on Saturday when I was told Action Speak Louder (Calgary)’s favourite two-time television debate opponent, Robert Church, was on the radio, live on location, promoting the adopt-a-thon.

But then a complete stranger shared an interesting observation on Twitter yesterday, and I decided I had to go for another field trip.

I mean, I have been waiting with bated breath for a response to my letter to Petland.  I really wanted at least one reply and based on their history of having several staff members stop by the Soapbox and write openly, I was a little surprised and dejected when I didn’t get one.

And I refuse to accept that this note posted on Petland Canada’s Facebook page – posted for all 323 Facebook fans of theirs to read – is my response.  Though it did come out one day following my letter so… who’s to say?  But it’s more of the same blanket reassurances as usual, without any actual proof, transparency, or specifics.  If it’s a reply, it’s not a very good one.

So based on that, and on Mr. Church’s vehement defences of Petland’s practices in the recent televised debates, I was skeptical; a Petland going adoption only?  In Calgary?  Can it be true?

I should note, it wouldn’t be the first time for Petland.  There is a Petland in Winnipeg that has served as a satellite adoption centre for the Winnipeg Humane Society for quite some time now.  And there are a couple of Petland locations in the U.S. that have also gone the way of PJ’s Pets, and opted for adoption only for dogs, cats, or both.

So this evening I stroll into the Coventry Hills Petland location unencumbered, a little surprised my face isn’t posted on a wall in the front, America’s-Most-Wanted-style.

And the first thing I notice?

There are no puppies.  None.

Several cats, but the windows that would house available puppies are dark and empty.

And near the kittens, it says this:

So I flagged down a Pet Counsellor and start asking questions.

And it turns out the rumours are true!  Which is great!

This Petland location will no longer be selling dogs and cats.  Instead, they will be partnering with local rescue organizations to house adoptable cats and bring in adoptable dogs on weekends during adopt-a-thons.

To clarify, currently, the cats are a mix of Petland cats and adoptable ones.  Evidently no other locations were able to take on the retail kittens, so they will be selling the ones they have left and going adoption only for cats after that.

The ad for last Saturday’s adopt-a-thon was for the first one they’d hosted and the partnering rescue for that weekend was the affiliated Pets for Life Foundation.  The Pet Counsellor informed me that they have canvassed “all of the local rescues”, naming both specifically the Calgary Humane Society and ARF (Alberta Rescue Foundation), and that it will be one of a number of local rescues bringing in adoptable animals any given weekend (have yet to get confirmation of this partnership from the rescues, however).

[Update, August 31, 2011:  ARF (Alberta Rescue Foundation) confirms they have, in fact, not been approached by Petland to participate in this program, and that they would not be interested in doing so in any event until all Petland Canada locations cease selling all dogs and cats.]

The Pet Counsellor was unable to confirm whether or not adoptions would be handled through Petland or through the rescue, being a little unfamiliar with the new process.  But she did tell me that this location is serving as a pilot for the other Calgary locations, to see how the process works, if it’s successful, and to work out the kinks before other locations also make the switch (if they do).

Personally, I’m stoked.  This is probably the best response to my letter I could get – them doing exactly what I have asked and only 11 days after the request!

(Not that I truly think my sad little letter spurred this change, but a gal can dream, right?)

I am admittedly confused, though.

I’m not complaining, but I am perplexed.  I mean, why go to such great lengths to defend Petland policies and practices, strongly asserting the belief that the retail sale of pets is doing the right thing for the right reasons, only to turn around and change policies for the better as requested?  It’s like the weird defence of financing pet purchases all over again.  Or why, even amongst all the advertising of the adopt-a-thon, is there no mention that the Coventry Hills location is now adoption only?  That’s huge news! … Isn’t it?

Oh well. I doubt I’ll ever get insight behind that, but it truly doesn’t matter.

What matters is that there is a Petland location here in Calgary that has made the ethical choice to go adoption only.

So what next?

Support them!

Check out the weekend adopt-a-thons.  Tell them how much you appreciate and respect this move!  If you’re a Petland shopper, instead of going to the Petland in your neighbourhood, drive a little further to the Coventry Hills one and give them your business!

Show them with the only thing that matters to a company – your dollars – that you are supportive and enthusiastic about this improvement.  Encourage them not to change back; it’s a pilot program, remember, and a Petland in Wheaton, Illinois attempted this model in 2010, only to change back 3 months later.

Support this Petland so that other locations will start do to the same.  Yes, one location is a big deal and a good step, and shows they’re willing to consider change, but there are seven more in this city (35 more across the country) I expect to follow suit.

One franchise, one city, one store location at a time – the pet industry is changing.  For the better.

(Though, the Grammar Nerd in me would like to point out that we’re in Canada and it should be Adoption “Centre”, but one battle at a time, right?)

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The “Pet Store Experience”

As you may or may not have heard, I would like pet stores to stop selling live animals.  And if the stores themselves won’t opt to stop selling pets by their own accord (and, happily, some do, such as Paradise Pet Centre in St. Albert), then I am not opposed to forcing their hand by way of municipal bylaw.

Back in November, during the course of my back and forth with a number of Petland employees in the comments sections here on my blog, the following was said about my position on the issue, by Petland’s Director of Animal Care and Kennel Operations:

“The thought of raising my children in a city where we can’t go to a pet store and experience the wonder, excitement, and joy of owning a pet is a sad thought indeed- and that is what Jen K is asking the City of Calgary to do.”

The Pet Store Grinch wants to rob you of childhood happiness.

Now, if she’s looking to silence her opposition, this is definitely the route to take because I nearly died of laughter.

But once I caught my breath, some immediate thoughts came to mind.

First, I’d like to note that I am intentionally disregarding any complaints I may have that the “pet store experience” is not actually all it’s cracked up to be, and, like a zoo, it can actually be a pretty depressing place.  Cages.  Fluorescent lights.  Ick.

But I’ve digressed, and I now have the following official objections to the attempted guilt trip.

1.  The Beloved “Experience” is Not Lost

I have suggested more than once that pet stores take the stance recently adopted by Paradise Pet Centre or Petland in East Liberty, PA, and start featuring only animals up for adoption by local rescue organizations.

In this scenario, I’m happy because the pets aren’t being commercially sold (the shelter or rescue will still control the adoption process) and more visibility is given to rescue organizations and their available adoptions.

And it also means that you can still take your child into the pet store, and they can still look at and play with the available puppies, kittens, birds and bunnies.  To the eyes of the child, nothing will change.

2.  You Will Still Be Able to Get a Pet

Pull your head out of your ass.

Ah.  Sorry.  I slipped.  Let me start over.

By advocating for a retail pet ban, I am not looking to ban pet ownership itself, which should be clear.  Instead, I am looking to encourage responsible pet ownership.  Pet stores market to that “puppy in the window” syndrome, and yes, impulse pet purchases happen.  And then surrenders happen and the rescue pet is created.

I would truly appreciate it if someone would explain to me how encouraging people to find a reputable breeder or go through a more thorough adoption process with a rescue agency are negative consequences of a pet store ban.

No, I admit you won’t likely be able to take your new pet home within a day or even a week of deciding you want one, and you may have to spend some time and jumping through a couple of hoops before your adoption is approved.  But at the end of it all, you will have matched your family with a suitable pet who will bring you years of joy, wonder, and excitement.

Even The Grinch had a pet. In fact, in the movie from 2000, The Grinch’s loyal dog Max was played by six different mixed-breed shelter rescues.

3.  There Will Be No Pet Shortage

There are already enough dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets out there who need good homes without adding commercially bred and sold pets into the market.  Taking away the ability of Petland and others to sell animals is not going to result in a sudden decrease of available pets.

Take Calgary and area, for instance: there are lots of rescues and shelters overburdened with pets in need of good homes.

Here, a compiled list for you in alphabetical order:

Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS):  A non-profit organization whose mandate is to rescue abandoned, surrendered or abused small animals (dogs and cats) from First Nations Communities in Central Alberta and place these animals in the safety of a foster home system while awaiting suitable placement in forever, adoptive homes.

Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF):  ARF’s mission is to rescue stray and unwanted dogs and cats from First Nations and rural areas and place them in loving, permanent homes while providing programs to reduce pet over-population.

Calgary Humane Society:  It’s even organized like a pet store, where you can see and meet adoptable cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, chinchillas and aquatic animals.

City of Calgary Animal Services:  Give a rescued or surrendered dog or cat a second chance.

Cochrane & Area Humane Society:  Re-homing dogs, cats, non-companion barn cats, and other animals such as rabbits.  The Cochrane Humane Society is a charitable organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the well-being of animals, sustained by volunteers and the community.

Furever After Rescue Society:  A non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue of dogs from high kill shelters, disasters, neglect and other tragic situations from Canada and the United States.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation:  Providing shelter, care and nourishment to abandoned, abused and homeless domestic animals (dogs and cats) within High River and the surrounding area.

MEOW Foundation:  MEOW Foundation is a registered charity and humane society with a no-kill mandate. We facilitate the adoption of the stray and abandoned cats that we rescue into new loving, permanent homes.

Misty Creek Dog Rescue:  Misty Creek Dog Rescue takes in dogs from pounds, reserves, other shelters and voluntary owner surrenders providing them with medical care, vaccinations, and behavioural training with the aim of finding them forever homes. Because of the strict no-kill mandate, dogs may stay at the shelter for years until they are successfully placed with a suitable family.

Oops-A-Dazy Rescue and Sanctuary Society:  Helping adoptable dogs, cats, and even pot belly pigs and other farm animals such as donkeys, goats, and alpacas.

Pawsitive Match Rescue:  Pawsitive Match saves dogs facing life-threatening circumstances in Canada, United States, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, and the Northwest Territories. The dogs come from shelters that have no choice but to euthanize due to over-crowding or because they are shutting down.

Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue:  Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue is dedicated to rescuing and finding homes and adopters for dogs and cats.  We frequently rescue dogs that have been abandoned, found starving, often traumatized and freezing, on the Morley Reserve near Calgary.

Not in Calgary or the surrounding area?  Canada’s Guide to Dogs has a rescue directory for each province.

And if you think that’s a lot (and I’m sure I missed some), the foregoing list also does not even include any of the breed-specific rescue organizations out there.  For example:

Want a Great Dane?  Check out For the Love of Danes Rescue.

A pit bull?  How about Pit Bulls for Life Foundation of Alberta?

A basset hound?  Then there is Calgary Basset Rescue.

Labrador Retreiver?  See Calgary Purebred Labrador Retriever Rescue, unless you’d prefer a Golden Retriever.  Or a Chihuahua?  A Jack Russell Terrier?  A Daschund?  Looking for a bird?  How about Birdline Canada Ltd.?

 Basically, if you have a certain breed, or even species, in mind, try this:

 Google:  [breed] + rescue + [City/Province]

By now I hope I’ve sufficiently illustrated that there is an abundance of rescued or surrendered pets out there in need of permanent homes.  

And if this still isn’t your preferred route, there is a large population of reputable breeders out there to apply to as well, and Canada’s Guide to Dogs has an extensive directory for them, too. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to also note what is explicitly outlined in the Canadian Kennel Club Code of Ethics:

Section III, General Responsibilities, subsection (g).  No breeder shall sell or donate dogs for the purpose of their being auctioned, raffled or to pet stores.

So now I’d like to go back to the original question and ask:  What exactly am I robbing the City of Calgary of, again?

Max knows.

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.

Texas, then the World

Just taking a quick moment to update on recent happenings within the subject of pet sale bans:  Austin, Texas, with a 7-0 vote today has become the latest city to pass such a ban.

The ban prohibits the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, as well as other public areas, with exceptions for rescue organizations and regulated “pet traders” (otherwise known as breeders) who sell more than 15 dogs or cats in a year.  It also adds further requirements for pet traders, such as the provision of microchipping or any relevant spay/neuter information.

While this sounds like a big step, the proposed ordinance actually largely just amends ones already in place in Austin – aside from the addition of a complete retail ban – making regulation of pet traders more efficient and enforceable, and imposes penalties for violators.

As it turns out, Austin is already rid of stores selling companion animals; PetLand, the last store standing, closed earlier this year.

And the ultimate goal of Austin’s city council in enacting this legislation?

“Promote responsible pet ownership to reduce animal homelessness and decrease shelter intake per 100,000 population from 2,164 to 1,384 by 2012.”

For those who like math, they’re looking at a 37% decrease over the next year or so.

So, apologies to all who are sick of hearing me say it but:  Calgary should be next!

I mean, c’mon.  Even the capital of America’s most proud, freedom loving state has prohibited retail pet sales.

Retail pet sales have been put in the dog house in Austin, TX

Selling Companion Animals: Other Corporate Opinions

As we all now know, Petland Canada is entirely opposed to my suggested ban on the sale of companion animals in Calgary pet stores.  Their objections are loud and clear.  However, they’re not the only retailers out there in the pet industry, so I thought I would peruse their competition and see what others think on the subject.  The following excepts are taken from the websites of other Calgary pet retailers.

Pet Planet

Pet Planet’s mission is to promote and aid in the proper integration of pets into their human world to reduce the number of pound surrenders due to temperament or health problems in the animals. If everyone could experience how emotionally satisfying it is to bring an animal into his family and have that animal become such an integral part of their lives, Pet Planet’s ultimate mission would be realized. The bond between a properly integrated animal and its family is a treasure.

Pet Planet advocates responsible pet acquisition and guardianship. It is important for families to research responsible breeders and their breeding practices, as well as research the adoption option when considering adding a pet to their clan. Pet Planet is also an advocate for adoption and supports many rescue foundations and societies in their efforts to foster and place unwanted animals. Pet Planet does not sell live animals in their stores and encourages the public to thoroughly research those animals sold via the retail channel.

Petcetera

The P.A.W.S (Petcetera Animal Welfare Society) Adoption Centres are dedicated to reducing animal euthanasia and promoting responsible pet ownership.

Petcetera is committed to helping reduce pet over population. That’s why none of the stores sell cats or dogs. Instead, through arrangements made with local animal shelters, Petcetera has set up a satellite cat and dog adoption centre in each store, with the proceeds of every adoption going to the local non-profit animal shelter.

As of October 2010 P.A.W.S. has successfully raised over $5,810,000.57 for the promotion of wellness and education and the adoption centres have successfully adopted out a total of over 55,187 dogs and cats

Tail Blazers (Copperfield location’s website)

We don’t support the sale of animals in stores.

Poooh Busters – Recommended Businesses

Tail Blazers is a store where pet guardians can find only wholesome food and treats, a wide variety of supplements, accessories and lots more! This is a great alternative to supporting those large, chain pet stores that sell pets and create a need for puppy mills to exist.

Especially 4 Pets

We strive to keep up-to-date and offer only the highest quality in pet foods and supplies. We do not sell pets. We do promote and support rescue organizations and adoption.  

The Cat House Inc.

All of us at The Cat House support the Meow Foundation – a foundation for the adoption of abandoned cats. This Calgary charity’s motto is Make Each One Wanted! Buddy Guy and Lesley Anne recommend adopting from the Meow Foundation if you’re looking to add a cat to your family.

PetSmart
[FAQs re purchase of Super Pet stores]

Q.  Will I still be able to adopt pets at your store?
A. Yes. This is a core part of our business. As with all of our other stores, we will continue to offer space and support and partner with local non-profit shelters and rescue organizations to find homes for homeless pets.

PetSmart Charities Canada, a registered Canada charity, provides funding and support to qualified shelters and animal welfare organizations in its mission to end euthanasia and find loving homes for homeless pets. Charities Canada has provided more than Cdn. $1 million in funding to this cause. Funds raised in Canada are distributed exclusively in Canada. The company also donates retail space in its stores and partners with more than 80 shelters and animal welfare groups to facilitate adoptions of homeless dogs and cats.

Because PetSmart wants each adoption to be a joyful experience that brings pets and Pet Parents together in loving homes, only adoption agencies that have a current non-profit status, administer initial vaccinations and health checks and spay/neuter prior to adoption may participate in PetSmart’s online adoption program. Agencies that offer spay/neuter voucher programs may also participate but must have a diligent follow-up process in place to ensure compliance.

Other Calgary Retailers that don’t sell pets, to name a few, include:

Unleashed

BowDog

Pawhaus Pet Boutique

Paws Pet Food & Accessories Ltd.

Urban Dog Market

Rascals Pet Supplies

On the other hand, in league (most likely) with Petland, would be:

Pisces Pet Emporium

Of course, a pet store would not be complete without the actual animals. We carry an excellent selection of small to medium size puppies including Lhasa Apso type, Dachshund type, Chihuahua type, Chihuahua/Miniature Pinscher, Boston Terrier type and Yorkshire Terrier type.

All of our livestock is bought locally from reputable breeders, clients, or associates. We take pride in the quality of our pets and can maintain this by dealing only with reputable referrals. In addition, all our animals are vet inspected and guaranteed.

[…] For the feline lovers, we have a huge array of kittens. Our selection usually consists of shorthair, longhair, tabby, calico, black, white, or oriental, kittens. Visit us when you are looking for a cute, friendly addition to your home.

[…] To ensure that we are reaching the highest standards of excellence for animal care, we are a proud member of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC Canada).

…Now I suppose you’re all disappointed that The Cat House wasn’t what you initially thought it was, now aren’t you?

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.