The Number Twenty

In response to the news that the City of Calgary will be considering a pet sale ban in the fall (hooray!) and that Mississauga, Ontario is poised to become the third Canadian city with a pet sale ban, the National Post printed the article Cities barking up wrong tree with pet sale ban, critics say.

The criticism the headline alludes to – that retail pet sales should not be a municipal concern – has already been addressed many times over the course of discussion on this topic, which apparently had been missed by the Post:  here, from when Richmond, B.C., instated their ban; and here, readily available on the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) website.

Therefore, I am not going to revisit that issue at this time.

Instead, I would like to focus on something the Petland representative said in his quote to the National Post, which was “We carry about 20 puppies in my store at any given time.”

This figure is about right, because I went into that mall Petland location, which sells dogs from “Petland Certified Breeders” (whatever that means), this week and counted over 15 puppies on display.

Back when I went on my fact-finding field trip to Petland, staff there informed me a puppy is in the store for an average of about 10 days before it is sold – same day as arrival sales are not unheard of, but 10 days is the average.

So, if the average stock of that one store is 20 dogs, there for 10 days, I think it is reasonable to conclude that store sells approximately 60 puppies per month.  That would result in an estimate of 720 per year.

And I can’t tell you otherwise, since a lack of transparency on Petland’s part doesn’t only mean no breeder or inspection information.  So I’m going to move forward on the information I have and welcome any clarifications.

In addition, unlike rescue organizations, where the pets you adopt are spayed/neutered prior to them going home with you, pet store puppies usually come intact, with only a $50 incentive to get them fixed down the road (noting the costs of spaying/neutering in this city are ridiculously high, though the City does have its No-Cost Spay/Neuter Program to assist low income residents).

The risks of 720 (which are some sort of unregistered purebred “type”) unfixed puppies entering Calgary’s pet community are obvious, but here’s an illustration of what two can do.

Photo from stlspayneuter.org

Suffice it to say that backyard breeders and so-called “oopsie” litters are a major contributor to pet overpopulation and the hundreds of ads you see on Kijiji.  And if these people are getting their breeding animals from stores, the stores are not helping combat this problem.

There is also another way to look at this number 20.

Twenty is the number of dogs currently up for adoption through the City’s Animal Services.  These are stray or unclaimed dogs in need of rehoming, which the City also spays/neuters before they go out for adoption.  This figure does not include the dogs that are simply impounded.

Instead of a turnaround of 10 days for these dogs, based on the ones it currently lists, it looks like the average stay for an adoptable dog at Animal Services is over a month, with many having been there for over two months.

Based on the 2010 report numbers, the City adopts out 9% of the dogs that end up its care, which works out to about 390 dogs per year, or about 30 per month.  86% of dogs get returned to their owners, and the remaining percent would be dogs that do not get adopted or are deemed not fit for adoption.

In other words, the retail pet sales from one store are double the City’s adoptions.

I do not know the daily cost to house a dog or cat at the City’s Animal Services, but these are costs that are paid out of the City’s budget, and other municipalities have released figures we can use to estimate the cost.

So, using the $15/day figure (not including staff salaries and other overheads, extra medical costs, microchipping, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and your complementary adoption kit and food), and knowing the average stay for a dog at Calgary Animal Services is over a month ($15 × 35 days), the average cost for a dog or cat to stay at Animal Services is at least $525 – which is obviously not fully covered by a $200 adoption fee (or $150 for a cat).

This means that the City pays at least $300 for each adoptable animal in its care.  And multiply that by the 390 dogs adopted per year, that’s a minimum cost of $117,000.   For the approximate 235 cats they adopt in a year (again based on the 2010 report, that’s another $82,250 (at the cost of $350 per animal, since the adoption fee is only $150).

Sure, it’s an intentionally low and very rough estimate, but it works out to at least $199,250 of Calgary’s dollars directly spent per year on housing, caring for, and adopting out animals.

And this figure does not include animals that are impounded, or animals that are housed and cared for but never eventually adopted or later deemed not fit for adoption.

Now imagine if the retail front, which sells 720 dogs per year, switched and gave exposure to the City’s 390 adoptable dogs per year.  And lets include the 235 cats, too.   Not only would the animals find homes faster, be adopted out already spayed and neutered so they couldn’t contribute to overpopulation (and the intake of the City, the Calgary Humane Society, and the other dozens of local rescues), but there are indirect benefits, too: people would be more exposed to and therefore better educated about ethical pet procurement generally.

But my point right now is: a retail pet sale ban would cost the City less.

Now imagine the pet stores decide it’s once again financially beneficial to sell animals and reinstate the practice – if one store can stock 20 dogs at once and sell about 720 per year, how many can 8 stores sell?

Sure, the courts have determined that “promoting the welfare of animals provides an intangible moral benefit to humanity in general“, but, as you can see, there’s a financial benefit to consider, too.  So if concerns about unethical breeding and selling of companion animals don’t speak to you, maybe some numbers and financials will.  If a pet sale ban can reduce unwanted pets and save money, what has the City got to lose?

After all, if pet over population is directly costing municipalities money, why wouldn’t they look at and implement all possible solutions?

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Dear Petland

To my dear friends at Petland Canada,

Did you watch the Calgary Now! debate on Shaw TV (Calgary) – channel 10?  If you missed it, it will air again on August 17 at 10:30pm and August 19 at 2:00pm.  If you forget to set the PVR or don’t get your television through Shaw, they will put it online after the last airing.

But I’m guessing you saw it.  You were there.  Well, Mr. Robert Church, owner of Petland Market Mall and a Director of PIJAC Canada, was there.

Also present were Patricia Cameron of the Calgary Humane Society and RJ Bailot, a Director of Pound Rescue, a local no-kill shelter.

And the topic?

Banning the sales of pets in stores, of course.

This is a very hot topic since Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) is pushing for this issue locally with the support of several rescue organizations and local businesses, and many other cities are implementing bans (e.g., Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; Richmond, BC), and even more are currently considering bans themselves (e.g., Toronto; San Francisco).

There were a couple of things about the debate I wanted to specifically bring up.

Patricia Cameron says that Calgary Humane sees approximately 8,000 animals through their facility each year.  Nearby Cochrane Humane sees an additional 1,200 animals, and the City of Calgary Animal Services sees 5,000 animals annually.  And that does not include the several other local rescues – Pound Rescue included – that foster and re-home several hundreds more.  If you do the math, that’s upwards of 15,000 pets annually that go through these Calgary and area rescue organizations.

That is no insignificant number.

At 8 minutes into my PVR recording of the Calgary Now! debate, your representative Mr. Church says that, in order to tackle pet overpopulation, “all of the industry players should work together” and “we all want the best for our animals”.

I have no doubt about either point.  Based on our previous exchanges here at the Soapbox, I do believe you don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with selling dogs and cats in your stores.

But just because you believe it, doesn’t make it so.

Why are you, Petland, digging your feet in, drawing a line in the sand, and refusing to budge when it comes to pet sales?  Why can’t you go beyond “good enough”, go beyond placating customers and the general public, and actually try to do the absolute best for the pet population as a whole?

I’m not talking about you “sourcing your animals”, “guaranteeing them to the nines”, and always letting them be returned to your stores.

And I’m not talking about you releasing some breeder information in an attempt to convince the public that the problem is solved and the issue is dead.  At 10 minutes into the debate, Robert Church talks about Petland breeder inspections and making those results available to the public, which they haven’t done in the past.  And you know why?  “Because nobody has ever asked us before!” he says.

Really?!  I’ve been personally asking since our first debate here on the Soapbox in October 2010, and I know you know because many members of your executive team were here commenting and replying.  Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) has been asking as an official campaign for more transparency since its launch March 2011.

Not to mention releasing breeder inspection results in a form yet to be specified after several months of requests does actually not guarantee any real information, but it sure does sound good, doesn’t it?  And I happen to know this debate was taped in June; it is now August – where’s the info?

At 9 minutes into the debate, your representative says “you will not find your animals in a shelter”.  I am wary of these kinds of generalizations.  Not?  Ever?  Really?

I follow Pound Rescue on Facebook and on July 10, 2011 they posted that they took in their second (un-altered) Petland surrender that week.  So yes, we do find pet store animals surrendered to rescues; some of your sales directly burden the rescue community.

And if you check Kijiji, there are dozens more people either giving away or re-selling their Petland pet purchases.  On August 8, I took a few minutes to see for myself, and made a slideshow of select Kijiji ads that you can view here.

RJ makes an excellent point, at 9-10 minutes in, when he says “the bottom line for a retail outlet is making profit off of a product, so when animals are merchandised as they would be a t-shirt or a pair of shoes, it puts different value than in a rescue organization.  Right now we see stores that use the word ‘adopt’, and really that’s misleading, because the term ‘adopt’ is to provide a home for an animal that is homeless, not to sell an animal – that’s a transaction”.

Robert Church defends pet store word choice: “I like to say ‘place’ an animal; we place animals in good homes.  It’s a little friendlier than ‘sell’, but it’s not the human term ‘adopt’, either.  Just sayin’.”

So I took to the trusty internet and captured some screen shots for your consideration.

No use of "adopt"? Hey, who's that handsome guy in the middle of the profile picture?

 

The Pets for a Lifetime contract itself refers to “…the pet that they are adopting from Petland…” in the second sentence.

 

Just sayin'.

Okay, last one. Nothing to do with "adopting", but you're seriously recommending a puppy as a Valentine's Day gift? No impulse purchases. Right...

When it came to discussing pet-related costs, including spay/neuter and unexpected veterinary bills, RJ brought up financing pet purchases, and your Petland representative Mr. Church said this (24 minutes in):

“Frankly, financing an animal is just another step in the whole process because these people are screened and you should be very careful about judging people who would finance an animal – I mean if you have a credit card you are financing things.  So passing judgment on somebody who chooses to pay for something this way, I mean these are people that have stable jobs, stable addresses, stable bank accounts, and the ability to obtain credit.  If these people can’t obtain credit, then maybe they’re not the best pet owners anyways.  But if they do qualify for credit, I don’t know how you can judge a person that way and I find that quite discriminatory and a little offensive. … It gives them extra time to think about it, frankly, because the process takes at least a couple hours, and usually a few hours.  And, just so you understand, my store, the Petland in Market Mall, was the only store that offered financing and we pulled it, number one, because nobody was financing animals anyway, and number two, because there was little bit of a kerschmeezle [phonetic] about it with the animal rights people, and so I just pulled it, you know, it wasn’t worth the hassle.”

Pay for your bulldog puppy over 36 months O.A.C. (Ad from a PJ's Pets in Edmonton, 2 months ago)

Obviously Mr. Church doesn’t see himself on the same side as “the animal rights people”, despite going into a long defence of something he stopped doing anyway because, really, if there’s anything I’ve learned about discussing a pet sale ban with the average Calgarian, it’s that, regardless of your overall opinion on the issue, most people can see there is something inherently wrong with financing pet purchases.

Does that result in judging customers’ financial means?  No.  If you want to pay for your dinner with a credit card, finance your new car or television, by all means, do that.  Those things are products.  You yourself agreed earlier in the debate, “puppies are not products” – so why treat them like they are?  And what do you do if someone defaults on payment?  Repo a Yorkshire Terrier-type?

The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?”  

(Jeremy Bentham (English philosopher), An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 2nd ed., 1823, chapter 17, footnote 122)

But let me go back to my original request, where I ask you, Petland, not to simply do what is good enough.  Not to patronize me, Actions Speak Louder (Calgary), or the public.  But to do your best.  Because if you as a corporation, and your staff as pet lovers, really care that much about companion animals as your advertising lets on, you can do better.

Take, for example, the two other large Canadian pet store chains, Pets Unlimited and PJ’s Pets.  As of June 1, 2011, Pets Unlimited no longer had any puppies for sale in any of its 18 locations.  And just today PJ’s Pets announced they will do the same as of September 1, 2011.

PJ's Pets and Pets Unlimited have 41 locations across Canada. I both commend and thank them for their recent decision. I look forward to a similar policy change with respect to cats/kittens (you're not done yet, guys) and I anxiously wait for other pet retailers to follow suit.

This, I think, is fantastic.  And a real step in the right direction.  These companies are being proactive rather than reactive.

Because instead of selling puppies for profit, Pets Unlimited and PJ’s Pets are collaborating with local rescue organizations.  In Alberta, Paradise Pets in St. Albert has also adopted this very policy, announcing they “do not want to encourage any type of animal mill that is motivated by how much money they can make selling to pet stores.”

And I do not find it unreasonable to expect the same from Petland.

With this improvement, the focus of PJ’s and Pets Unlimited is “to support pet adoption services in an effort to find homes for thousands of pets in local SPCA’s, Humane Societies, rescue groups and shelters across the country.”

The mission of the Every Pet Deserves a Home campaign – that both PJ’s and Pets Unlimited are a part of –  is “to help increase the visibility of pet adoption agencies within the community by offering them the opportunity, within our stores, to educate the general public about their organization and the pets they have available for adoption.”

Isn’t that really the best of both worlds?

I mean, no one is going to a pet store looking for a specific purebred dog.  And if they are, they are severely mistaken, because you and I both know that Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) registered breeders are prohibited from selling to retail stores.  So you still have your arbitrary mixes and purebred types (plenty of both in local shelters) for people to see, but instead of sourcing them for breeders who breed pets to supply your store and for profit, people instead adopt their next dog through a local rescue.

It is win-win.

Rescues get more exposure, and with that, adoption rates will increase and euthanasia will decrease; the pet community undoubtedly benefits.  There will be no more risk that pet store puppies come from mills or backyard breeders.  Meanwhile, customers can still go to the store to play with puppies.  And instead of impulse pet purchases, those interested in adopting will have to go through a thorough adoption application implemented by the rescue organization.

Not to mention, animals being adopted through rescues are almost always spayed/neutered prior to adoption, which is a crucial part of pet population control according to Patricia Cameron and not something you can currently say about the animals now leaving your care, despite your best guesses or promises for post-altering rebates.

With an adoption model, you will even save money in animal care costs, since the animals are still under the care of the rescue organization.  You will retain the marketing advantage of having cute puppies and kittens at your locations, with the added bonus of now being able to honestly say you’re doing the absolute best you can for Calgary’s (and Canada’s) pet population.  You will even gain a new customer base: all those people who currently refuse to shop at Petland because you sell animals – myself included.

“We applaud what PJ’s Pets and Pets Unlimited are doing in giving up puppy sales to help organizations like ours find homes for more pets,” said Kristin Williams, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia SPCA. “Far too many animals are without a home, but this program will help to alleviate the burden and add vital capacity to our network of Branches. Collaboration is critical to resolving welfare issues and saving more lives and this is a remarkable example of what can be achieved by working together.

Collaboration.  Working together.  Wasn’t that exactly what Robert Church talked about at the outset of the debate?

In short, why not strive for remarkable, Petland?  Why defend old, questionable practices and risk extinction rather than evolve with the industry?

I thank you for reading and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours most sincerely,

Jen

To read more about RJ’s support for the initiative to ban retail pet sales, please see his post on the Pound Rescue website, Why I Support Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) – it’s worth the read.

ASLC: Launch Success!

Whew!  What a weekend!

It was so great to see all of the support Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) received at the adopt-a-thon this weekend.  The petition got a lot of signatures, we sold some t-shirts, and we got a lot of offers from people and businesses interested in helping out, which was always welcome.

Like I said earlier, this is my first experience on the front lines of any sort of “activism”.  And I will be the first to deny I am a “people person” in any way, so it was quite something to be striking up conversations with as many strangers who walked through the door as possible, seeking support for the cause and a signature on the petition.  I know our petition requires an address, but take it up with the Municipal Government Act (Alberta) – I promise we won’t turn it into a mailing list of any sort!

It was also a great learning experience and good practice for more events to come in the near future.  For example, next time we will have additional signage: sorry folks, the stickers are actually for sale.

And best of all, it was a great gauge for public reactions to the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign.  Of course, being at an adopt-a-thon, an overwhelming majority of people were decidedly in favour of a retail pet sale ban for Calgary.  Some of my favourite comments over the weekend were:

– I read about you in the Calgary Herald and came down to sign!
– I wondered when Calgary was going to do this.
– It’s about time!
– I’m so glad to hear someone has started this.
– I won’t even buy poop bags at a store that sells live animals.
– I got my dog from a pet store – never again.
– I only adopt rescue animals.
– Let me know how I can help.

Definitely the bulk of people, when asked to sign the petition, would simply say “of course” or “that’s great” and happily sign away.  A smaller group of people would gladly sign after getting more information and learning exactly what ASLC was all about.  Here are some of the common questions we were asked:

“I live in Okotoks, can I sign?  Can my kids sign?”

Unfortunately, the legal requirements of the petition mean only signatures of electors of the City of Calgary are valid.  Which is very unfortunate, because we had to turn away many people who wanted to be counted.  I encourage these individuals to lobby for a similar ban in Okotoks, Airdrie, or where ever you’re from!

“So where will I get a dog then?”

This one kind of made me giggle (no offence).  We were in the middle of an adopt-a-thon that had over 100 dogs and cats up for adoption; they just had to turn around and look.  The removal of commercial pet sales is not going to result in a pet shortage.  I assure anyone with this concern that they will still be able to find dogs and cats at shelters and rescues, and with reputable breeders.

“Shouldn’t we regulate breeders?”

ASLC is focusing the initiative on the sale of dogs and cats on public and commercial properties only, and the petition wording concerns only that.  This will end the retail pet sales that promote a pets-as-commodity perspective, and prevent puppy mills and backyard breeders from distributing and advertising on public and commercial properties such as roadways and parking lots.  Commercial sales are the most visible sales medium of substandard and unintentional breeders.  The truth is, reputable breeders would never surrender their puppies or kittens to a pet store for sale.  The Canadian Kennel Club prohibits pet store sales, and reputable breeders want to ensure themselves that their animals go to good homes.

“What about the pet stores that feature rescues?”

They will not be affected.  We would love to see more collaboration between big retailers and rescues to get adoptable animals showcased.  Adoptions in these instances still need to go through the rescue organization, but the store serves as a way to introduce the public to the other options out there.

“But I just like to go to the pet store to play with the puppies for a little while and nothing else.”

Don’t worry, if pet stores opt to feature rescues (and some already do), you can still go in for an hour of socialization.  You can also go to places such as the Humane Society, where you can meet the animals, or even volunteer to walk the dogs and play with the cats.  If you’d like a slightly longer, but still not permanent, commitment, offer to foster for one of the rescues.  And many of the pet stores I know that refuse to sell animals still have the employees’ or owners’ dogs or cats in the stores most days to visit with.

“What about my breeder – are you going to shut them down?”

No.  Well, as long as they are responsible and reputable, we aren’t.  We would like only the responsible, reputable breeders to be the people you go to when you have a particular breed of dog in mind (well, them and breed-specific rescues).  Reputable breeders are those who put the health and care of the animals – both the offspring and the parents – first.  They do not breed females every heat, or often even yearly.  They do health and lineage checks.  They will provide you with lifetime support and advice, and will offer to re-home your dog for you if circumstances change and you can no longer care for them.   They will also put you through an extensive adoption application, usually requiring in-person meetings to see how you interact with their dogs before they determine you will be a suitable guardian.  They will also often contractually require you spay or neuter your dog by a certain age unless there is an alternative breeding agreement in place.  And when they say their animals come with “papers” and pure bred registration, that means the CKC.  I will again note that the CKC prohibits its members from selling their dogs to pet stores.  ASLC has already had some great feedback from breeders in support of a pet store ban.

And, of course, we did get a small number of people – no more than half a dozen all weekend – who did not sign the petition or agree with the ASLC cause.  As they say, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and that includes opinions.

For example, there was one couple who seemed personally offended by the cause because they had bought their dog from a pet store (actually, their teenage son did, and they inherited the dog when he moved out).  I understand that reaction, especially if they did not have a particularly negative experience, and because they could view the ASLC cause as telling them they got their pet the wrong or uneducated way.  Indeed, we are saying that and I stand by it, but I do hope they went home and looked into the concerns about pet store pets a little more and give the issue some serious thought.

However, for a very small group of nay-sayers, there was a much larger population of whole-hearted support, which was certainly encouraging.

Thank you, Calgary, and everyone at the adopt-a-thon, for a successful launch!

Keep an eye out for more ASLC over the coming weeks, and check the website for locations if you’d like to buy the merchandise or sign the petition.

 

This is Kiwi. She was at the adopt-a-thon with AARCS, and was one of many dogs and cats who found a forever home over the weekend.

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.

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?

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

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.