When the BC SPCA wrote to Richmond city council about their support to ban the sale of dogs in storefronts last March, they included a reference to a CBC Marketplace documentary about how Canada’s pet stores, especially PJ’s Pets and Pet Habitat, were supplied by puppy-mill broker, Hunte Corporation.
I was hesitant to look at this video, because I already knew the horrors of puppy mills and the connection to pet stores. When I finally decided to sit down and watch, I learned that things are even worse for pet store animals than I previously thought.
In the last few months, animal welfare advocacy groups have applauded the actions of city councils all over North America as more and more cities are considering banning the sale of animals in pet stores. To date, Albuquerque, South Lake Tahoe, West Hollywood, and Austin, Texas have banned the sale of dogs and/or cats in pet stores.
As a result, a local Albuquerque shelter is now reporting a 23 per cent increase in adoptions and 35 per cent decrease in euthanasia according to a MSNBC reporter Rebecca Dube. (See article).
There are many reasons for this swell of interest and it varies from city to city. As in Richmond, councillors and residents want to stop the flow of animals from puppy mills and backyard breeders by ending retail sales of these animals.
Most supporters cite inhumane or just unkind conditions for the puppies from the breeding facility through their sale at the pet store. However, treating puppies as products is only half of the story for many of these young dogs.
The connection between homeless pets and purchasing animals at pet stores may not seem obvious to a passer-by at a Richmond mall. It seems if you spend $1,400 on a pet-store puppy, why would you surrender it to a shelter or abandon it on the street?
The reality is that puppies aren’t puppies for very long. At a pet store, what you buy is a puppy, but within a month or two, what you have is a dog — a real dog, that poops, urinates, barks, needs to be walked, must be spayed or neutered, requires vet visits, vaccinations, training, grooming, a yearly city license, leashes, collars, blankets, bones, bowls, water dishes, toys and approximately 12 years of daily feeding and care.
People are often surprised by the sheer magnitude of work required, and they surrender their purchased pets to our local animal shelter often within a year or two after their purchase.
When puppies are not provided with the proper care, like a child, they do not develop properly and will have health or behaviour problems as young adults. Certainly, not all rescue dogs have these issues, but many do and it’s a totally preventable consequence of puppies purchased without proper forethought or to people who should never own pets in the first place.
Yet, with so much money to be made through the sale of dogs, cats and other animals, apparently the conscience of pet store owners, puppy brokers and breeders is not enough to stop the cruelty to these animals both before they get to Richmond’s pet stores and their possible fates after.
That is why city council will once again be discussing the ban for storefronts.
We must speak up and tell our city to stop pet stores and backyard breeders from filling our animal shelter with hundreds of dogs.
Christie Lagally is a volunteer pet columnist. View her blog at christielagally.wordpress.com.