Mississauga and the political fight to end puppy mills

Scruff at a Richmond, BC shelter

The city council of Mississauga, ON (a close neighbor to Toronto, ON) banned the retail sale of dogs and cats in order to fight against pet overpopulation and protect the public from buying unhealthy dogs shipped from puppy mills (Mississauga Star).  (Thanks to my friend Helen Savkovic for this link!)

But just like in Richmond, BC, it seems the biggest opposition to pet store bans and the fight against puppy mills is not the pet industry, puppy mills themselves or even pet store owners!  It’s the media’s strange lack of research on these issues before they go to press — a phenomenon so eloquently addressed by Jennifer Kaiser of Actions Speak Louder Calgary in her article entitled The Number Twenty.

It should also be noted the British Columbia Supreme Court made a ruling on the appropriateness or the degree to which it was reasonable for municipalities to ban the sale of dogs in pets stores (see International Bio Research v. Richmond (City)). The Honourable Mr. Justice Savage ruled in the following statement.

The decision to prohibit the sale of dogs in pet stores falls within a range of acceptable outcomes that are defensible with regard to the facts and law. There is rational connection between the Bylaw [Richmond retail puppy sale ban] and its objective. (ref)

Helen Savkovic also reminded me that road blocks to legislative bans, such as in Toronto, Richmond and now Mississauga, result from incomplete research by city staff as shown in this quote:

[Pet store owners] said all levels of government should go after the animal mills, not just store owners; that they only buy from reputable breeders; and that most mill animals are sold online, not at stores. No statistics are available to verify that, city staff said. (ref)

Considering the municipal oversight that cities have over homeless dogs and cats in their city, it’s amazing that more data isn’t mined by city staff on the source of animals in their city.  That may not be due to staff intent, but just lack of money to put towards addressing the issues at hand.

But as advocates in Richmond, BC, we did address the issue of online sales through the website Kijiji to determine if our ban on the sale of dogs in pet stores would pale in comparison to online sales — as so many nay-sayers suggested.  It turned out that in Richmond, which was the only domain we could address, Kijiji was simply an advertising avenue to direct people to pet stores.  Here is my testimony to city council addressing online pet sales in Richmond.

Nov. 8, 2010

Dear Honorable Councillors and Mayor Brodie:
I am grateful that you have taken such humane and responsible steps to improve the lives of our animals in our city.
In the past year and especially the past month, we have heard many arguments against banning the sale of dogs in pet stores. While we are all aware that banning the sale of dogs in pet stores will not totally solve the puppy mill problem in Canada, it will help to alleviate the issue of homeless animals here in Richmond, BC. Nevertheless, I would like to address two recurring issues regarding this ban.
The first issue tabled several times is the suggestion that this ban is unfair because it does not influence the online sale of dogs, specifically on the Kijiji website, which allows dog sales. While there are hundreds of people selling dogs in British Columbia on Kijiji, a search limited to Richmond revealed just six  advertisements. Four of the Kijiji ads were for dogs at the Pets Wonderland [retail] store and one was for a dog purchased at Pet Habitat in Richmond Centre that someone was trying to sell off. The last ad was for a single puppy being re-homed. It doesn’t appear that Richmond puppy mills are using Kijiji to advertise their dogs. However, pet stores are.
Second, there has been the outstanding question, both in Council’s discussions as well as in the media, that banning or regulating the sale of dogs in pet stores should not be dealt with on the municipal level, and that regulation should come from the Province. I would argue that this issue was, in fact, appropriate to be dealt with at the municipal level because it is the responsibility of the city to allocate money for our local animal shelter and to regulate pet stores via the business licensing bylaws.

In the future, I am hopeful that the Province of British Columbia will take action to regulate the breeding and sale of all animals, but currently the municipal government has the power to improve the state of animal welfare in Richmond through modification of business practices.
Furthermore, the Humane Society International has formally recommended that city councils take this same bold step at the local level. Your actions here today are a perfect example of the adage, “Think globally, act  locally”, and I thank you for that.
Your careful and thoughtful administration of this proposal and amendment to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores has resonated around the world. Thank you again.
With my respect,

Christie D. Lagally
Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition (AWAC)

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Great piece, thank you Christie. I am going to Burnaby Council on July 16 to request a ban of the sale of puppies, kittens and bunnies. Wish us luck!


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