My detailed presentation argued that the sale of these animals in pet stores is an animal welfare issue; a tax payer issue; a consumer protection issue and one that ultimately has devastating social costs. If you would like a copy of the presentation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, October 21, 2013, staff will present a four page report that took them a year and a half to write and while the recommendations make a couple concessions, it is important to note that none of the animal welfare issues brought forward in my presentation were addressed. It is also important to note, that prior to this, Burnaby had no regulations addressing the issue of the retail sale of animals. The report recommends a ban on the sale of turtles, and that rabbits be spayed or neutered before they are sold.
According to the report, the review included “a comparison of animal control bylaws from five neighbouring cities (Maple Rdige, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Richmond, and Vancouver). In addition the BCSPCA and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)’s perspectives on pet store regulations were considered. The report, however, is misleading in that it states, “[b]oth of these organizations support greater regulation in respect to pet store operations.” This statement gives the perception that both organizations hold similar positions with regards to pet sales, when in fact, their positions are polar opposites. The BCSPCA supports a ban on the retail sale of animals, as can be found in their position statement and their most recent efforts to request the District of West Vancouver to ban the sale of animals in pet stores. PIJAC, on the other hand, does not support a ban and in fact is a powerful force among pet stores in ensuring that bans do not pass and that pet stores do not speak out in support of them.
The report also presents ‘data’ on the number of complaints the BCSPCA has received regarding pet store complaints. Which essentially states that almost half (49%) of the complaints were without merit and of the five complaints that resulted in an order being issued, the business cooperated and complied with the order. Given the errors rampant in the most recent bite statistics analysis, and the fact that the BCSPCA’s ability to adequately respond to complaints is hindered by our antiquated animal cruelty laws, little consideration is given to this brief portion of the report.
What I would like to focus on is the points noted as a result of the review and their final recommendations, that do no include a ban on the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits.
1. According to their review, “animals for sale in pet stores make up a small percentage of animals available for sale for purchase” At the time of this review, they go on to note that there were “only” 30 dogs and 20 cats for sale in one of the stores, but comparatively “one internet based sales service found postings offering 1011 dogs and 497 cats in Metro Vancouver.”
Because they do not list this source, it is difficult to assess the validity of this statement, but given our experience on this issue and the way the report was able to provide specific numbers of species per location, it is safe to assume that the report is referring to petfinder.com a valuable source to adopt pets from animal rescue organizations, the BCSPCA and municipal shelters.
Again, the report is misleading in that it compares the retail sale of pets with a Internet database that connects rescued pets to potential families. Further, it attempts to diminish the reality of 30 dogs and 20 cats that have come from mills and other shady sources, sitting in glasses cages with no stimulation or human interaction, day after day.
2. The second point acknowledges that there are no standards for breeders, at provincial, national, and international levels, but then goes on to say “pet stores can be held accountable for their actions by provincial cruelty legislation and local bylaw regulation”. What this point fails to acknowledge, is that these very pet stores that can be regulated have acquired their pets from unreputable breeders who more often than not, carry out inhumane breeding practices. Additionally, as mentioned above, our antiquated animal cruelty laws do not provide adequate protection and therefore, there is little that authorities can do to protect animals bred for profit.
3. The third point identifies pet stores as “an open and accessible option for people looking for a pet and can provide information and advice not only at the point of sale, but also once a pet is at home”. While being “open and accessible” is an important part of promoting pet guardianship, when pets are sold as commodities, the opportunities for impulse purchases are greatly increased. Also, staff in pet stores, are trained as retail staff, they are not animal welfare professionals and are not in a position to give out accurate information and formative advice in caring for pets sold. This is, in fact, one of the biggest complaints we hear from small animal and reptile rescue professionals. Consumers are provided with inadequate and/or inaccurate information to care for their new pet and are not fully prepared for what is required. These pets are often abandoned or surrendered.
4. The goal of the fourth point is to prevent rabbit overpopulation, however, as I noted in my presentation, Burnaby doesn’t actually have a rabbit overpopulation problem because abandoned rabbits are eaten by coyotes. So while other municipalities do have a visible rabbit problem, Burnaby does not. In fact, recently volunteers with Small Animal Rescue Society were devastated when a local man was using his dog to hunt rabbits that had been dumped at a local park. While a bylaw to require rabbits to be spay or neutered before sale may help to alleviate rabbit overpopulation in our neighbouring municipalities who do not have a coyote problem, it does nothing to respond to the impulse purchase and subsequent abandonment of this family pet.
If Burnaby was genuine in wanting to address an overpopulation problem, they would, at the very least, ban the sale of cats. The feral and free roaming cat population is, without a doubt, a serious problem. In my report, I provided a list of all the locations where Vancouver Orphan Kitten Association alone trapped over 150 cats in 2011. That is what overpopulation looks like.
5. The final point recommends a ban on the retail sale of turtles, and this point we applaud. However, the goal of this point has not based in animal welfare concerns, but rather to protect wetland environments and surely was influenced by the financial burden an elusive snakehead in a local lake cost the City in 2012. And while this decision, without a doubt, will have positive implications for animal welfare and rescue, it is important for Burnaby residents to understand that animal welfare is not a priority for the City.
The recommended pet store regulations do not address any of the animal welfare concerns brought forward in my presentation. They continue to support inhumane breeding practices, such as puppy mills; they do not protect consumers from receiving a sick animal; they do nothing to ensure an animal is going to a safe and caring environment; they do nothing to protect animals from being an impulse purchase and ultimately abandoned, and they do not protect tax payers from burdening the costs of animal control doing regular inspections and responding to community complaints and the costs of the care and containment of these animals when they are abandoned or surrendered. In fact, one recommended stipulation is cause for concern. Regulation 2(L) reads,
Not permit any dog or cat to be displayed for sale within the premises for a period greater than twelve (12) weeks.
As we know there have been incidences where both dogs and cats have spent more than 12 weeks in the store, it is not clear, and is actually quite concerning, what would happen to these animals after they are no longer permitted to be housed in the store.
Finally, as with the recent report and recommendations regarding breed specific legislation, this report lacks quality and depth. It would seem the goal was not to develop bylaws based on reported best practices and accurate information, but rather to extrapolate bits and pieces of information that will support the ultimate agenda.
Consider this, the report concludes its recommendations with the following statement:
The review of the Burnaby Animal Control Bylaw in regards to pet store regulations found the bylaw should be amended to reflect current standards similar to those found in neighbouring cities
It is curious, as to why they found this portion of these bylaws to be worthy of modelling, but did not with these same cities’ bylaws regarding breed specific legislation. In fact, the one city who has a ban on the sale of dogs, Richmond, is the only city in this bylaw comparison that has breed specific legislation. Curious, isn’t it?
Once the report is presented, a notice will go out to the community for feedback. Our organization will not engage in this process as we do not believe it will make any difference and our energy and resources are best spent where we can make an impact. Having said this, however, we do encourage residents to continue to speak out about this issue.
We will continue our Pets Are Not Products campaign and now more than ever need your support so our voices are heard.
If you would like to support us please consider donating and/or volunteering with us.