Last night at 11:50pm, I was woken up by the sounds of our two dogs panicking from the loudest thunder and lightening storm I can remember Vancouver ever having. Max, our senior lab mix was desperately trying to crawl under our baby’s crib and Chili, our puppy mill rescued chihuahua, was pacing back and forth, not knowing what to do. Chili was dumped outside of a Richmond veterinary clinic almost two years ago. She was so terrified and skittish, it took three days for clinic staff to catch her. She was brought to the city’s shelter and an examination revealed a life time of breeding. Given she was likely 7 or 8 years old at the time she was dumped, we assumed that she was likely discarded because she was no longer able to breed. When we adopted her a month later, Chili was the most terrified dog I had ever met and she learned to look to our sweet Max for guidance and leadership. So as Max desperately tried to hide from the thunder and lightening, Chili did not know where to turn. Luckily, she has us now.
The storm subsided, the dogs relaxed and we all fell back to sleep.
At this same time, 20 minutes away outside of a Richmond shelter, 38 dogs were left outside in cages, covered by a single blue tarp by someone for reasons we will never truly know, but can certainly speculate. As the rain poured down, the thunder crashed and the lightening flashed, 38 dogs were discarded.
Now, we can take solace in the knowledge that they were dumped at a no kill shelter and because of the publicity and the magnitude of the situation, shelter staff will likely have no trouble adopting these small dogs out. They will also likely, for a short period of time, see an increase in their donations. But once the story grows old, and the dogs are adopted out, the donations will stop and we will resume discussing Miley Cyrus’s nude colour bra. Meanwhile, puppy mills will continue to flourish and animals will continue to suffer and die.
It has been over a year since we launched our Pets Are Not Products Initiative to create awareness of the animal welfare issues associated with the selling of animals in pet stores. In the past year, we have presented before Burnaby City Council, before classrooms, we have met with staff and councillors from other cities across the Lower Mainland, we have met with provincial leaders and written to federal leaders. We have spoken to the media, we have written editorials, we have created t-shirts and posters and here we are 14 months later wondering what will it take for our leaders to step up and take animal welfare seriously. How many times do we need to see images like this before they will feel compelled to respond in a meaningful way?
And who will respond? The federal government says it is the provincial government’s responsibility. The provincial government says it’s the municipal government’s responsibility and the municipal government says, why bother, one municipal by-law isn’t going to make that much of significant difference anyway. And those of us that work to give animals a voice, are aware that if we get too loud, people will just write us off as crazy fanatics and the pressure to make meaningful changes loses credibility.
So today, although I feel like a crazy fanatic and admittedly, my personal Facebook page used much different language than our organization’s page when posting about this most recent incident, I will put forth a purely rational argument for why every single resident should want their city to ban the sale of pets in pet stores and every single British Columbian should want stricter regulations and enforcement against mass breeding facilities. Because when 38 animals are dumped in front of your municipal shelter it is your tax dollars that will pay for their care and containment.
UPDATE Shortly after posting this piece, Global BC reported that 10 dogs were also dumped in front of New Westminster shelter. They are all the same breeds as the dogs left in Richmond. CTV reported, there were in fact 12 dogs