Dear Councillor Louie and Councillor Reimer,
I am writing to you in your capacity as the neighbourhood councillor liaisons for Grandview-Woodland. I am a resident of that community and also a member of the Paws for Hope Board of Directors. Paws for Hope is a provincial animal welfare organization whose mission is to enhance the welfare of animals in our province. The purpose of my email is to outline our concerns regarding our municipal legislation which allows the retail sale of pets (License By-Law No. 4450, s. 23.2). Ultimately, Paws for Hope and I would like to see a ban on these sales (puppies/dogs, kittens/cats, and bunnies/rabbits). I have copied the other councillors and Paws for Hope’s Executive Director, Kathy Powelson, to this email.
The fact that Vancouver allows the retail sale of pets is a longstanding concern. The impetus behind this email is that Pet Habitat, a store in Burnaby, is looking for a new location. Pet Habitat sells dogs, cats, and rabbits. It has a deplorable reputation among animal welfare organizations as well as the public. Pet Habitat is considering Vancouver for its new location. Thus, the need to address our legislation suddenly became very urgent.
There are many compelling reasons to ban the retail sale of pets in our city. Animals sold in pet stores do not come from responsible or reputable sources. In fact, they cannot come from a certified Kennel Club breeder because that organization prohibits its members from selling to pet stores. Most, if not all, of the animals come from ‘mills’: commercial breeding facilities that operate with an emphasis on profit. The mills’ conditions are usually substandard and force the animals to live in inhumane conditions. Pet Habitat acquires its puppies from the Hunte Corporation, a massive American puppy broker. The Hunte Corporation is notorious for its poor treatment of animals, both at its facilities and prior/during their transportation. Pet Habitat acquires its kittens from Quebec – the province largely recognized as the “mill” capital of Canada. And the problems do not end once the animals reach the stores. In a retail environment, potential pets almost never receive adequate care. Thus, at a critical time in their development, they are not properly exercised or socialized which is not only cruel but leads to behaviour issues. Further, mills and backyard breeders produce pets that often have health problems. These include but are not limited to eye/ear/respiratory infections, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and heart and liver conditions. Obviously, these conditions result in suffering to the animal, but they also present a consumer protection issue. Their new pets’ health conditions can cost the owners tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, many people are not willing or able to assume these unanticipated costs. As a result, many pet store animals are surrendered to shelters or, worse, abandoned. These high surrender/abandonment statistics are exacerbated by the fact that pet store purchases tend to be ‘impulse buys.’ What should be a carefully-considered decision is made hastily without a full understanding of the massive responsibility associated with pet ownership.
In my ideal world, all pet owners would be motivated to adopt from their local shelter or SPCA, but this is not realistic. Rather than adopt, many people prefer to buy their pets from a breeder. A ban on pet store sales would not hinder these individuals. It would simply steer consumers toward responsible purchases. Breeders who practice humane business would not be affected. There are very little or no downsides to banning the retail sale of pets.
Public support for the proposed ban is overwhelming. Paws for Hope launched an online petition yesterday. In only two days, this petition has gathered over 2000 signatures. I anticipate that it will gather thousands more before it reaches you at City Hall. It was a top news story in today’s Vancouver Metro (http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/02/23/vancouver-pet-store-ban-on-puppy-sales-subject-of-petition.html). The petition’s overwhelming success is a reflection of the fact that society in general has a growing awareness and concern for animal welfare. Vancouverites, especially, want to ensure that our community is one in which animals are treated fairly and humanely. And yet, our municipal legislation falls short compared to other cities. In 2011, Toronto banned pet sales in retail stores. In 2010, Richmond banned the sale of dogs and rabbits, and in 2012, New Westminster banned the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Vancouver lags behind other major Canadian cities, as well as other communities right here in the lower mainland.
All of the foregoing is merely a broad overview as to why Vancouver desperately needs to update its legislation. Ms. Powelson and I would like to set up a meeting with you and/or other interested councillors to further discuss the issue. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Paws for Hope