Dear Mayor Corrigan,
Please accept this letter as a response to Tom Peters’, owner of Pet Habitat, delegation on November 18, 2013.
Ethical breeding practices
In support of Pet Habitat’s corporate practice of bringing in puppy’s from commercial breeders in the United States, Peters’ stated that these facilitates are USDA inspected and they have assurances from the Hunte Corporation that puppies brokered through them have had no direct violations in the past three years. In addition to the obvious argument, that any facility that requires a USDA inspection is large enough to be considered farm like and thus, inhumane by its very nature, it is important to understand that in 2010 the USDA Office of Inspector General issued a report that stated the USDA inspection process has failed in enforcing the bare minimum standards of care as outlined in the Animal Welfare Act. As part of the investigation, auditors visited 81 facilities and reviewed records documenting 28,443 violations over a two-year period.
The report concluded that despite regular inspections, breeders were allowed to continue operating facilities where dogs lived in inhumane conditions — cages overflowing with pools of urine and feces, food laden with dead cockroaches, and dogs infested with ticks and unattended injuries including a mutilated leg and other atrocities — all without penalty.
Peters’ stated that there is a minimum of four staff and often up to eight staff at a time on shift to ensure all animals are properly cared for. We believe this statement to be inaccurate as we have only ever seen a maximum of three staff in the store at one time. Given the small size of the store, we are curious as to where all eight staff would situate themselves while on shift together. More importantly, however, is the statement Peters’ made regarding the puppies receiving proper socialization. In his defence, Peters stated;
Because we are in a retail mall, puppies get to socialize with more people than they ever would in a home situation
This statement speaks to an incredible lack of understanding in what is required for the proper socialization of puppies. Having a barrage of strangers come in on a daily basis to pick up, pet and nuzzle with, is not considered an effective socialization practice. While it may help the dogs become accustomed to human contact, it does nothing to help teach the puppy about appropriate play behaviour, appropriate behaviour with other animals, and appropriate behaviour in general.
Shortage of rescued animals in the Lower Mainland
In an attempt to prove Pet Habitat’s value, Peters’ stated that there is such a shortage of animals in the Lower Mainland that groups are “having” to bring them in from northern BC, the United States and “as far as Taiwan” to “satisfy the needs of people wanting to home an animal” This misguided statement speaks to Peters’ complete lack of understanding to the issues impacting animals in our province. It is true that animals (primarily dogs) are being brought in from other areas outside of the Lower Mainland IN ADDITION to the animals that are being rescued locally, and while there is debate within the rescue community about the importing of animals, the vast majority of groups that are doing this are doing it because they believe it to be their moral duty to help animals that are suffering. Many communities in BC’s north do not have the capacity to respond to a massive cat and dog overpopulation problem and so groups in the south have reached out to provide support. This often includes transporting dogs from the north to the Lower Mainland, where because of a larger human population, there is a greater chance of finding a home for the homeless canine population.
It should also be noted that many groups, including ours, do not support the importing of animals from outside of Canada, as we believe that it adds to an already overburdened homeless animal population and as a result, local animals die.
Inspections and regulations
Peters requested that this proposed bylaw be amended to apply to all those “in the business” of finding animals homes, including the BC SPCA, shelters and rescue organizations. While we agree that organizations involved in animal welfare/rescue work should be regulated and held accountable, we understand that this piece of legislation and a municipal government are not the appropriate governing bodies to do so. Paws for Hope continues to advocate for a provincial mandate that sets out criteria and reporting requirements of all organizations, including the BC SPCA, to be accountable to.
And although he applauds the Quebec government for implementing a provincial inspection process, it should be noted that Quebec has some of the weakest animal cruelty legislation in the country, and as a result, has long been referred to as the puppy mill capital of the Canada.
Spay & Neuter / Gender identification / Breeder identification
Peters stated that in order to reduce the likelihood of unwanted litters and contribute to pet overpopulation, they try to offer only one gender of all small animals, including rabbits, and when that is not possible they try to accurately identify the gender and when they fail, and there is an unwanted litter, they are happy to take the litter from the owner. Essentially what Peters said, was they try, but their are no guarantees and when they fail, they will make more money. Awesome.
He also stated that while they are able to provide breeder information for their dogs, they cannot for any other animal in the store. Why? Because, according to Peters, the cats are rescues or abandoned. We have asked on numerous occasions for him to provide the name and contact information of the rescue he claims to work with, and we have yet to receive this information. Where are the abandoned kittens coming from? Does he have staff trapping them? He is not then profiting off, and contributing to our cat overpopulation problem, by taking abandoned kittens and selling them unaltered so someone can potentially make more kittens and perhaps abandoned them or give them back to him so he can sell them? There is something fundamental wrong with this.
He is not able to provide breeder information for small animals, because, as Lisa Hutcheon from Small Animal Rescue Society demonstrated in her delegation that followed, there are no reputable small animal breeders.
Finally, when questioned by Mayor Corrigan regarding whether it is possible to spay and neuter kittens before sale, Peters said it was not because they have to be six months old. This is inaccurate and I would encourage Mayor and Council to look to the BC SPCA and other rescues, who will not adopt out puppies or kittens unless they have been altered, and as a result do so before the age of six months.
Peters stated he sells 300-500 cats a year and 20-25 puppies a month, that is approximately $500,000. That is half a million dollars made off the suffering of animals.
Mayor Corrigan and Councillors, you have an opportunity to do something amazing. You have an opportunity to speak for the thousands of animals who cannot speak for themselves and you have an opportunity to stand beside the thousands of people in this province who are fighting so hard to improve the lives of animals. When you vote on November 25, we ask that you reject the current recommendations and you request staff provide a revised bylaw that includes a ban on the retail sale of animals.