On June 29, 2011, Kim Pemberton wrote a very informative article in The Vancouver Sun on the pros and cons of pet insurance. It was, however, disappointing that the issue of purchasing puppies in pet stores (as Herringer and her husband did) was given only passing mention. Herringer’s story of purchasing a sick puppy in a pet store is not uncommon. The vast majority of puppies that are sold in stores in Canada come from Puppy Mills, and the vast majority of them have health and/or behaviour issues. In March 2009, CBC’s Marketplace produced a 20 minute news segment highlighting the horrific conditions of puppy mills, the numerous and serious health conditions many of the puppies from these mills face and the fraudulent practices of pet store owners who are selling puppies.

Shelters across the province will testify that one of the consequences of impulse purchases of the cute puppy in the store window is the overpopulation of homeless dogs filling their facilities. The number of purebred dogs in shelters range between 25 – 50 percent across the province. Puppy mills are notorious for their substandard and inhumane living conditions and health care. So much so, that a large movement in the United State protesting the mass production of puppies has hit the streets and outside stores that sell puppies. The movement has spread to Canada and in Calgary is spearheaded by the campaign Actions Speak Louder than Words.

The majority of puppies in Canadian pet stores come from the United States, many of which are brokered through the Hunte Corporation, based in Missouri and despite numerous complaints filed with the USDA and failed USDA inspections, it is business as usual at the Hunte Corporation.

While regulations may help improve the welfare of dogs whose sole purpose is to breed, the only way to eliminate puppy mills is to stop the demand. For as long as people are willing and able to purchase puppies at stores, companies will supply them. The financial burden of treating a very sick animal, forces some guardians to make the painful decision to euthanize. Unwanted dogs are abandoned daily. Others end up at shelters, where they may find a home or where their lives may end. Others are dumped in garbage bins, left tied to a tree, a truck or simply abandoned in a desolate area, like the seven dogs, suspected to be from a puppy mill, abandoned in a Delta park in January of this year. Shelters across Canada are full of homeless dogs. Rescue agencies are stretched beyond their means and hundreds of thousands of dogs are killed each year because there are not enough resources to care for them.

The City of Richmond has been applauded for its precedent setting bylaw that bans the sale of puppies in pet stores. Last month, the City of Toronto passed a bylaw that places major restrictions on where the puppies being sold in stores come from. Paradise Pet Centre in Edmonton and Pets Unlimited in Nova Scotia have recently made independent decisions to stop selling puppies.

Times are changing, but we need to continue to put pressure on our local civic leaders to make this issue a priority.

So, every time buying puppies at pet stores is mentioned, let’s take a minute to recognize this as a serious problem and start a discussion on what can be done to put an end to this inhumane practice.

Kathy Powelson

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