The animal welfare issues associated with the retail sale of pets was one of the motivating factors for starting Paws for Hope Animal Foundation. I had been mulling the idea around in my head for months, had begun to reach out to the rescue community, and share my idea with friends and family. The notion of building an organization from the ground up was very overwhelming though, and there were many times that I did not think I could do it. But a Christmas shopping trip at Metrotown Mall in Burnaby found me accidentally in front of a pet store whose walls were full of puppies in glass cages, cats in aquariums and small animals galore. My first instinct was to throw up, and I thought the best thing for me to do was to keep walking. I walked about ten steps before I turned around and went in to the store.
I asked the sales staff where they get their dogs from and instantly a man showed up who I would later find out is the owner of the store. He replied, “from over 400 reputable breeders in the US”. As naive as I was at the time, I was not so naive to see that the statement “400 reputable breeders” was an oxymoron. He went to on bring out a binder with paperwork from some of these “reputable breeders”, all of which had been brokered through the Hunte Corporation. As I am flipping through the sheets I ask him how he could be sure these breeders were reputable, and had he actually been to any of the facilities these dogs are bred at. “How could I possibly” he responded “there are over 400 of them”….
Six month later, a founding Board of Directors was in place, and Paws for Hope Animal Foundation became an incorporated society.
Our efforts to address this inhumane business practice of the retail sale of animals began in 2011. Our first goal was to get the City of Burnaby to ban the retail sale of cats, dogs and rabbits. Burnaby was chosen because this is the city where one of the worst stores in Metro Vancouver resides. It is one of the few pet stores in Metro Vancouver that sells dogs and cat, and despite the fact they have “No Puppy Mill” signs posted throughout their store, the animal welfare community (and any informed consumer) knows that no reputable breeder would sell their pets through a pet store. The fact that the majority of their dogs are brokered through the Hunte Corporation (a massive puppy brokerage company based in Missouri) further reinforces the fact that the puppies in their store have come from a puppy mill.
We presented before City Council in July of 2012, requesting a ban on the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits. A year and a half letter, a sparse and inaccurate four page City staff report recommended against our request. And despite a rebuttal presentation to the recommendation and overwhelming support in our favour from the community, all but one City Councillor voted to continue this inhumane practice.
There is very little political will to improve the lives of companion animals, and laws governing charitable organizations in Canada severely restrict our ability to speak out and lobby our governments for change.
Our only option then was to turn our efforts on the consumer and to create campaigns that would hopefully reach and resonate with enough people that people would begin to make different choices when looking to acquire a pet. In the past year and a half we have demonstrated outside of stores, like the one in Metrotown Mall, we marched in the 2013 Pride Parade, and launched a successful campaign at Christmas time that asks people to make a pledge NOT to purchase an animal from a pet store.
The success of awareness campaigns are very difficult to measure. The only measure that really matters is the one that will see an end to the retail sale of animals, and when there are meaning laws that regulate people and corporations breeding and selling animals.
While progress is slowly being made, we still have a lot of work to do. Cities across the US are passing ordinances that ban or restrict the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits,and some online classifieds, such as Craiglist and UsedVictoria prohibit online sales of animals. We still have a lot of work to do, however. There are only a handful of cities across Canada that have passed bylaws prohibiting stores to sell animals, and new stores have opened that are selling cats and small animals. Despite over 100,000 petition signatures to stop allowing online sales of animals, Kijiji refuses to change their online sales policy.
And until we see an end to the suffering, we will continue to be a voice for the voiceless.
On November 12, 2015 we will are proud to host the Canadian Premiere of the documentary, Dog by Dog. A film created to show people the big business that is behind puppy mills, and the efforts that are being made to stop them. A question and answer periord with the film’s director, Christopher Grime will follow,and we are excited about the potential that can come out of 350 motivated documentary watchers.
Tickets can be purchased online here.
Join us for this informative and inspirational evening, so we can all work together to turn our compassion into action. Let’s speak for dogs like Shelby, who was bred in a US puppy mill, brokered to be bought by a Burnaby pet store to be sold to a family who spent over $35,000 on veterinary bills during her relatively short life.
Thank you to our generous sponsors at Reliant Music