Why puppy mills are big business in B.C.

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Jordyn Croft snapped this photo at Pet Habitat in Burnaby.

I was at a Vancouver dog park recently when I overheard a puppy owner say she had “rescued it from a pet store.”

When pressed further, the woman said she felt sorry and sad about the small wire cage it was being kept in at a Burnaby pet store, and by buying it she was giving it a better life.

Her sentiment may be sweet, but animal rights groups say it’s misguided. By “saving” a puppy from a pet store you are just freeing up space for another one to take its place. Because most of these animals come from commercial and so-called backyard breeders, who have horrible reputations for their practices and hygiene, people who buy animals from pet stores are inadvertently supporting puppy mills and animal cruelty.

While many people believe that puppy mills and shady large-scale breeding only exist in the U.S., it’s simply not true. Earlier this month a B.C. mom and daughter who frequently sold dogs on Craigslist were handed fines and jail time for operating a “filthy” breeding facility. Their court appearance came after 53 neglected animals were removed from their rural farm.

The big business behind puppy mills is front and centre in a new documentary making its Canadian debut in Vancouver on November 12.

Dog by Dog doesn’t feature any disturbing images of suffering animals. Instead, it focuses on empowering pet lovers to make positive changes – and end puppy mills forever.

The documentary is being hosted by the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, which has been an outspoken critic of pet stores and puppy mills in B.C. through its “Pets are not Products” campaign. Executive Director Kathy Powelson spoke to Vancity Buzz about why many B.C. pet stores get animals from U.S. puppy mills, and how we can end the cycle.

Puppies for sale at a Pet Habitat store (Paws for Hope).

Puppies for sale at a Pet Habitat store (Paws for Hope).

Paws for Hope is hosting this documentary, including a Q&A with the director. Why is it important for people to see it?

The first is to understand just how massive the problem is, and the power and politics that keep puppy mills thriving. My hope is people will understand that it really will take every single one of us to demand change, to change our behaviour and to spread the message before this will end.  The second reason is for people in this province to understand that many of the stores in B.C. that sell puppies get them from the Hunte Corporation, a massive puppy broker in the U.S. that gets puppies from mills across the U.S. And many of the puppies sold online are also coming from these U.S. puppy mills, in addition to mills here.

How bad is the problem of puppy mills in B.C.?

It is worse than people realize, because the large scale operations are in remote and rural communities, and with our current laws and resources to enforce the laws, they are very difficult to shut down and/or bring charges against. And when there are changes, as we saw recently with the mother and daughter in Houston, they are so minimal that the profits made far outweigh the consequences of being caught.

And in addition to puppy mills, B.C. has a ton of backyard breeders, which are small-scale breeding operations, but with often the same deplorable conditions and suffering to animals.

A puppy that’s outgrown his small cube at Pet Habitat (Paws for Hope).

A puppy that’s outgrown his small cube at Pet Habitat (Paws for Hope).

Stores like Pet Habitat in Burnaby still sell dogs and cats at its store, despite widespread opposition and thousands of signatures on petitions. Why do you think the city still lets this go on?

It’s an absolute mystery to me. This just seems like such an easy win for city officials, as it seems the only people who are against this ban are those that profit from the business of selling animals. During our two-year campaign to have Burnaby ban the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits, we had almost no opposition from the community. There is currently a petition to Burnaby City Council that has over 20,000 signatures.

Our hope is that more and more people will come to understand that when you purchase an animal online or at a pet store it is not coming from a reputable source, and you are supporting an inhumane business practice.

Dog by Dog 

When: Thursday, November 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Simon Fraser University, 149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Tickets: $15 (all proceeds go to Paws for Hope)

Image: Paws for Hope

Image: Paws for Hope

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About the author

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Darcy Matheson is the founder of PetFundr, a crowdfunding site for animal welfare projects. Her first book, "Greening Your Pet Care," is available on Amazon and in major book and pet stores.
@darcynews

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