‘Surrounded by puppy mills’
Two years ago, Angela Cowan began fostering dogs for Grand River All Breed Animal Rescue in Cambridge. She was astounded at the number of emails she was getting for dogs available to be fostered. This was the first signal to her that something was not right, and after doing some research, she became hooked on advocating for the vast amount of dogs in need of homes.
As a result of the efforts of Cowan and Jennifer Storey, a new by-law was passed in the city of Waterloo stipulating that pet shops only sell dogs, cats and rabbits that are from rescue groups and registered charities. The by-law is also an attempt to shut down puppy mills.
“I can drive you twenty minutes — and you can’t get into them — but we are surrounded by puppy mills,” Cowan said, referring to the Waterloo area.
She said they call themselves commercial breeding kennels.
“They are licensed, but the conditions within are just abominable.”
She explained that the dogs are bred on every heat cycle. When they’re no longer able, they’re “tossed aside, killed or abandoned.”
They live in small cages for their entire life, have little to no medical care and usually are kept in a site that has no heating or cooling.
“These puppies are living in these conditions, the dogs are sick, they’ve got lots of different diseases from mites to fleas to glaucoma of the eye. They’ve got parasitical diseases.”
Then these puppies are brought into pet stores and sold.
Most pet store purchases, Cowan said, are impulse buys. As a result, if the dog is sick, owners might be unable to afford the vet bills. The dog may then have to be euthanized or in many cases will die regardless.
While puppy mills are putting a constant stream of puppies into the market via pet stores or Kijiji, rescue agencies are overpopulated with dogs. According to Cowan, at the end of 2012, 8,741 healthy dogs were euthanized in Ontario.
“We don’t want to close pet stores down. The majority of stores don’t sell puppies,” Cowan said.
No pet stores in Waterloo, Kitchener or Guelph sell animals, she said. But a pet store in the Cambridge Centre shopping mall is selling puppies. Many stories about sick puppies from this pet store are posted on Cowan’s Facebook page, Sick Puppy Tails.
The by-law in Waterloo was passed on Aug. 18 and will take effect Jan. 1, 2015. They’ve been trying to get the same by-law passed in Cambridge for the past nine months. It’s been a struggle, Cowan said, because there’s a pet store in Cambridge that is selling puppies and the city council is worried about interfering with business.
“But with the letters that are pouring in, I’ve got very high hopes that if we’re prepared that we can do it,” she said. “And we don’t want to close the pet store down, we want them to go to the adoption model.”
Ideally, stores would have days when the humane society would bring in puppies for people to meet. This would actually encourage business, as adoptions occurring in the store would cause people to purchase all of their pet’s amenities at the same location.
Jessica Mancebo purchased an eight-week-old Pomeranian puppy from #1 Pet Store in the Cambridge Centre on July 31. By Aug. 9, her puppy had passed away from parvovirus.
“It seemed pretty perfect at the time,” Mancebo said. “There wasn’t anything wrong — the service was great.”
After purchasing her puppy, she went away for the weekend. By the time she got back, her parents had taken her puppy to the vet where it was placed in the intensive care unit and put on an IV.
“Then the Saturday morning I got a phone call that she ended up having a seizure in her sleep.”
While Mancebo did get a full refund for the cost of the puppy, she wasn’t compensated for the deworming and food she paid for.
“I ended up getting a cheque in the mail and this little, shitty letter saying that they were sorry for what happened,” she continued.
Parvovirus has a five to seven day incubation period, Mancebo said, which means the puppy either contracted it at the pet store or its previous origins.
“They didn’t give me any information on where she came from previously.”
When Cowan first started her Facebook page, she said she was afraid to open it some mornings because it would result in her crying and getting upset.
“But now I don’t get upset,” she said. “Now I just get angry.”