This month Richmond City Council will vote on a new bylaw to ban the sale of puppies and dogs in local pet stores. While some might question why a city council would highlight this issue, such bans have been implemented in a growing number of U.S. cities and the topic is now being raised in communities across B.C.
One of the primary reasons such bans are being proposed is to stop the flow of dogs from puppy mills into our communities. Puppy mills are substandard operations where breeding dogs are kept in tiny crates for their entire lives and subjected to horrific conditions in order to maximize the profits of the unscrupulous operators who sell their puppies for upwards of $2,000 through a variety of venues, including pet stores.
Having seen the devastating cruelty of puppy mills through my work at the BC SPCA, I applaud municipalities that are taking steps to stop unscrupulous breeders from selling dogs in our communities. But I also have a personal reason for supporting these bans. Nearly three years ago SPCA cruelty investigations seized a number of small dogs from a puppy mill breeder in the Lower Mainland.
Among them was an apricot toy poodle who had been used as breeding stock her entire life. She was 10 years old, malnourished and suffering from a variety of medical issues as a result of neglect. I wasn’t planning to add another dog to my family at the time, but each day as I saw this tiny, terrified creature cowering in the back of her kennel at the shelter, my heart went out to her.
She was petrified of any movement or any attempt by staff to come near her and I knew that there would be few adopters interested in a 10-year-old dog who was not housetrained and who was so unsocialized that she would bolt in fear at the slightest human contact.
Soon after, Calleigh became an official member of our family. More than two years later I am still the only person she will let touch her. Her first reaction is to flee in fear if she feels trapped, and the housetraining is still a work in progress. She had to be taught many behaviours that should have come naturally for a dog, but each day her trust level increases and the fear in her eyes fades just a bit. Seeing her racing outside with my other dogs, her face joyfully upturned to the sunshine always brings a smile to my face, especially when I think of her first 10 years spent in cruel captivity.
A ban on the sale of dogs in pet stores may seem like a small thing, but for the thousands of puppy mill dogs like Calleigh, any move that will help shut down this ruthless industry is a huge step forward.
– Lorie Chortyk is general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.