The thorny problem of puppy mills

This highly lucrative industry continues to proliferate across the country despite the efforts of provincial governments. Here’s some context on a serious problem.

July 21, 2019

Puppy mills are dark, cramped places where scores of cages, containing mostly female dogs living in appalling conditions, are packed tightly together. Deprived of natural light and affective relationships with people, these animals are forced to reproduce and are put down once they are no longer productive. Their puppies are sold to pet shops and third-party websites where profit is the only driving factor. Welcome to the world of puppy mills.

While researching the psychological suffering of puppy mill dogs in Canada, our journalist Louise Dugas gathered statistics about this illicit business from numerous websites and journals. She interviewed Ewa Demianowicz, senior campaign manager at Humane Society International/Canada and Camille Labchuk, lawyer and executive director at Animal Justice in Toronto.

Ten years ago, in Quebec alone, it was estimated that about 400,000 animals were born and sold for profit each year. While the accuracy of these statistics was impossible to confirm, the numbers were quoted repeatedly by the media and by animal rights organizations.

That’s no longer the case. These days, media and associations no longer seek to advance statistics because, by definition, puppy mills are impossible to count; they operate under the radar, far away from prying eyes … in basements, sheds and remote farm buildings. We only hear about the existence of a specific puppy mill when it’s discovered and reported on, or, by chance, as Louise Dugas reminds us, such as following the fire at a remote country house in Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, close to Quebec City, where 40 dogs died last January.

However, experts are unanimous: Canada’s vast uninhabited spaces make an ideal setting for clandestine puppy mills. Across Canada, several elected officials—notably in British Columbia and Manitoba—are dedicated to creating the legislation that will root out puppy mills. In Quebec, animals continue to be harmed despite the adoption of a law in 2015 which makes it illegal to cause animal suffering and which forces owners of 15 (or more) cats, dogs or horses to obtain a breeding permit from the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation. Several seizures occur each year but the existing initiatives are insufficient to stamp out puppy mills.

To find out more, stay tuned for tomorrow’s report about psychological suffering of puppy mill dogs in Canada.

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