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Council to look into bylaw regulating sale of animals in pet shops

April 18, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown says the town is going to come up with a “hybrid solution” to an outdated bylaw regulating the sale of animals in pet stores.

The issue was debated at length on Monday evening, with several delegations taking their turn to address Council. First up was Grant Armstrong, an Orangeville resident who wants to see the practice of selling “puppy mill” animals outlawed, not only here in town, but across the province.

“Based on current industry trends, emerging public interest and other municipality comparatives suggests that a ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits for profit by pet stores and retail establishments is not in the best interest of the community, public protection, animal welfare and the pet care industry,” Mr. Armstrong told Council.

Over the past few years, he has been part of a group of individuals concerned for the welfare of animals allegedly exposed to unsavoury conditions during their upbringing and eventual sale to pet stores in Ontario. To date, the group has successfully lobbied 13 municipalities to pass legislation banning the sale of animals at pet stories, including Toronto, Kingston, Vaughan, Oakville, London, Brampton and Mississauga. Similar bylaws are also in the process of being passed in Newmarket, Aurora and Georgina, Mr. Armstrong said.

He called on Orangeville Council to follow in the footsteps of these other municipalities and take a stand for animal welfare.

He pointed towards statistics gathered through Humane Society International Canada that indicated 87,737 cats were admitted to SPCA and Humane Societies across Canada in 2017. Of those, 5.8 percent were reclaimed by previous owners, 64 percent were adopted and 19 percent were euthanized.

According to Mr. Armstrong, 33,740 dogs were admitted to SPCA and Humane Societies in 2017. Of those, 30 percent were reclaimed by previous owners, 48 percent were adopted and 12 percent were euthanized.

By passing a bylaw prohibiting the sale of animals in pet stores, Mr. Armstrong said, Council would be helping to reduce impulse purchasing at the retail level, while also increasing public awareness of adoptable pets in local rescues and municipal shelters, which he says are often up to date on vaccines, microchipped and spayed/neutered.

“We have an opportunity now to be progressive here in Orangeville and to deal with overpopulation before it becomes a major issue,” Mr. Armstrong said. 

This is something that has garnered some support across Ontario, with Mr. Armstrong indicating a petition he helped to set up had received 8,300 signatures as of Monday night. He noted there were “several potential dangers” should Council decide against implementing a new bylaw.

“There are risks if we don’t look at doing this. The first is we risk seeing additional pet stores opening and selling cats, dogs and rabbits for profit. We may see an increase in impulse purchases, increase in contagious diseases, increase in abandoned and surrendered animals and increase in animals needing homes in local shelters as consumers are not prepared for the costs of sick animals and those with behavioural challenges,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Rather than purchase animals from pet stores, another Orangeville resident who identified herself as Julie, stated individuals wanting to buy a pet should do so using registered ethical breeders.

“With ethical breeders a lot of testing goes into (the animals) – they go over gene pool regiments, check family history for potential cross-breeding. While they’re making a little money, it does not cover the cost they’re putting into (testing the animals),” Julie said. “They’re breeding for the betterment of the breed as opposed to making profit.”

Mayor Brown found that particular remark outlandish.

“Are you suggesting dog breeders don’t make any money?” Mayor Brown asked. “It’s interesting that (as a group) you’re describing this as animals being sold for profit. Aren’t all animals sold for profit? Talking about Canadian Kennel Club breeders… There’s huge bucks there.”

The issue, at least locally, came to a head late last year when a social media campaign seemingly designed to attack one specific business appeared to tarnish the reputation of Doogan’s Pet Store, a third generation business right here in Orangeville.

While Mr. Armstrong noted he had nothing to do with that particular smear campaign, Council seemed to round on those in attendance, condemning the behaviour of individuals online and the impact it could, potentially, have had on a long-time local business.

“One of the things that bothers me about this issue is the public outcry that happened on social media. The litigious nature that hurt a business in town through criticism that was undue and a little aggressive,” Coun. Todd Taylor said. 

David Adsetts, owner of Doogan’s, was on hand on Monday evening to set the record straight about that particular campaign. It was suggested in numerous posts on social media that Doogan’s takes in sickly animals for resale, doesn’t offer refunds on the animals they sell, and forces animals to live in horrific conditions in-store. That, Mr. Adsetts said, couldn’t be further from the truth.

“One of the points I’d like to make, typically pet stores don’t provide any health guarantees for pets they sell. In our case, this is not a fact. We provide health guarantees for all pets we sell. We also provide a 100 percent money back guarantee (if something happens to the animal after sale, such as illness etc.). That includes dogs, kittens and puppies. It also includes every other animal we sell,” Mr. Adsetts said. 

He mentioned that since the Town of Orangeville introduced its bylaw regulating pet sales in retail locations, there has never once been a grievance issued against Doogan’s, adding that “we have always operated within the constraints of the bylaw, never having an infringement in 14 years”. 

In encouraging news, he suggested the social media campaign served to strengthen his business, rather than tear it down. In fact, Mr. Adsetts declared 2018 had been Doogan’s most successful year ever.

Speaking to the bylaw Mr. Armstrong was trying to convince Council to push through, Mr. Adsetts asked Council to think about the history Doogan’s has in the community before potentially bringing something in that would essentially kill a multi-generational business.

“If we continue to operate in a professional manner in a regulated industry, following all the guidelines set out, as we have done for the past 29 years, why would you as Town Council see fit to enact legislation to put an end to us. If you decide, when all is said and done, that you need to protect the public by changing the bylaw, I hope to see you will do so by excluding a family basis that my grandfather introduced” almost four decades ago, Mr. Adsetts concluded.

In the end, Council unanimously supported a suggestion from Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh to put this issue over to Town Staff to draft a report with a recommendation for what a potential bylaw could look like in the future.

“I am personally more in favour of a suggestion Coun. (Lisa) Post made (earlier in the night) calling for a moratorium moving forward on new businesses being able to sell animals in Orangeville, so as to satisfy the issues that seem to be out there, but that we protect Mr. Adsett as long as he continues to operate his business in a fair and ethical manner as far as the treatment of animals is concerned,” Mayor Brown said.



         

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