Council endorses new pet shop bylaw, mayor calls it ‘death knell’ for local store

November 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Mayor Sandy Brown believes Council is issuing a “death knell” to Doogan’s Pet Emporium by introducing new restrictions on the sale of animals in town. 

This past Monday, Orangeville Council voted in favour of a new bylaw that stipulates pet stores operating in town may only sell dogs, cats and rabbits that have been sourced through a municipal animal shelter, registered humane society, registered shelter, or a recognized animal rescue group. 

The move is more than a year in the making. Back in April 2019, several animal rights activists appeared before Orangeville Council arguing an outdated bylaw was potentially opening the door for businesses to set up shop in town for the sole purpose of selling puppy-mill animals for profit. At the time, David Adsetts, owner of Doogan’s, retorted that outlawing the sale of animals in Orangeville would effectively kill his business, which has operated in the community for more than 40 years. 

It was thought that a compromise had been found earlier this year, when Town staff presented a report to Council suggesting that Doogan’s be allowed to sell dogs, cats and rabbits sourced through animals shelters and humane societies. Now, Mayor Brown is suggesting that likely won’t be enough for Mr. Adsetts to keep his doors open.

“I’ve done a lot of work on this, a lot of digging into this issue. Over the weekend I spent some time on humane society websites, and across all of Ontario I found only ten dogs available (for adoption). To think that dogs are available at SPCAs just is not true,” Mayor Brown said. “This bylaw really is pointing at one retailer in town, and I don’t think we should be attacking this particular retailer.”

He added, “There’s no evidence they have treated animals poorly here in Orangeville. They’ve been a business here for 40 years, and I’m having a difficult time with this. I don’t understand why we would want to put (Doogan’s) out of business, as) that’s what this will do.”

Mayor Brown shared his concerns that, with, potentially, no pet store in town, local residents would be forced to purchase animals online, through websites such as Kijiji, something he called “completely unacceptable”. 

“There are no controls on the purchase of dogs on Kijiji. There’s no oversight whatsoever there right now,” Mayor Brown said. 

As a part of its public consultation process, the Town posted a survey to its website, available between Sept. 17 and Oct. 9, allowing local residents to provide their thoughts and opinions on a potential pet store bylaw. Of the 181 individuals to respond, 71 percent agreed that the Town should restrict where pet stores source their animals for the purpose of sale. 

Given Doogan’s extensive history in Orangeville, Coun. Debbie Sherwood wondered whether the Town could insert a clause in a new bylaw, which would prohibit new operations from sourcing animals from ill-favoured means but allow Doogan’s to continue operating as they always have, at least until the current owner either sells or closes his store. 

This option was all but ruled out by Town Clerk Karen Landry, who informed Council that, when a municipality sets up a licensing framework, it is intended that it will apply to all businesses being licensed under the bylaw. Essentially, Council should not impose one rule for one particular business, and then another rule for potential competitors.

Orangeville Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh says this issue, to him, is a sure fire sign that “society has changed” in recent years, informing Mayor Brown that he stands on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to this issue. 

“Society has changed. Things that were acceptable before are no longer. I see this as one of those issues. To grandfather (Doogan’s) in permanently to a new bylaw, I don’t agree with that,” Deputy Mayor Macintosh said. “There are other pet stores coming into town – we can’t tell them they can’t sell animals when there’s already one in town selling them. I don’t know how legal that is, and it’s just not going to fly. We either do this, or we don’t. We cannot grandfather them in forever.”

It was suggested that Council would give Doogan’s a 12 month grace period to adjust its business model and ensure it complies with the new bylaw, although that irked Mayor Brown.

“One year doesn’t satisfy me. I don’t think we should be sending these guys to the guillotine 12 months from now. I would prefer it to be a much longer timeframe. There’s no evidence to suggest this company has maltreated any animal. I don’t see how we have the authority to shut them down,” Mayor Brown said. “If we’re going to do anything, I would prefer an extension of five years to give them time to transition out of this business if they need to.”

There appeared to be little appetite amongst the rest of Council to consider such a request. Coun. Lisa Post, who admitted she had purchased animals from Doogan’s before and considered them to be a good example of how to run a successful pet shop business, said Orangeville should join the likes of Toronto, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Waterloo and Mississauga who have recently eliminated the practice of selling animals for profit. 

Referencing the mayor’s previous comments regarding the lack of animals available through humane societies and SPCAs, Coun. Post indicated that was likely due to the unprecedented times we’re all facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are often times when these facilities are full of animals. That doesn’t appear to be the case right now, and that’s great, but there is a time when they’re going to be full again,” Coun. Post said.

Council voted 5 to 2 in favour of the new bylaw, with Mayor Brown and Coun. Sherwood opposed. In a final, defiant note, Mayor Brown indicated that, with their vote, Orangeville Council was essentially killing a business that has been in operation in town for more than 40 years. 

“This is a death knell for this business. I don’t think they deserve this. The rest of the world is not being monitored, with cats and dogs being sold on Kijiji. That’s where (we) will be forcing everything now, rather than the controlled environment (Doogan’s) operates in,” Mayor Brown finished. 

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