Public meeting set as Council considers new pet shop bylaw

June 25, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Council has taken its first steps towards outlawing the sale of animals “for substantial profit” at local pet stores. 

It’s been more than a year since Mayor Sandy Brown promised the municipality was going to come up with a hybrid solution to update a bylaw regulating the sale of animals in pet stores. The issue was debated at length in April 2019, with several animal rights activists arguing that an outdated bylaw was potentially opening the door for businesses to set up shop in Orangeville for the sole purpose of selling puppy-mill animals for profit. 

At the time, David Adsetts, owner of Doogan’s Pet Emporium in Orangeville, retorted that such a move would effectively kill his business, which has operated in the community for more than 40 years. 

Now, it would appear that Town Council has found a compromise, one that keeps both sides happy. In a unanimous vote on Monday (June 22), Council opted to set up a public meeting to obtain feedback on a planned reworking of the pet shop bylaw, which would permit stores to only sell dogs, cats and rabbits that have been obtained from animal shelters, humane societies or rescue groups. 

Orangeville resident Grant Armstrong, who also made a presentation at that April meeting last year, said Council should move quickly to amend its bylaw before any businesses look to take advantage of the existing legislation, as has been seen in other communities. 

“The Town of Newmarket has moved aggressively over the past weeks towards banning pet stores from selling animals. 

“There is a store in Newmarket,” he said,  that will be watching the situation in Orangeville. “They moved from Richmond Hill to Newmarket before, to get around a bylaw change, and seeing that Orangeville is close and doesn’t currently have a bylaw (preventing the sale of animals), you could see a pet store moving, again, from region to region as local communities close loopholes about being able to sell dogs and cats for profit.”

Kasey Dunn has been involved in advising municipalities on pet shop bylaws since 2013. In that time, she has worked alongside the councils of Toronto, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Waterloo, Cambridge and Mississauga to eliminate the practice of selling animals for profit at pet stores. 

Speaking specifically to the bylaw that will soon be passed in Newmarket, Ms. Dunn says said over 93 percent of constituents polled in the community were in favour of the bylaw. She encouraged Orangeville to take a page out of Newmarket’s book when it comes to writing its new bylaw. 

“I highly recommend taking a look at the Newmarket staff report, because it’s so thorough and robust. They didn’t have any protection or licensing around pet stores, and stores were moving into the city to set up shop there because it was one of the few remaining cities left that hadn’t looked at this issue,” Ms. Dunn said. “They were similar (to where Orangeville is today). This is something Orangeville will want to consider, to form a stance on this issue moving forward.”

Mayor Brown wanted to see some sort of sunset clause incorporated into any new bylaw, which would allow Doogan’s a period of time – it was suggested it could be up to a year – to fall in line with new legislation. 

“In every case (where a municipality has changed its bylaw) there has been version of a sunset clause incorporated. It has never been something that’s going to come into effect the next day,” Ms. Dunn said. “Usually, Council has worked with those stores to find what a reasonable amount of time would be for them. It’s usually around one year, but every city is different.”

A public meeting will be scheduled in September. Town Clerk Karen Landry noted it would almost certainly take place in a virtual format – with local residents able to call in over the phone, or using camera-sharing technology such as Zoom. 

In closing, Mayor Brown wanted to remind Council that while this bylaw should be seen as a positive, the municipality had to bear in mind there was a multi-generational business in town that would be impacted by the move. 

“If we go back to our discussion from last year, there is a small business that has been in town for 40 years (that will be hurt by this). There hasn’t been a lot of negative issues with respect to selling pets in that particular store,” Mayor Brown said. “We do want to support our small businesses. We need to tread carefully with this small business. I hope we can be kind and have some empathy as we move forward with this.”

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