Dog activists call for legislation to outlaw 'evil' puppy mills and websites 'rife with backyard breeders'
A lot of eyes were opened with news of the deaths of several puppies sold from the back of a van around the province, some within hours of arriving at their new homes.
These particular pups came from Puppies R Us, a Digby-based business run by Gail Benoit. She has been the subject of numerous complaints in the past, but these particular puppy deaths seemed to have touched a nerve. Eight of the nine pups she sold in parking lots from the back of her van recently were dead within a matter of days. These were sickly, lethargic young dogs, the product of an evil known as the puppy mill. These are assembly-line breeding factories with deplorable practices and much animal cruelty.
A friend of mine, shocked at the news of the puppies' deaths, told me she thought these things only existed in Quebec or Ontario.
She now knows better. We all do.
Janet Chernin of Halifax has been sounding the puppy mill alarm for years. She's been a long-time dog activist and is a member of the Dog Legislation Council, an advocate group for, among other things, a ban on puppy mills.
She says there's no legislation today, provincially or federally, making puppy mills illegal so the operations thrive producing what she calls "sub-standard" animals.
Not only is it legal for anyone to sell puppies from the back of vehicles in mall parking lots, your first clue by the way that something's not quite right about the whole situation, but pet-store dogs are also generally the product of a puppy mill or back-yard breeder.
Chernin says people buying new pets this way "don't know what they're getting. These people are selling sub-standard animals. It's just pathetic."
The SPCA is supposed to deal with these puppy factories, but Chernin says they don't have the resources to handle it all. She says it means people like Gail Benoit can continue to sell pups despite complaint after complaint about their operations. They can even take out newspaper classifieds offering the puppies for sale.
Chernin is also alarmed the Internet site Kijiji offers dogs for sale. The website offers a variety of local goods, similar to the classifieds, but Chernin says its parent company, E-Bay, will "not allow animals to be brokered and sold." Kijiji, she says, is "just rife with backyard breeders."
Chernin, who has had more than a few run-ins over SPCA policies, does blame the organization for not being vocal enough in demanding government action. She says it's "just madness" there's no legislation to stop the back-yard breeders from selling, at prices in the hundreds of dollars, dogs of dubious heritage.
Chernin recommends Canadian Kennel Club registered breeders if you want a true purebred dog. If a mutt's your fancy, the local animal shelters are overflowing. Those dogs have all been given a clean bill of health.
As long as folks are willing to pay top dollar for a puppy from the back of a van, and until the provincial government has the courage to step forward and ban these mostly rural operations, Nova Scotia's puppy mills will continue to churn out these poor little animals.