BY JEANNE WHITEHEAD, TRANSCONTINENTAL MEDIA The Nova Scotia Business Journal
DIGBY – A month ago, Esther Smith was checking the Kijiji website often, in search of a miniature dachshund. Now she searches the site for people who may be in the market for puppies–and fires off emails warning them about a Roxville couple, Gail Benoit and Dana Bailey.
Smith was one of six Maritimers whose puppies died days–or hours–after leaving the hands of Benoit. Smith said she had never heard of Benoit before July, and in spite of widespread publicity since about the puppies’ deaths, she is receiving emails from puppy lovers saying they hadn’t been following the news, and thanking her for her warnings.
Following a CTV News report about the death of Smith’s puppy, “Gail Benoit was in tears and accused me of ruining her business.” Smith says her intention is to ensure that no one else ever purchases a sick or dying puppy.
Smith paid $500 for the the miniature dachshund, exchanging money for the dog in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Windsor. She quickly named the pup ‘Cinni’, and said she was told by Benoit that the pup was 10 weeks old.
However, its New Brunswick breeder, Naomi Chapman, says the puppy was born June 2 and therefore would not have been 10 weeks old until Aug. 11–had it lived. Chapman of Kilburn, N.B., says Benoit and Bailey bought 27 puppies from her in early July.
Nova Scotia’s SPCA has heard from seven people–in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.–who subsequently bought miniature dachshunds, Pomeranians and Yorkies from Benoit. Six of those puppies died shortly after their new owners took them home.
In an interview with CTV television, Bailey said that he and Benoit were also victims because 12 puppies died before they could sell them. The Roxville couple told Grant those puppies are buried on their property. In an interview with the Courier, Harry Chapman said his wife was selling all her animals and closing down her operation, which she established in 2003, after being charged by the SPCA with ‘failure to provide adequate care.’ Pet shops severed their ties with her when they got wind of that charge.
Chapman defended his wife’s business ethics. He said her animals were well provided for and she had four full time people and two part-time employees caring for 200 breeding females and their puppies. Chapman said that when Benoit and Bailey came to their operation, his wife told them the puppies they wanted were too young to leave their mothers. In fact, ‘Cinni’—the miniature dachshund sold to Smith—was just four weeks old and still suckling.
Last October, the SPCA arrived at the couple’s Roxville property with a warrant and 10 puppies were seized and the couple was charged with animal cruelty. That charge is before the courts. While the SPCA is investigating the possibility of parvovirus causing the deaths of the most recent batch of Benoit puppies, inadequate nutrition combined with immature immune systems may have been contributing factors.
Digby veterinarian Dr. Neil Pothier said he recently treated a toy Pomeranian that had been sold by Benoit. It was suffering from hypoglycemia–a condition that can lead to death in young animals. Toy breeds are particularly susceptible to the hypoglycemia. Stress, low body temperature, poor nutrition, and sudden changes in feed, water and schedule patterns may trigger hypoglycemia in young pups. Pothier says pups should never be taken from their mothers before they are six weeks of age, and people should never buy animals in parking lots. – Digby Courier