September 18 marks Puppy Mill Awareness Day and, at the same time, Responsible Dog Ownership Day.
On the one hand, the pandemic has been in the news regularly, highlighting the escalating demand for dogs, especially puppies. Shelters like ours, and responsible breeders, are struggling to keep up with the demand, and this opens the door to unscrupulous breeders and dealers who want to take advantage of the situation.
On the other hand, and you've heard this before, but it's not lip-service: welcoming a dog into your family is a long-term commitment, possibly 10 to 15 years, and it's essential to make sure that you can not only afford the financial investment, but also provide this new companion with a living environment that will meet his or her physical, intellectual, and emotional needs, for as long as your new companion lives.
In either situation, it is your responsibility to consider your options BEFORE you get a dog, and to take the necessary steps to maintain its well-being throughout its life.
If you are looking to add a canine companion to your family, consider your options carefully (our thanks to Humane Canada for the following content).
Humane Canada always encourages adoption from a local humane society, SPCA, or rescue. The reason why animals end up in a shelter or foster home vary dramatically: some were lost, some were born homeless, some were rescued from abuse and some were surrendered because an owner developed allergies, had to move, passed away, could no longer afford to care for them or whose lifestyle was a mismatch with an animal’s needs.
To learn more, check out these common myths about shelter dogs.
Click here to find humane societies and SPCAs that are members of Humane Canada. You can also call your municipal government and ask if there is an animal shelter in your city, town or county.
PetFinder is also a comprehensive database of pets that are up for adoption from humane societies, SPCAs and animal rescue groups throughout North America. You can search for dogs by age, breed, gender and more. (Note: Not all humane societies and SPCAs post their adoptable pets on this website, nor do most municipally-run animal shelters.)
Here are some key reasons for adopting from a shelter!
- An obvious benefit is the rewarding experience of having saved an animal’s life.
- The cost of adopting a pet at an animal shelter is a fraction of what you’d pay to buy from a breeder or pet store. In fact, it’s often “cheaper” than getting an animal for free because the adoption fee usually includes spay/neuter surgery, a complete veterinary check-up, vaccinations and a microchip ID. These services would cost you at least $500 if you had to pay for them yourself.
- A match made for you. All reputable humane societies, SPCAs and rescue groups conduct temperament tests on the dogs to ensure they are safe to be adopted out, and many also have programs to match up adopters with dogs whose personalities will best fit their lifestyles and preferences.
- Making a difference. Adopting from a shelter means you are helping rather than contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.
- Adult = less hassle! While shelters do sometimes have puppies up for adoption, adolescent or adult dogs are much more common. Adopting an adult dog means that you don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations of house-training and raising a puppy.
- What you see is what you get. Unlike a puppy, an adult dog’s personality and temperament are already well-established. They have also reached their full adult size, and their coat has come in, so you get a better idea of what it would be like to live with the dog.
Humane Canada will always encourage adoption. However, if you choose to acquire a dog through a breeder, please refer to this handy list of essential questions to ask a breeder to ensure you are not inadvertently supporting a puppy mill or an international puppy broker.
If you don’t take the time to carefully choose where you get your puppy, you could end up with a dog that suffers from serious medical issues or behavioural problems, causing you a great deal of heartache, frustration and expense. Worse, you could end up unknowingly supporting the cruel puppy mill industry.
Internet classified sites can be a problematic place to look for a purebred dog. It is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill unless you do an in-person or a video call visit. Puppy mills and backyard breeders are known to use internet classifieds to promote their business and find potential customers. In fact, the Better Business Bureau estimates that 80 per cent of sponsored search links for pet sales may be fraudulent, advertising animals the supposed sellers don’t own.
Here are some warning signs that you want to look out for when searching for a companion animal online.
Many reputable breeders rely on their own websites, word of mouth and their national or regional breed clubs for referrals. That said, having a website or not, it is never a guarantee. Humane Canada recommends that if you are searching for a puppy online, you refer to the essential questions noted above, and you do not complete the purchase unless you are fully confident that you are dealing with a reputable breeder or an SPCA/humane society who is utilizing the online classified platform to adopt out their animals.
The only way you can know for sure that a breeder is responsible and humane is to visit (whether in person or via video call) and see first-hand the conditions their breeding dogs and puppies are kept in. Be sure you visit before you hand over any money. The Better Business Bureau released a statement in December 2020 estimating the total losses related to pet scams to top $3 million dollars.
How do you know that you are dealing with a responsible, ethical breeder? Refer to this list to learn the hallmarks of a good breeder.
You’ll need to ask specific questions and ask to see certain paperwork to make sure they meet the standards of a good breeder. If the health or vaccine certificates that are provided to you seem dubious, please call the veterinary hospital listed on the record to ensure these aren’t fraudulent.
Here are a few red flags.
Reputable Pet Stores
There are many good pet supply stores that don’t sell animals. And there are many stores that operate “satellite adoption centres” for humane societies, SPCAs and rescue groups. Instead of selling cats and dogs, they house and display adoptable animals in their stores. Customers who express an interest in the animals must go through the adoption procedure via the humane society, SPCA or rescue group. By supporting these types of pet stores, you are adopting an animal, saving a life and sending a clear message to other pet stores that the humane option is to operate a satellite adoption centre rather than selling animals.
Learn more about reputable pet stores.
Canada has animal health requirements for the commercial import of dogs that are less than 8 months of age but it is possible that dogs bred for commercial sale may have been exposed to zoonotic diseases (those transmissible to humans) or parasites that are not apparent when they are imported.
Learn more about the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s import rules for dogs here.
Searching for a dog on classified ads site is not the ideal place to look for your companion animal (unless a humane society, SPCA, or reputable rescue is utilizing said platform to adopt out their animals)
Before taking a dog home, you should consider asking for:
- the dog’s vaccination records and other veterinary medical history
- additional information about where the dog was located before being offered for sale
- information about policies on returns or assistance with medical bills if health issues are found after buying or adopting
What is a Puppy Broker?
In the summer of 2020, we all had our attention turned when a flight from the Ukraine landed in Toronto carrying approximately 500 puppies stuffed into crates in inhumane conditions. Dozens of them were severely ill and 38 were dead on arrival.
This incident shone a light to the issue of puppy brokers, which are the middlemen who will gather puppies as young as 5 or 6 weeks old from various puppy mills and backyard breeders, selling them online, usually for large amounts of money (anywhere between $3,000 – $6,000 per pup), and transporting them long distances to supply various stores and keen buyers.
Watch this report by CBC Marketplace investigating the growing puppy trade in Canada. This report aired in November 2020.
More recently, CBC News reported that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has targeted at least six puppy brokers in raids, focusing attention on an opaque multi-million-dollar business that animal welfare and veterinary groups have repeatedly warned about. The imported animals are often raised in poor conditions and arrive in the country unhealthy and sometimes, with forged vaccination records. Read more here.
Learn how to identify a Puppy Mill
Puppy mills (also called puppy farms) are horrendous places that churn out as many puppies as possible, in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest expense. That means terrible, filthy, crowded housing, minimal human contact, no veterinary care and unspeakable suffering. Their main focus is to profit from the sale of the puppies with no regard for the animals’ well-being.
Common features of puppy mills:
- Animals kept in crowded, filthy barns, sheds or basements
- Often, cages are piled in stacks and the waste from the upper levels falls onto the dogs beneath
- Unbearable stench of ammonia from the build-up of urine and feces
- Animals are fed the cheapest food
- Breeding dogs are bred continuously from a young age till they can no longer produce enough to make it worth keeping them
- Physical and mental suffering from long-term, extreme confinement and deprivation
- Animals receive little to no veterinary care
- No positive human interaction
- No toys, no exercise, no stimulation
- Puppies are not socialized to people, other dogs, household noises, etc.
Learn more here about how to identify a puppy mill.
The system in Canada is “buyer’s beware”, which means we have to do our due diligence to ensure that we aren’t inadvertently supporting a puppy mill operation.
Please educate yourself and help us educate others by sharing this information.
(Source: Humane Canada – What to know before getting a dog)