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SPCA probes puppy mill allegations

Jan 12 2012

Concerns about sick, underage puppies being shipped from northern B.C. to Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland have sparked a special investigation by the B.C. SPCA.

"I have asked our constables to look into it," said Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Reports to the SPCA about the puppies came from people in the transportation industry and pinpoint breeders in communities such as 100 Mile House, Nazko and Fort Fraser.

The pups, which are reported to be dirty, scared and stressed, are usually flown out of Williams Lake bound for pet stores.

There are troubling allegations about the condition of the puppies at the time of shipping, Moriarty said.

However, one challenge is lack of legislation governing breeders, she said.

Provincial and federal cruelty legislation can sometimes be used and there is a recommended code of practice for kennels, but successful prosecutions are rare for practices such as removing puppies from their moms at six weeks, Moriarty said.

Many municipalities have bylaws governing kennels, but puppy mills are typically not situated within city limits, Moriarty said. "The way to make money is to have lots of dogs breeding lots of times and very low overhead costs," she said.

Rosemary Marra, who works in the transportation industry, said many people in the freight business are upset about the condition of some puppies coming from northern B.C.

It is easy to tell the difference between those coming from reputable breeders and puppy-mill dogs, Marra said.

"Often their eyes are watering, they're really scared and they seem really young," she said.

"Sometimes there are four or five dogs in a crate and maybe 10 crates a month. It's a lot."

Carol Broad of Victoria Adoptables, a non-profit rescue organization, worries about the mothers and fathers left behind.

"The thought of these poor little souls being bred constantly really bothers me most," she said.

At Creatures Pet Store on Bay Street, owner Ty Hahn said he receives puppies from northern B.C., but does thorough checks on the breeders.

"We have them fill out a questionnaire on how they run their kennels and we ask for pictures. We have refused breeders," Hahn said.

In the year since Hahn took over the store, there have been no health issues and pups are checked by veterinarians, vaccinated and dewormed, he said.

Puppy buyers are also checked, and are offered limited health and money-back guarantees. "If I was selling dogs with a whole bunch of health issues, I couldn't afford to do that," Hahn said.

Birthdates, places of birth and descriptions of parents are given on the cages of the 14 puppies currently in the shop. The store sells from five to eight small dogs a month, with prices ranging from about $700 to $1,000.

Angella Machholz, of ShutDownPuppyMills.ca, said the onus is on dog buyers to check out the background. Buyers should ask to see the parents, Machholz said.

"If there are no adult dogs present in a person's home, it's a red flag," she said. "A lot of people think puppy mills are big organizations, but they can be two dogs being overly bred, not cared for and not receiving medical attention."

In pet stores, checks become impossible, Machholz said. "They are selling to people who are buying impulsively," she said.

"I would like to see more rules in place."

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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