Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Victoria moving on tough new rules for commercial dog and cat breeders

February13, 2016 Michael Smyth, The Province

All breeders of dogs and cats in British Columbia could face new licensing and registration rules after animal-welfare officers raided an alleged puppy mill and rescued 66 dogs. The Christy Clark government was considering the strict new regulations before SPCA constables descended on a rural property in Langley on Feb. 4.

But the terrible TV images of the rescued dogs — many malnourished, diseased, caked with excrement and missing eyes, ears and limbs — has raised the urgency level. “It was horrible, heartbreaking,” said Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite, who introduced a private-member’s bill in the legislature two years ago calling for new rules on breeders.

The bill was never passed. “This is what I’ve been talking about,” Thornthwaite said. “We need to get to the bottom of this and prevent it from happening again.” Now the Liberal government is moving to do just that.

Clark met Friday with Craig Daniell, chief executive officer of the B.C. SPCA. Government sources tell me they discussed licensing dog and cat breeders, new standards of care for animals and increased investigative powers for the SPCA. The government has launched “expedited consultations” with the SPCA, veterinarians and dog and cat breeders.

Officials are looking at breeder-licensing systems in four other provinces: New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In New Brunswick, anyone who operates a “pet establishment” must obtain a $250-a-year licence; it applies to dog and cat breeders, pet retail stores, boarding kennels and animal shelters. Licensees are subject to inspection and people who break the rules can face charges.

Why is B.C. considering a similar system? Because the current one is complaint-driven and animal-protection officers can often only move in if they receive solid evidence. “We can only respond to a complaint — we have no proactive inspection powers,” said Geoff Urton, a senior manager with the SPCA. “We generally need a witness with a lot of detailed information to produce a high-quality report that we can show a judge and acquire a search warrant.”

That’s what happened at that rural property in Langley, where a customer seeking to buy a puppy responded to an online Kijiji ad. According to court documents, the customer noticed a strong smell of feces and urine and heard barking coming from a tarped-off building and barn away from the home.

Armed with a warrant, SPCA officers raided the property and made the shocking discovery. “We are all completely shocked that a commercial operation of this scale was happening here,” Urton said. “British Columbia definitely has a problem with bad dog breeders. I’m worried B.C. might become a safe haven for exploitive commercial breeders if we don’t close the gaps.”

He said the SPCA currently investigates 200 complaints against breeders a year. Here’s what the government is considering, according to reliable sources:

STANDARDS OF CARE: Thornthwaite’s bill set out a detailed code of care for breeders of dogs and cats that included basic food-and-water requirements, shelter and sanitation.

Female animals could face limits on the number and frequency of litters they may produce. Puppies and kittens could not be sold before eight weeks of age. Breeders could face restrictions on means of transporting animals.

LICENSING AND REGISTRATION: Breeders may be required to purchase an annual licence and have their names listed on a public registry.

In New Brunswick, breeders must include their registration number in all advertising. Publications and websites may not run ads without registration numbers.

Breeders could be subject to background checks, including cross-referencing with other states and provinces to ensure they have not been convicted of animal-abuse violations.

INCREASED SPCA POWERS: Registered breeders could be required to open up their operations to SPCA inspectors without a search warrant.

A government insider stressed any new rules would apply to commercial breeders, not to individual pet owners whose family pooch or kitty becomes pregnant.

Nothing will be done until the government completes consultations with breeders and veterinarians, but Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick made it clear the government is preparing to take action. “Every dog and cat in this province should be treated humanely, period,” Letnick said, adding he was personally horrified at the condition of the dogs seized in Langley. “I was appalled. There will be no place in this province for that kind of treatment of animals.”

The 66 dogs are currently receiving veterinary care and will be adopted out. Investigators are preparing a report for Crown counsel and there may be criminal charges in the case.

One possible barrier to reform could be opposition from pet breeders who object to the new expense and bureaucracy from a government that promised to cut regulations and red tape. But Urton, the SPCA manager, said breeders should actually be happy.

“Any good, genuine, caring dog breeders who have nothing to hide should welcome this,” he said. “Any time we have a terrible case like this, it taints every breeder out there. This would weed out the bad apples.”

February 27, 2017 B.C. targets irresponsible breeders with new legislation to protect puppies, kittens

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced changes to animal welfare legislation in British Columbia that would establish a regulatory or licensing system for dog and cat breeders. Amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act will allow for the establishment of an external regulatory agency that includes inspectors who would be responsible for enforcing standards of care for breeders.

Craig Daniell, executive director of the provincial SPCA, said the organization investigates up to 200 animal cruelty cases involving breeders annually, and many of the animals do not survive the mistreatment they suffer. Jane Thornthwaite, a Liberal member of the legislature for North Vancouver-Seymour, said the amended legislation stems from a private member's bill she introduced in 2013 to shut down breeding mills. (CBC News) We hope rabbits will be added at a later date, as per our discussions with MLA Thornthwaite.

July 2, 2019 BC: Legislation has been passed in the province to establish a licensing system for breeders, but the system has yet to be put in place.

Read more: April 23, 2012 MLA wants rules to curb puppy mills

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