Friday, March 14, 2014

Think Before You Buy

I have great respect for local columnist Kelly Egan. In fact, a couple of years ago the OHS gave Kelly an award for his writing and for drawing attention to the plight of Ottawa's animals. In my introduction, I said Kelly didn't always agree with me or the OHS, but he was always accurate and fair. It seemed impolite at an awards ceremony to mention that I don't always agree with Kelly.

One such instance was an article that Kelly wrote about buying a puppy. He described the terrible conditions at the breeder and how horrified he was that the puppy was living there:
"When we bought our pug, Henry, we found a breeder online, outside the city. It was arranged via email and in telephone conversations. A deposit was made.

When we arrived to pick up the pup, we were shocked by the conditions. Outside, the farmhouse was in battered shape; inside was worse.

There were filthy cages all over the kitchen floor - even one on the stove - and the operator herself was a mess.

We "rescued" the dog and fled, with noses raw. Well, didn't he turn out to have mange, a condition he lived with for some months, with frequent vet intervention?"
Can you see the part of Kelly's story that concerns me?  "We 'rescued' the dog and fled".  What Kelly didn't seem to understand is that he had just bought a puppy from, at best, a very sub-standard breeder, and at worst, possibly a puppy mill.  And by handing over money to buy that puppy, he just became a small part of the problem.  That "breeder" was just going to breed more puppies in those terrible conditions to sell to the next Kelly to come along.

Please don't think that I am blaming Kelly for puppy mills or even sub-standard breeders.  I just wanted to highlight how people with the very best of intentions and even a good understanding of issues can exacerbate a problem.

We are fortunate in Ottawa, to have  good municipal legislation, an educated and mostly sensitized community, and, I like to think, a competent and progressive humane society, have led to an Ottawa that rates pretty high in animal welfare.

Yes, there are problems.  One small chain of pet stores holds out against the majority and continues to sells dog and cats that are not rescues. I am told they actually pay people to breed cats, rather than partner with the OHS or another reputable group.  Puppies and kittens still languish in their window in the shopping mall, much to the dismay of those of us charged with caring for and rehoming thousands of homeless animals every year.

Even in Ottawa, people continue to allow their cats to reproduce, creating thousands of cats and kittens in need of a new home.  

So, what can you do?  Here is a brief list of what you should always consider before buying a pet, cribbed from a great list created a number of years ago by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council:  
  • Have you been allowed access to the facilities where the dogs are housed? Is the facility clean?
  • Are food and water available in the dogs’ environment?
  • Are references supplied upon request?
  • Have you been asked pertinent questions to ensure the compatibility of you (the buyer) and the dog?
  • In the case of a breeding establishment, is the mother (dam) on the premises and available for you to see?
  • Do the dogs have good dispositions?
  • Do the dogs appear to be in good health? Below are some of the symptoms that may be of concern:
·      Thin body condition
Two-year-old St. Bernard Luke came to the OHS
from a puppy mill seizure in late 2011. He had spent
the first part of his life in a kennel with limited
human contact.
·      Pot-belly
·      Lethargy
·      Diarrhea or stained hair around the anus
·      Cough
·      Discharge from the eyes or nose
Are copies of health, vaccination certificates and documentation of the dog’s last visit to the veterinarian available for you to see?
  • In addition to the above, when dealing with a breeder, is documentation available confirming formal health clearances for both parents? (Such information is required to reduce the likelihood of transmissible diseases and genetic disorders.
  • Will you be provided with a bill of sale, listing the following: date of purchase; names of the buyer and seller; description of the dog; purchase price?
  • Will you be provided with a written guarantee that lists: specific details of pet return or compensation arrangements in the event of a health problem/illness and any time frames that apply; what is expected of the buyer (i.e. exam by a veterinarian within a certain time frames)?
And of course, I would add:  Have you considered adopting a pet from the Ottawa Humane Society or another reputable humane society or animal group?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director 

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