Dozens protest Ottawa’s proposed pet shop bylaw

Dozens of animal rights activists were calling for an outright ban on the sale of commercially bred kittens and puppies at city hall on Monday.

In a marathon community and protective services committee that attracted almost 40 delegates to the microphone, councillors heard an earful from pet store owners, humane society advocates and average dog owners on a controversial pet shop bylaw amendment.

At the end of the debate, which was emotionally charged at times, animal rights activists did not win the immediate ban they were calling for.

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Instead, committee members approved Coun. Mark Taylor’s motion on a five-year sunset clause that would force pet store owners to stop selling commercially bred cats and dogs within that time frame. Mr. Taylor does not sit on the community and protective services, so Coun. Mathieu Fleury introduced the motion on his behalf.

Only three Ottawa pet shops sell commercially bred animals. The other 13 licensed shops house cats and dogs from animal shelters, humane societies or rescue centres. City staff initially recommended that those three stores be grandfathered in to the amended pet store bylaw, on the condition that their animal sources are subjected to annual inspections from Ontario and Quebec authorities.

Wearing “support the ban” tags, dozens of people showed up to protest the city hall bylaw amendment. The committee room was packed, with an overflow in the hallway outside.

Eileen Woodside, founder of the Puppymill Awareness Working Solutions (PAWS), said Mr. Taylor’s proposal still falls short.

“Five years is a long time for animals to suffer in a position of unethical, irresponsible breeding practices,” she said. “Typically, pets in pet stores are a result of supply and demand, so dogs are bred every heat cycle. That’s twice a year, which means the mother dogs never get a break.”

Coun. Jeff Leiper, who does not sit on the committee, tried to get councillors on side with a stricter ban – one that would force the three pet stores to adjust within six months and the other that includes a ban on the sale of rabbits. They both failed.

Valerie Bietlot, who’s on the city’s legal team, said an outright ban on the sale of commercially bred animals in these pet stores could be seen as “irrational or in bad faith.” There is scant evidence to prove that pet stores sell animals bred in mills or other questionable sources, she said.

Karen Greenberg, co-owner of Little Critters pet store at the Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, said it is “hurtful, wrong-headed and insulting” to accuse all pet stores of selling puppies and kittens from mills.

“This notion is based on hearsay and misguided opinions put forward by a small vocal animal activist group who we feel are engaged in a campaign of harassment against legitimate, law-abiding businesses that are a part of the solution, not the problem,” she said.

Ms. Greenberg said her store relies on the sale of commercially bred animals, which she said are sourced from ethical breeders.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, who also does not sit on the committee, said an immediate ban “would signal to the public that we are serious about the welfare of the animals.”

Mr. Leiper, Mr. Taylor and Ms. McKenney will get a vote on the pet store bylaw amendment when it goes before council as a whole.

Meanwhile, Ms. Woodside said her group would work on trying to convince councillors to shorten the sunset clause to two years.

This article originally appeared on on March 21.

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