Montreal pet stores challenge bylaw that limits them to shelter-only animals

Businesses can now only legally acquire dogs, cats and rabbits from local shelters — like the SPCA. 

Lawyer Yves Pépin says the rule raises safety concerns

The lawyer representing the group of pet stores, Yves Pépin, says the rule will push people to buy their pets online from backyard breeders and puppy mills. (CBC)

A group of pet stores and suppliers have filed a lawsuit in Quebec Superior court to fight a rule in Montreal's animal control bylaw that forces them to get their animals from shelters only. 

Businesses can now only legally acquire dogs, cats and rabbits from local shelters — like the SPCA. 

The lawyer representing the stores, Yves Pépin, said the rule raises safety concerns. He said pet stores are more reliable in assuring proper care.

"If you're in a pet store, everything is clean, you could see the animals, they are all perfect. You know that they're not living in bad conditions. Usually they are not there for very long," he said.

Pépin said every animal in a pet store has been seen by a veterinarian, which guarantees a clean bill of health.

The rule does not do anything to protect animal welfare, since pet stores are already required to have permits from the Agriculture Ministry, he said.

Another concern is that shelters do not always have animals that are a good fit for families, he said. Parents who want animals for their children often want younger animals, which are harder to find in a shelter.

"People should have the choice [of] what kind of dog they want, what is suitable for them — not the city telling them 'you're going to have to go pick up that dog.'" 

Furthermore, Pépin said there are currently not enough animals in shelters to fill the demand of pet store clients.

The main worry, he said, is that the rule will push people to buy their pets online from backyard breeders and puppy mills.

"There's no place else, because nobody is going to be able to sell puppies and kittens," he said. 

Breeders selling online do not always follow animal welfare regulations, he said, and it's difficult to distinguish between registered and unregistered breeders when shopping for pets online.

Shelters are viable option, advocates say

However, advocates of the city's rule say that buying online from shelters is a viable option.

Kimberley Kator adopted her Sphynx and Siamese cats, Dottie and Mikey, two years ago from Chatopia, a pure-breed cat shelter.

Kimberley Kator adopted her Sphynx and Siamese cats from a shelter and she says purebreds can often be found in shelters. (CBC)

"I think it's a great initiative," she said about the rule.

"I know there's an argument going on right now, that people think you cannot get pure bred animals from shelters, but I think Dottie and Mikey are perfect example that purebreds very often come through shelters."

Kator does not think the rule will lead people to seek pets through sketchy breeders on the internet.

"What it may do is make people go on Petfinder and most rescues have their animals listed there," she said.

She is now Chatopia's foster cat coordinator. From what she has seen, animals of all ages and breeds pass through shelters, she said.  

Asked for a response on the matter, the city said it cannot comment since the case is before the courts.

With files from Claire Loewen


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