City of Ottawa to mull tightening leash on dog, cat, rabbit sales

An Ottawa city councillor is pushing to restrict sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in Ottawa pet stores to "close the door" on inappropriate breeders.

Bylaw review will look at restricting retail sale of pets from breeders

Two dogs frolic at Little Critters in Ottawa. It's one of three pet stores that sell animals in the city and may be among the last, depending on if changes are made to the city's bylaw. (CBC)

The city of Ottawa is reopening the debate over restricting the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores.

Community and protective services committee chair Diane Deans said the city will hold public and stakeholder consultations on the issue in February, with recommendations from those meetings going before her committee on March 21.

Eileen Woodside says banning pet sales in stores would help overcrowded shelters. (CBC)

Animal advocates such as Puppymill Awareness Working Solutions (PAWS) have launched a letter writing campaign to push for a ban on selling those animals for profit in retail stores.

Instead, they said they'd like to see animals in need of adoption go to new homes.

"Pet stores are one of the more visible sales mediums of selling pets from unreputable, unknown, anonymous sources, said Eileen Woodside of PAWS.

"Impulse purchasing is one of the biggest problems so just by removing that already you're helping eradicate the problem."

PAWS said on its website that Ontario cities such as Toronto, Kingston and Waterloo either have a similar bylaw or are working on a similar bylaw.

Industry good with status quo

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, a non-profit organization which advocates for pet safety in both stores and shelters, said tightening the bylaw would hurt independent small businesses that are already struggling.

Louis McCann says it doesn't make sense to take away a regulated, accountable source of animals by banning their sale from pet stores. (CBC)

"It doesn't make sense to regulate or eliminate a source that is among the most regulated already," said the council's president and CEO Louis McCann.

"Pet stores are accountable, pet stores are at a fixed address, it's in their best interest to offer quality animals with quality guarantees." 

Councillor wants ban for new stores

Bay Ward councillor Mark Taylor wrote a post on his website on Thursday saying any pet stores opening in the city should only be able to sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from the Ottawa Humane Society. 

Existing stores would still be allowed to sell the animals, but in an interview with the CBC's Ottawa Morning on Friday, Taylor said only three of the city's 18 pet stores sell dogs, cats and rabbits from breeders.

Taylor said those stores do a good job of making sure their animals come from responsible breeders, but he still backs a wider ban.

"It closes the door to the retail sales of cats, dogs and rabbits that come from breeders that we don't always know are acting in the best interest of the animal," Taylor said.

Taylor said a ban won't extend to online or private sales of animals from breeders, but the fact that an underground market exists shouldn't stop the city from trying to do something.

"That's part of what we want to hear from both the public and our bylaw staff on, to hear where they might have insight into how to tackle that part of the problem," he said.

"I don't accept that because we can't deal with the whole problem that we shouldn't take opportunities where they exist to deal with parts of it." 

Taylor said this issue came before the committee when he was chair back in 2011, but councillors decided at the time to ask bylaw to focus instead on bad breeders.​