Saskatchewan

Doggy daycare dispute highlights lack of regulation in Sask. pet care industry

A Regina doggy daycare has come under fire from a neighbouring business, after complaints about noise and mess in the alley. The owner says the dogs in her care are looked after well.

Owner of dog grooming business disputes criticisms, says her dogs are looked after well

Criticisms lobbed at a Regina business that offers dog grooming and daycare have led to some advocates calling for better regulations in the pet care industry. (Gerald Herbert/The Associated Press)

A dispute between a Regina doggy daycare, a former employee and a neighbouring business is shining a light on what some advocates call a lack of regulation in the pet care business.

Off the Leash is a dog grooming and doggy daycare business in Regina's warehouse district. It experienced online controversy last week after a neighbouring business posted video of dogs barking and an employee yelling.

Noise complaints go through the city and any official animal welfare complaints are handled by the Regina Humane Society. 

A former Off the Leash employee said she quit the job after one day because of the "disgusting" conditions. 

Michelle Blaser worked at the business in the summer of 2018. She wrote about her experience online. 

"I almost didn't come back after my lunch break," she said. 

"After the day, I went home and bawled my eyes out."

Blaser worked at Off the Leash for one day in the summer of 2018. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Blaser said the dogs had no toys and no beds to lay on and that she was the only person looking after 20 or more dogs all day. She also said the dogs went home covered in pee because they have to urinate inside and outside on a small asphalt pad.

"I have zero training. My training was, 'Have you ever broken up a dog fight?' and I said, 'No.' They were like, 'It's not that hard.' That was my training," Blaser said.

"I'm not saying they're bad people, but what they're doing is totally wrong."

Owner disputes allegations

Kayla Sywanyk owns Off the Leash. She disputed a few of Blaser's allegations.

The hours of operation for Off the Leash are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., which is the maximum amount of time the dogs can be there. The business website states its maximum intake is 25 dogs per day.

Off the Leash is located in the warehouse district in Regina. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The building is essentially divided in half, with the front half being used for grooming and retail, and the back half used for daycare. The outside component is a small pen secured to the building. The dogs defecate and urinate inside as well as outside on the asphalt, but Sywanyk said messes are cleaned up immediately and floors are sanitized at the end of every day.

"We hide nothing. If [people] want to walk in, we have an open door policy," she said.

The dogs do have toys and soft places to lay down and there are two or three people looking after the dogs at any time, according to Sywanyk.

She said she communicates openly with owners of pets that attend her daycare. Big and small dogs are kept together, and the owners are aware that if there are fights or a dog is acting up, that dog could be leashed and kept separately in another room.

She said there have been two or three injuries at her business where dogs need vet care and she said she has paid for those. She also said those dogs still go to the daycare.

The application owners have to complete to be accepted into Off the Leash's daycare is several pages long.

Sywanyk said the business doesn't turn dogs away based on responses to certain questions like: "My dog has exhibited the following behaviors: Has bit another dog."

"We give every dog a chance. We bring them in here, we mix them with a couple dogs and we go from there," she said.

The Regina Humane Society says it has never attended Off the Leash because of a complaint. 

Best Buds complaint

A business across the alley has also been complaining on social media and to the city, mostly about noise. 

Pat Warnecke owns Best Buds, a marijuana consultation business, and said that he's having trouble conducting some of his business due to the noise. 

"We deal with addicts on a daily basis with counselling and we can't use our area that we used before for having consultations because the dogs are continuously barking and we can't have any conversations," he said. 

Warnecke also took issue with dog urine draining toward the middle of the alley that runs between the back of both businesses. 

A city worker has been down to the site to address the noise and health complaints by Warnecke and has determined the decibel level at the time was within acceptable limits.

Warnecke said the city has told him they would monitor the excrement and urine situation as well. 

Kennel owner says industry needs better regulation

Louise Yates runs K-Lane Kennels, which has been in business for nearly 30 years. She has been fighting for better regulation in the industry for years. 

She is currently working on standards she would like to see adopted by the pet care industry. The end goal is to create a Pet Care Service Industry Code of Practice that would be part of the provincial Animal Protection Regulation.

When you start bringing in other animals into a business setting, love is not enough.- Louise Yates, owner of K-Lane Kennels

"It's one thing to love your own animal in your own home," she said. "When you start bringing in other animals into a business setting, love is not enough."

Yates provided some material from one group in the U.S. that she said she thinks is a good example of what pet care standards could look like in Saskatchewan. Here are some key points:

  • Staff should be trained in things like dog first aid.
  • Other things they should know about are canine body language, defensive handling and dog bite prevention.
  • There should be a ratio of one trained staff member for no more than 10 to 15 dogs.
  • The daycare should have the ability to separate large and small dogs
  • For the play area, there should be 70 to 100 square feet of play area per dog but that could be as low as 50 for small dogs or 40 for toy breeds.
  • Dogs should have two hours of rest per day and a separate nap area where the dogs can rest individually.
  • There should be climate control in indoor and outdoor spaces.

"I think regulation is an education tool more than anything to help people who love animals do things really well," Yates said.

About the Author

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter/Associate Producer

Emily Pasiuk is a Regina-based reporter for CBC Saskatchewan and an associate producer for The Morning Edition. She has filmed two documentaries, reported at CTV Saskatoon and written for Global Regina. Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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