Pandemic price check and how not to buy a puppy

Watch our latest episode here and catch up on past episodes anytime on CBC Gem

Watch our latest episode here and catch up on past episodes anytime on CBC Gem

Pandemic price check and How not to buy a puppy

11 months ago
Exposing the most egregious pandemic price hikes, and fact-checking politicians' promises. 22:30

This week, we're tackling two different subjects: puppy imports and pandemic price gouging. 

Our investigation reveals that despite over 30,000 complaints, there's been few repercussions for stores alleged to be price-gouging. 

That's even as data gathered by Statistics Canada for Marketplace shows that the price of disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper had reached higher-than-average prices during the pandemic. 

Plus, are you planning to get a puppy?

We're investigating the growing trade of puppies imported to Canada in unsafe conditions from eastern Europe. Dogs that arrive sick with viruses and fake vaccination records are often sold online. So, we gear up with hidden cameras to meet some of the sellers face to face. Who's behind the import of all these puppies?

  • Catch up on past episodes of Marketplace anytime on CBC Gem

Company statements

  • How not to buy a puppy

Animal and human health risks reduced by CFIA import requirements and informed choices when buying, adopting or importing a dog


October 29, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario

Following the tragic incident in June 2020 involving dead dogs and animals not fit for transport arriving to Canada from a flight from Ukraine, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cancelled all previously-issued import permits for dogs under 8 months of age from Ukraine and is not issuing new permits for dog imports from Ukraine while an active investigation is ongoing.

There have not been any significant transport incidents involving dogs imported by air from other countries after the Ukraine suspension was enacted.

The CFIA response to this incident is consistent with its commitment to safeguarding animal health by enforcing robust humane transport regulations and import requirements to reduce the risk of serious animal and zoonotic diseases coming into Canada from other countries.  However, even strong import requirements cannot eliminate the possibility of genetic defects or parasites that may not be detected at the time of a commercial import or when a traveler brings a dog with them from another country.

A complete ban or significant restriction on commercial imports of dogs could be devastating for all importers, including rescue organizations, responsible breeders and dog show organizers as well as for Canadians seeking pets. As interest in adopting or buying a dog has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the higher demand for dogs is often met through commercial imports of puppies that are sold through brokers and dealers on-line.

When buying or adopting a dog, it is important to ask key questions to help identify and avoid supporting puppy mills in Canada or abroad.

The CFIA is working with Humane Society International (HSI), Humane Canada (HC), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) to support Canadians in making an informed decision when considering a new puppy or dog.

These organizations have information to support anyone looking to adopt or purchase a dog do their due diligence so they don't unintentionally support puppy mills in Canada or abroad, bear the expense of caring for a sick dog or face the heartbreak of having to euthanize their pet.

Information is available on the CFIA website at:


Import requirements

Regardless of where they come from, commercial imports of dogs under eight months of age require a CFIA import permit and certification from the veterinary authority in the country of origin. The import permit specifies the requirements that must be met in regard to vaccinations, the disease status of the animals and the physical conditions in the facility the dogs came from.

The import conditions require proof of vaccinations for:

·       Rabies (unless the dog is less than three months old)

·       Distemper

·       Hepatitis

·       Parvovirus

·       Parainfluenza

Other import requirements include:

·       Dogs must have been born in a kennel that participates in a program approved and supervised by the government of the country of origin. A proof of license or registration must be provided when applying for an import permit.

·       If there is no approved kennel program, the veterinary authority must certify that the premises of origin is a facility that meets an extensive list of requirements for veterinary care, recordkeeping and building construction and maintenance.

·       Each dog entering Canada must be microchipped.

·       Animals must be certified as fit for transport.

Informed adoption and buying options

It is important that anyone looking to adopt or purchase a dog make informed decisions so they don't unintentionally support puppy mills in Canada or abroad, bear the expense of caring for a sick dog or face the heartbreak of having to euthanize their pet.

Great pets can be found through municipal or humane society shelters, established rescue organizations, pet stores and reputable breeders but it is important to do your research and avoid an impulse adoption or purchase.

Due diligence is especially important when considering buying a dog from an online seller who may be a broker of imported dogs and may not have reliable information about the origin of a dog and may not be available to you if there are health problems.

Before taking a dog home, you should consider asking for:

  • The dog's vaccination records and other veterinary medical history

  • Additional information about the where the dog was located before being offered for sale

  • Information about policies on returns or assistance with medical bills if health issues are found after buying or adopting

Find out more about what to look for if you're thinking of buying or adopting a dog.

Related information


Media Relations

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • Pandemic price check


As we have said, there is no place for price gouging on Amazon. We are disappointed that some bad actors have tried to artificially raise prices on supplies during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, we have recently blocked or removed hundreds of thousands of offers worldwide. We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.


Throughout the pandemic, Canadian Tire has made every effort to keep our stores supplied with the products our customers are seeking to help protect them, including hand sanitizer, face masks and cleaning products. The majority of our retail prices on these products did not change. In the early weeks of the crisis, we donated hundreds of thousands of masks to hospitals and frontline workers through our COVID-19 Response Fund, which impacted our supply in stores. In addition, demand for certain categories exceeded supply and in those cases, we sourced products from outside our core vendors, resulting in higher supply chain and acquisition costs on certain products. As demand has stabilized, we have made every effort to fulfill our customers' needs on these products at normalized costs.


Timberlea Guardian does not participate in or condone the "price-gouging" of our customers. We are an independent, locally-owned retail pharmacy that holds ourselves to the highest standards which include fair and reasonable markup on products based on our true acquisition costs. In this specific case pertaining to personal protective equipment (PPE) in March 2020, we were fortunate to be able to source both hand sanitizer and protective masks for our customers when many other retailers were not. Our acquisition costs and the time spent to quickly secure these products were far greater than usual which did result in an increased retail price for many of these items.  We understand this customer's concern for the elevated pricing of PPE early on in the pandemic, however, we feel that our pricing was fair and reasonable during this time due to the aforementioned challenges.


We understand people are particularly concerned about prices during this time, and very early on we committed to not increase the price of products to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In some situations, such as the example of toilet paper at Shoppers Drug Mart, people were reacting to the regular price of a product they usually purchase on sale. In others, stores scrambled to bring in products – which generally meant they paid more to get those in – doing whatever they could to meet local demand. Even in those cases, our company guidance was to keep prices in line with our normal practices.  At the best of times, we have thousands of stores, with tens of thousands of pricing decisions. We might not have been perfect, but our ethics were firmly in place.


From the business survival standpoint, there are quite a number of factors when we consider setting the prices for our products, which need to be seen on one hand to be fair and affordable for our customers, and on the other hand, the Company can still make a profit to keep the business going. 

We are a small company when comparing with giant companies like Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys, etc.  We just do not have a strong purchasing power any where near those of these giants!  During tough times when certain PPE items are in great demand, we are under great pressure in firstly securing the required items and secondly negotiating for a "good" price.  Our Purchasing team has been doing their best when negotiating with the suppliers, but this is not always possible, especially during the pandemic time.  Depending on how much we get the items from our suppliers, we have a 30% markup pricing strategy.   It's the reason why the consumers may at times find some of our products may have a price tag higher than those of other stores.

Please rest assured that we do understand and respect the importance of good business ethics and will strive to practice it.  These days with the demand for the PPEs is less critical and our ability to source and secure a better price from our suppliers, we managed to drop the prices of them, for example, our customers can get a box of 50 masks for just $10.  Also, being a good corporate citizen, we are diligent in giving back to the community.   We donated a good quantity of PPE items, including masks, protective gowns and gloves to the Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga Hospital and the Public Health Services in Hamilton, during the months of March and April this year.  We will not stop here and will do the same again in the future!


Like Nations, Oceans adopts the same pricing strategy for their products.  According to the feedback from the store manager in Oceans, the Lysol disinfecting wipes have been out of stock or were not being carried by some of our stores for the past two months already.  Also, he shared with me some images of the PPEs (masks, hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, etc.) currently selling at our stores with prices, which were attached for your easy reference.

Once again, please reassure that we do understand that everyone is going through lots of stress and challenges during this unprecedented time.  We are of no exception, but will strive to do our best to keep things in its right place.


We are and always have been absolutely committed to making sure Canadians have access to food and essentials at fair and competitive prices.

We have followed up on all of the examples you cited in your request and can confirm that there was absolutely no price gauging in these retail prices. These prices reflect the high-level of volatility around pricing from suppliers for PPE. These prices you are citing from our franchisee's stores have the standard operating mark-up embedded in them. Our franchisees are not gouging or taking advantage of their customers, instead they are focused on serving their customers and providing them with much-requested product.

From day one of this pandemic, we have been working intensely, daily, with all of our suppliers to hold the line on prices and keep product flowing to our shelves. Pressures on pricing vary across the thousands of items we carry, from fluctuations in exchange rates to shipping costs to commodity pricing.

At no time would we, or our franchisee partners, contemplate taking advantage of the current environment. We have found no malicious intent or profit motivated intentions by our franchisees who manage the locations you have called out.

It is also worth noting that as an employer, we have been sourcing masks and other important PPE in the market for our great store and distribution centre teammates. And we are seeing unprecedented, continual and offensive increases in pricing.

Sobeys has very strong corporate values and we are very proud of how our people have lived up to our values throughout this crisis. We have publicly stated that we will not take advantage of this situation. Our teammates, store managers and franchisees are staying true to that principle.


Millions of customers choose to shop with us every day in-store or online to meet their one-stop shopping needs. Our customers also lead busy lives, and they trust Walmart for our everyday low prices.

Offering everyday low prices is in our DNA and a priority we take very seriously in stores and online. While prices can fluctuate, we price check thousands of items each week to keep prices low for our customers and remain the #1 place to save money on groceries.

On, third-party marketplace sellers must abide by many strict rules, including on fair market pricing. We regularly review items sold by third-party sellers and don't hesitate to act if they don't meet the standards our customers expect and deserve.