The chilling image of a dog that had both eyes removed due to neglect has sparked a public outcry against puppy mills.
The dog, named Daisy, was rescued in Wellesley Township by Kimberly Thomas, operator of Kismutt Small Dog Rescue in the Township of Zorra in Oxford County. The animal’s glaucoma was so advanced that a veterinarian removed its eyes after the rescue.
Thomas was so outraged she posted the photo of Daisy onto Facebook earlier this week to raise awareness about the horrible conditions in puppy mills.
Thomas said the post was shared by other rescue dog organizations and she is now receiving nearly 100 emails a day from concerned people across the province. Dozens of emails have also been sent to humane societies and township officials in Perth County and Waterloo Region calling for answers as to why breeders are getting away with abusing animals.
Puppy mills are high-volume, substandard dog-breeding operations that Thomas says are often run in unkempt barns in this area. The puppies produced from these breeders often end up in pet stores or sold online through classifieds websites like Kijiji.
“They’re making money hand over fist,” said Thomas.
Thomas, who is also the animal control officer in Zorra, said she often receives calls from owners who are anticipating inspections to remove unwanted dogs from their puppy mills. The bulk of these are located in townships within Perth County and Waterloo Region, where her services have become well known.
“It kills me what these dogs live in. It breaks my heart,” she said.
Thomas said she blames municipal officials for providing kennel licences — needed for owning many dogs — to substandard operators and giving too much warning about upcoming inspections.
“They give them two to three weeks notice,” said Thomas.
“That’s like the police phoning a crack house and saying, ‘in two weeks on Friday, July 13, we’re going to be doing an inspection.’ that does absolutely no good.”
However, Evelyn Hahn, animal control officer for Wellesley, said in her township kennels are closely monitored.
“I like to phone them sometimes the night before,” said Hahn. “I like to make sure they’re home but I try not to give them very much notice.”
Hahn, who has worked as an officer for 27 years, said that the 13 licensed kennels in the township are in acceptable condition and adhere to stricter bylaws that were passed by the municipality in 2002.
“I would not call anything we have a puppy mill. . . . I’m not really concerned anymore,” she said.
Because of the close-knit community in Wellesley, Hahn said anyone not following regulations or having unlicensed kennels would eventually be reported.
“People have to follow the rules. . . . If there’s somebody doing what they’re not supposed to be doing, we’ll hear about it,” Hahn said.
Having seen some of the emails the public has sent, Jack Kinch, executive director for the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society, said that there’s a lot of misunderstanding on how kennel licences are issued and how the problem of puppy mills is addressed.
“We do not issue licences and neither does the OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals),” he said.
Kennel licences fall under the jurisdiction of municipalities and their respective bylaws. The minimum number of dogs required for a kennel licence varies between townships and municipalities as does the details of the kennel condition.
The licences, like any bylaw regulation, can’t prevent infractions between annual inspections unless they’re reported.
“It’s no different than any other licence, like a restaurant. If they spruce themselves up for the annual inspection and receive their business licence for another year then go back to their practice that is inferior, the only way would be for someone to issue a complaint,” said Kinch.
Kennels can also seek membership with the Canadian Kennel Club which ensures high standards for the quality of care dogs receive — but membership is not mandatory in all areas.
If problems are found at kennels, humane societies can issue orders and timelines that the operators have to correct the problem. The humane societies can also investigate suspected puppy mills but Kinch said they need to receive complaints first.
“We rely on individuals. If they purchase a puppy from a puppy mill and they have suspicions they’re not operating properly they have to issue a complaint, and secondly they have to act as a witness,” he said.
Kinch said that often people are uncomfortable putting their name forward if they have to act as a witness against a puppy mill during an investigation. what would be more effective, he said, is if municipalities banned the sale of dogs in pet stores or consumers were more critical about where they buy puppies to drive puppy mills out of business.
Ultimately, tougher bylaws and more informed consumers are what Thomas hopes to achieve in publicizing her knowledge of puppy mills.
“If the public were to see where the parents were living, the conditions, they would never buy that puppy,” she said.
How to report puppy mills and animal cruelty
• Contact the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society at 519-745-5615 or Stratford-Perth Humane Society at 519-273-6600.
• A name must be provided by the person issuing the complaint. Confidentiality is ensured unless the investigation results in charges or legal proceedings.
• Complainants can also contact the municipality’s animal control officer, local police or the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The society can be reached at 1-888-668-7722.
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