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BEYOND LOCAL: Puppy mills more prevalent than you think, says animal advocate

New Ontario legislation is in place, but animal cruelty continues

Puppy mills are high-volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies purely for profit - and they are operating nearby, says longtime local animal welfare advocate Mary Lamb.

Dogs born in these operations receive little to no exercise, attention, affection, or veterinary care. Mother dogs spend their lives in cramped cages and, when no longer able to breed, are typically abandoned or killed. Puppies habitually suffer from a variety of health issues and genetic problems.

The Ontario government introduced the Preventing Unethical Puppy Sales Act (PUPS Act) in December 2023, as an amendment to the Provincial Animal Welfare Act. Although the bill would ban harmful practices such as the breeding of female dogs who are under a year old and separating puppies from their mothers before they are eight weeks old, it falls short in setting minimum standards for overall care and socialization or screening for genetic health problems.

It doesn’t limit the number of dogs that can be kept at a facility or stop puppies from being caged around the clock without any access to exercise. There is also no requirement for breeders to be licensed, making it virtually impossible to track who they are and where they’re operating. Puppy mills and smaller-scale backyard breeders do business out of the public eye, which is why those who perpetrate this type of animal cruelty are rarely caught, charged or shut down.

Lamb has seen plenty in her 30-plus years with Animal Adoptions of Flamborough, as president for 28 years, and now handling dog intakes and adoptions.

Over a period of about 10 weeks, she took in nine goldendoodle puppies from the same kennel in Puslinch. All were neglected, underweight, filthy, covered in burrs, wood chips, or feces; every dog had health issues.

“The largest puppy weighed 10 pounds; the smallest, Tiegan, only weighed four pounds. She was very cold to the touch and most likely had parvo. I transported her to the Burlington Emergency Clinic about 9 o'clock one night because she required 24-hour care,” Lamb said.

“On a happier note, all puppies but Tiegan, who paid the price for his neglect, have been adopted into new homes. I’m finding that all shelters are operating at capacity. Yet this idiot is breeding them faster than I can find homes.”

Unfortunately, COVID made the problem even worse when everyone wanted a “pandemic puppy.” Prices surged, and breeders were cashing in, getting thousands of dollars for the puppies. When many people decided pet ownership wasn’t for them when they went back to work,the dogs weren’t socialized, resulting in behavioural problems and making them difficult to adopt out.

Lamb has taken in dogs left in crates at the side of the road.

“I know a lot of people are going through difficult times because of the economy. People are losing their homes; they can’t afford to feed their kids, never mind their dogs, but there’s got to be a better way than dumping them on the side of the road,” she said.

The best way to put puppy mills out of business is to adopt an older dog. Those who decide to get a puppy are urged to do their research and avoid buying a dog online or through classified sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. They should visit the kennel and ask to see the breeder’s licence, where the dogs are housed, and
the parents. Reputable breeders should not have a problem showing prospective buyers these things or answering any questions.

Those interested in adopting, fostering or relinquishing a dog can go to the Animal Adoptions of Flamborough website and fill out the appropriate form.