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'Impatient buying' of pets during pandemic hurting health, welfare of animals: OHS

People are buying pets to fill the void of loneliness brought on by the pandemic, but that surge in demand is resulting in improper breeding and foreign imports of animals that are sick, or worse, sometimes turn up dead.
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(Engin Akyurt/Pexels)

With a lockdown and stay-at-home order exacerbating feelings of unbearable loneliness, people are looking for quick solutions to fight that sting of desolation.

One of those solutions people are turning to is adding a new pet to the family.

The problem, the Ottawa Humane Society says, is they want those animals (typically dogs) right away — and it’s hurting the health and welfare of animals everywhere.

The OHS is calling it “impatient buying,” and it has people turning anywhere and everywhere to find a pet. Think Kijiji, online marketplaces, puppy mills and fly-by-night breeders looking to make a quick buck.

And these animals are typically mistreated and/or in very poor health.

In a blog post, OHS president and CEO Bruce Roney recalls moments in recent news when animals meant to be sold on online platforms and through third party avenues from abroad were injured or caused death.

A puppy mill, he recalls was discover in Saint-Christophe-d’Arthabaska, Que.

Dozens of dead puppies were discovered while others were found to be living in horrible conditions.

In total, 230 dogs and 70 cats were seized from the property.

Pets purchased through this mills were found to have serious health conditions, including virus-related blindness and severe gastroenteritis that required hospitalization.

Then there was the incident of 38 dead puppies showing up in Canada on a typical commercial aircraft from Ukraine in June.

According to a report form the Washington Post, there were 500 crated puppies, many dehydrated, weak and vomiting.

This demand in buying has the OHS worried and warning others to be diligent when deciding on adding a new member to their family.

“There’s a high demand right now in Canada for dogs,” OHS spokesperson Stephen Smith said. “As a result, there are unscrupulous businesses out there that are over breeding their animals in order to sell them off to eager buyers.”

These animals that are in the care of these breeder who are not putting in the proper efforts to make sure the animals are properly taken care of, Smith adds, are suffering.

And over breeding, he says, can result in genetic or medical disorders in the animals. So the animal might appear perfectly fine in the advertisement, as well as a couple of weeks or years, only for the owner to find out that their animal has a long-lasting disorder that will cost them thousands of dollars in mounting veterinarian bills.

A proper breed, Smith says, will make sure their animals are properly taken care of — during their stay with the breeder, as well as in the home they’re going to.

This means possibly going as far as to make a house visit to the potential home to make sure the environment they’re going to is suitable for them.

“When someone is trying to pressure you to buy the product, you know that something’s wrong or something that is not quite right,” Smith says. “A reputable breeder cares a lot about their animals and they will make sure that the person buying knows how to care for that animal and has the proper set up to at least provide for that animal for the rest of its life.”

Smith says the OHS’s motto is to “adopt, don’t shop.” However, should folks turn to buying an animal from a breeder, there are some questions that should be asked.

These include:

  • How long have you been breeding these animals?
  • How many litters have you bred?
  • Will the puppies (or kitties) be registered with he Canadian or American Kennel Club?
  • Can I see where the animals and dams are being housed?
  • Are the animals raised in your home from birth?
  • Were the sire and dam screened for genetic disorders common to this breed?
  • What were your goals for this litter?
  • When do you start breeding a dam, and when is she retired?
  • Is the dam current on her vaccines?
  • At what age will the puppies be ready to leave (puppies should not go to their new homes before eight weeks old)?
  • Have the animals been seen by a vet?
  • What kind of guarantee do you offer?
  • Will you be able to help me with care and training issues once I get my animal home?
  • Can you provide some references?

Despite the increase in people buying pets, Smith says the OHS isn’t concerned that the OHS will be experiencing influx of returned animals once the pandemic calms down and people return to work.