TORONTO—Animal Justice is disappointed by a toothless bill announced today that will do little to stop abuse at puppy mills in Ontario. Solicitor General Michael Kerzner introduced the Preventing Unethical Puppy Sales Act (PUPS Act) which, if passed, will amend the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act (PAWS Act) to prohibit some harmful dog breeding practices.
Troublingly, the PUPS Act does not require dog breeders to be licenced. This means that the minimal new requirements will be virtually impossible to effectively enforce as authorities do not know where the vast majority of puppy mills and irresponsible backyard breeders are located. Enforcement officials are generally only alerted to problems at puppy mills and irresponsible backyard breeders when they receive complaints from the public, which are rare because dogs are often kept hidden on private property.
The PUPS Act will prohibit some cruel practices like breeding female dogs who are under a year old, separating puppies from their mother before they are eight weeks old, and failing to keep dogs with a contagious disease away from others. But the new law is silent regarding requirements for adequate housing, food, exercise, socialization, and medical care, as well as screening for genetic problems that can have serious health and welfare impacts on puppies. The Bill requires that dogs be kept in a sanitary environment but does not protect dogs and puppies from being confined in environments that are crowded, small, or otherwise inadequate for their complex needs. It also fails to limit the number of dogs that can be kept at a facility, which is one of the biggest factors impacting the well-being of dogs used for breeding.
“Time and time again, we see horrific conditions and brutal suffering at Ontario puppy mills, and dogs in Ontario deserve better than a toothless bill that will be impossible to enforce,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “The PUPS Act will continue to let cruel puppy mill operators confine mother dogs and their puppies in tiny, wire-floor cages without adequate exercise and social opportunities. And with no licensing required, provincial authorities will continue to be in the dark about where these cruel operations are located and will be powerless to enforce laws against puppy mills.
“We need real breeder transparency and accountability in Ontario to protect dogs and puppies. Until Ontario requires licenses, creates standards of care, and proactively enforces those standards, puppy mills and irresponsible breeders will continue to put profit over the welfare of animals in their care. We are encouraged to see the government recognizing the importance of protecting dogs, but so much more is needed.”
Animal Justice was not consulted on the PUPS Act.
Expert bodies and governments in North America and the EU are increasingly recognizing the need to develop robust welfare requirements for breeders that include mandating proper food, water, exercise, shelter and food, as well as professional veterinary care and breeding plans and the need to prioritize dogs’ health and function over breed appearance.