Animal advocate takes on Burnaby council

Debate over pet sales far from settled in the city

Although a Burnaby woman’s animal welfare organization promotes hope for animals, she has had a hard time keeping any hope for herself with regards to the city’s animal control bylaw.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Kathy Powelson, executive director of Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, appeared before council once again and repeated her call for a city ban on the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits at pet stores.

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Powelson was back to oppose a recent report from city staff, which instead recommends continuing the sale of puppies and kittens, requiring the spaying and neutering of rabbits, and banning the sale of turtles.

Council tabled the staff report at its Oct. 21 meeting to allow the public to comment over a two-week period. Council will make the decision when the period is over.

“The meeting did go as I expected, although I didn’t expect to get my hand slapped for identifying the points where I felt the report was misleading,” Powelson told the Burnaby NOW. “I feel that I clearly laid out why I felt it was misleading, and I did not say that these were intentionally done by staff. It is clear this council does not like to be challenged.”

At the Oct. 28 meeting, Powelson said the only positive part in the report was banning the sale of turtles – the rest of it, she said, was misleading and didn’t address animal welfare.

In the report, staff note pet store animals make up a smaller percentage of animals available for purchase. About 30 dogs and 20 cats were for sale when staff visited a Burnaby pet store.

However, Powelson questioned the fact that the report includes a random Internet search that found posts offering 1,011 dogs and 497 cats in Metro Vancouver. The report did not include the source of these postings.

She said she did a similar search, and she speculates the report is referring to petfinder.com, which is a “valuable source” to adopt pets from rescue societies.

“It diminishes the reality of the 30 dogs and 20 cats coming from mills and other shady sources,” Powelson said to council on Monday night.

The local animal advocate also criticized the lack of regulations on pet stores, saying staff in pet stores are salespeople, not animal experts, and arguing that the report was only continuing “antiquated animal cruelty laws.”

Powelson also questioned why city staff did not mention the October 2012 New Westminster bylaw banning the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits. The staff report states that Richmond is the only city in the Lower Mainland to ban the retail sale of puppies and rabbits. Powelson noted that more than 30 cities in North America have banned retail pet sales since 2010.

At the meeting, Coun. Sav Dhaliwal was first to address Powelson’s presentation. He said he was concerned that Powelson was “liberally” saying the report was misleading.

“Those are the numbers, whether they’re right or wrong in your opinion, that’s your opinion,” Dhaliwal said of the report’s pet data.

Despite wanting a ban himself and disagreeing with the staff report, Dhaliwal said he’s going by what staff has recommended.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said the process to make decisions is through staff reports.

“While you take a certain cynical approach, ours is a sincere desire to hear what people say,” Corrigan said to Powelson. “We certainly are willing to hear the criticism of what our staff has reported and whether or not you agree. …  I want to be clear. Our staff are doing the best they can with the information they have available to them at the time.”

He noted that a lot of what Powelson said in her presentation was anecdotal and asked if she had any data to back it up.

However, Powelson said it’s difficult to get data from animal welfare societies, as they rely on volunteers who often don’t record that type of information.

“I also was perturbed by the lecture I got from Corrigan that seemed to insinuate I didn’t have a justifiable reason to be cynical,” Powelson told the NOW after the meeting. “His entire response was just so incredibly condescending, and I think he just wanted an opportunity to put me in my place because I have been such a major pain for the past couple of years.”

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