Burnaby pet store owners oppose ban on sale of puppies and kittens

A local woman who runs an animal rescue society is adamant that the city should ban the sale of puppies and kittens, but local pet shop owners disagree.

Burnaby resident Nikki Forbes, who founded the non-profit society Action for Animals in Distress, thinks the city should "absolutely" ban the sale of puppies and kittens in Burnaby.

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"It should definitely be banned. It's disgusting," she said. "We should not be putting money in the pockets of backyard breeders."

Forbes alleged that Pet Habitat in Metrotown sells kittens from mills.

She recommended people adopt cats and dogs, instead of buying from pet stores supplied by backyard breeders.

Mills are often characterized as places where cats or dogs are bred for profit and kept in cramped or substandard conditions with little regard for the health and welfare.

Forbes' rescue society has set up adoption centres in pet shops, where people can take home a pet for an adoption fee that includes the cost of spaying or neutering. But Tom Peters, owner of Pet Habitat in Metropolis in Metrotown, said he does not sell kittens and puppies from mills.

"Nobody in their right mind would actually do that, because it's not beneficial to anybody," he said.

According to the Pet Habitat website, the store gets most of its puppies from Hunte Corporation, an American company that obtains puppies from professional breeders and hobby breeders inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Peters said the shop's kittens are from people's homes in a town in Northern Quebec and that he doesn't pay for the kittens, but he covers their transportation and vet costs. According to Peters, the Quebec town does not have an adequate shelter system, and the kittens could be put down if they aren't adopted.

Animal welfare advocates have been pushing the City of Burnaby to ban the sale of kittens, puppies and rabbits, and while city staff recently finished a draft report on general animal control issues, no ban has yet been proposed.

According to Peters, there are no other shops in Burnaby besides his selling dogs; only one other shop - King Ed Pet Centre - sells kittens.

According to Peters, a ban may not necessarily solve the kitten and puppy mill problem, as people can get pets online and a prohibition on sales may drive the problem underground.

"If it's a puppy mill situation, address that issue, go after the puppy mills," he said. "Don't shut down a legitimate business on the speculation that they are the ones that are causing this."

Peters suggested an alternative, where anyone advertising to sell pets must be inspected and certified first.

"If they are not allowed to advertise, they can't sell, and if they can't sell, they won't produce," he said.

Katherine Kinman, president at King Ed Pet Centre, said all of her kittens come from her customers, who have bought cats from her shop that then had kittens. Kinman said she does not pay people for the kittens but covers their care costs, and that she would rather sell them to good homes than have them go to the SPCA where they could be put down if they are not adopted.

Like Peters, she would prefer regulation instead of banning kitten and puppy sales.

"I think it's very disgusting," she said. "Yes, there is a problem out there, but I think (for) most pets sold in pet stores it's not a problem."

Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer with the B.C. SPCA, said the organization is not nave enough to think a ban would fix the problem.

"However, the sale of these animals, especially unspayed and un-neutered is a concern, and it's one avenue where we have an opportunity to take a proactive measure in a community," she said. "Of course there are people who continue to sell on the Internet."

For more on this issue, see Jennifer Moreau's blog at www.burnabynow.com.

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