Lack of action on pet sales frustrates advocates

After waiting a year, Kathy Powelson said she's given up hope on seeing a retail sales ban for puppies, kittens and rabbits in Burnaby.

Last July, Powelson, executive director and founder of the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, made a delegation to council asking the city to update its animal control bylaw and include the sales ban specifically of puppies, kittens and rabbits in the city.

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"We're incredibly frustrated," she said in a phone interview. "At this point, I'm not really optimistic that they're going to be recommending a ban on pet store sales (of puppies, kittens and rabbits)."

In the last several months, Powelson said she hasn't heard anything back from the city after sending several emails inquiring after the bylaw amendments.

"New year's came and went," she said. "I know they receive emails all the time from community members. We receive at least a few a month."

At first, the bylaw was expected to come before council last fall, then April, then June 10, then June 24 - but it's yet to show up in an agenda package.

The clerks department told the NOW the animal control bylaw report could come before council in mid-July and the licensing department was still working on it.

Dan Layng, supervisor of property use coordination in the city's licensing department, said he could not comment on anything regarding the animal control bylaw review.

The foundation along with other animal welfare associations in the Lower Mainland have been waiting all this time to see what the city has come up with, Powelson said.

"We knew we had a big fight ahead of us, because before I presented, I went and met with staff from the bylaw department to talk about this issue," she said. "They said in my presentation to council I'd have to prove banning the retail sale of puppies would solve the puppy mill problem, which is such an unrealistic goal for anyone.

"But council seemed really receptive to my presentation."

Other Lower Mainland municipalities have been updating their animal control bylaws over the last few years, either banning sales or getting rid of breed-specific wording.

A few years ago, Richmond became the first city in Canada to ban puppy sales in retail stores - but Powelson says it led to pet stores increasing kitten sales to make up for lost revenue.

"We have clear examples of pet stores that do not sell live animals that are very successful," she said, noting Tisol Pet Nutrition and Supply has been opening up new locations. "There's a huge educational piece around it, when you're involved with a social cause it's easy to forget that not everyone knows the information."

When the animal control amendments do come forward, Powelson said the foundation is ready for the next step.

"If the recommendation is not to instill a bylaw ban then we will present again," she said. "And if there's a consultation (process) we'll present again and continue to encourage the community to also write to mayor and council."

The foundation will also encourage people to think about alternative ways to acquire a pet humanely, she added.

The Paws for Hope foundation is part of a coalition of other animal welfare associations, including Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, B.C. Chihuahua Rescue, HugABull, Small Animal Rescue and Semiahmoo Animal League, according to Powelson. For more information about Paws for Hope, visit pawsforhope. org.

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