It is the holidays, and many people choose to add a fur baby to families at this time, and it is a big decision. There are many wonderful companions to be adopted at your local shelters or through private rescues that can be found online. If you do make a choice to purchase your new companion from a breeder, there are some things you need to know to consider before purchasing your furry friend from an ethical breeder who puts the animal’s needs and your desires above profit. Unfortunately, it is all too common to find people presenting themselves as ethical breeders when this is not the case. It is up to you to be diligent in your search for your new furry companion if you decide that you are looking for a specific purebred to ensure those you are working with an ethical breeder who is putting the animal’s best interests first.
At this time, Canada has no specific legal standards or laws to regulate breeding operations, and therefore breeding is largely unregulated. There is no comprehensive oversight system in place that involves requirements around licensing and registration and no specific standards that breeders must adhere to with respect to breeding practices and animal welfare. As well, there are no publicly available inspection results done by government agencies. The animals are protected in a general way by the Criminal Code, although animal cruelty laws apply in the most inhumane conditions, as well as the obligations that are imposed upon all animal owners under the Provincial Animal Protection Act in the various provinces. Some provinces, such as Manitoba and Quebec, have implemented some further regulations, such as registration requirements, if a breeder has more than a certain number of animals. However, there is no evidence of any enforcement of these regulations, and most provinces have nothing in place.
Organizations related to animal welfare like The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Kennel Club have set out policies and procedures for ethical breeders to follow. However, there is no oversight by the Canadian government to ensure these practices are implemented and complied with. As a result, there are many unethical breeders who take advantage of this opportunity to make money –profit over welfare -at the expense of both the animal’s welfare and the purchaser’s pockets when undisclosed health or social issues can arise after the transaction.
Unethical breeders are grouped into two categories, commercial breeders known as puppy/kitten mills and backyard breeders. Commercial breeders or puppy/kitten mills breed various breeds and house dozens to hundreds of animals. They are most often living in inhumane conditions as profit is put far above the welfare of animals. Even those that do provide some standard of care often have too many animals to enable that standard of care to really be put into practice. These breeders will sell online, in the newspaper, and to pet stores. As mentioned above, this practice is legal in Canada, and the government does not regulate these practices. Although Canadian news stations report stories of another puppy/kitten mill that has been found with hundreds of animals housed in terrible conditions, yet it continues to be legal with no oversight.
Backyard breeders are those people who either intentionally breed their animals or are irresponsible owners and don’t get around to spaying or neutering their animal and end up with a litter of pups or kittens with no knowledge or experience in breeding, and sell the animals to friends, co-workers, neighbours or online. Many backyard breeders do not have bad intentions. They would not consider themselves unethical breeders and don’t believe they are adding to the problem of unethical breeding. Still, these backyard breeders have been considered as the most significant cause of pet overpopulation.
Because of the lack of oversight by the Canadian Government, breeders with no knowledge of proper breeding practices and proper socialization practices of very young pups/kittens are common. Often your new companion has not been screened for health or genetic disorders have not been socialized properly and might come with either no contract that guarantees health or support if health issues arise in the future or a contract that guarantees minimal practices and rights after purchase. In worst-case scenarios, for the breeder, it is profit over animal welfare, and sadly animals are treated inhumanly before purchase, causing emotional trauma leading to various problems in your new fur baby. Whether through intentional commercial breeding or negligent backyard breeders, many of these animals come with issues that lead to unexpected stress, upset, and financial burdens, situations we hope to avoid when adding a new companion to our family. In some cases, unfortunately, the human guardian cannot manage the consequences of these unethical breeding practices and are forced to surrender their pet to an animal shelter.
The lack of laws put into place by the Canadian Government has led to a lack of breeder oversight, and the animals are the ones who suffer the most. As a country of animal lovers, until the Government steps up and laws are put into place to properly regulate this industry, prospective adopters to be more diligent in ensuring these types of breeding practices are not supported when adding our new furry friend to your family so that there will be no incentive for these people to continue with such practices. Taking responsibility starts with doing your homework as this is essential to avoid the stress and upset of undisclosed health and social issues that might arise with your new companion. To avoid supporting unethical breeding practices, we need to get serious and find out as much information and boycotting and reporting unethical breeders. With education and considerations, there are clear indicators of bad breeders. This is especially important to explore if purchasing from a newspaper or online add.
There are considerations that can help you to determine if a breeder is reputable and ethical and to avoid situations that are a result of lack of breeder oversight.
Since the Canadian Government has failed to impose laws that regulate breeding practices in Canada so as to protect these precious beings, it is our responsibility as Canadians to “oversee” by getting curious, asking questions, and supporting ethical and responsible breeding practices when purchasing our new fur baby. Better yet, many loving homeless companion animals are sitting in shelters available for adoption. There are purebred animals and mixed breeds in shelters that can be wonderful pets and family members. Please consider visiting your local shelter and by doing so, and adopting not purchasing your furry friend, you are helping to reduce homelessness and the endless cycle for shelter animals and making a difference for an animal in need.
Deciding to add a furry friend is an important decision and do your homework. Adopting an animal makes a difference, and you can help save a precious life.
If you want to learn more, please check out this CBC news story and my interview:
 No Puppy Mills Canada. “The Laws in Canada.” No Puppy Mills Canada, 2001, www.nopuppymillscanada.ca/canadian_laws.htm.
 Humane Canada. “Find a Responsible Breeder.” Humane Canada, 2019, www.humanecanada.ca/find_a_responsible_breeder.
 Shojai, Amy. “Beware of Bad Dog Breeders: Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Puppy.” The Spruce Pets, The Spruce Pets, 18 Nov. 2019, www.thesprucepets.com/buyer-beware-bad-dog-breeders-2804629.
 Yuen, Kelda. “Man Demands Compensation from Breeder after Vet Bills for His Pup’s Hip Cost Him $3K | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 5 Dec. 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/dog-owner-raises-concerns-about-breeder-after-puppy-diagnosed-with-genetic-condition-1.5383260.