Animal welfare laws must be strengthened


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While unethical breeders are fixated on building a profit, animals are paying the price — and Manitoba’s lack of oversight is partly to blame.

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While unethical breeders are fixated on building a profit, animals are paying the price — and Manitoba’s lack of oversight is partly to blame.

It’s easy for animals, specifically household pets, to end up in the wrong hands and be condemned to a life of abuse and neglect. Part of the reason it’s so easy is because unethical breeders are using online or auction platforms to sell animals, which is legal under Manitoba’s Animal Care Act.

Part of the problem also lies with websites and auction houses whose rules around the sale of animals are too lax.

This was seemingly the case when Wild Willow Ranch and Rescue picked up two dogs the organization had purchased through an online auction house, according to a recent report by CBC News.

The dogs, a male and a female, were covered in feces and urine, had multiple infections and were severely underweight, said rescue owner Candice Cronin. The seller also admitted to feeding the dogs whatever was left over from the pigs and cattle they had slaughtered, she added.

“The male is so bad that he might have lifelong problems with his ears. The ear canals were so swollen that we could barely look inside,” said Cronin, who has worked in veterinary medicine for 20 years.

The animals were sold through a consignment sale hosted by Grunthal Auction Services, which listed more than 20 dogs for sale. Wild Willow Ranch and Rescue bought the two dogs for $135 each, but some others were listed for as little as $11, CBC reported.

After the issue was brought to the attention of Grunthal Auction Services, which sells everything from farm equipment to livestock, management said it has changed its policy to require a current vet health check on every dog that is consigned.

The matter is now under investigation by the chief veterinarian’s office.

When asked whether the province will make any changes to the Animal Care Act, a spokesperson told CBC its department reviews the legislation on a continual basis.

Since 1995, puppy mills or backyard breeders have expanded across Canada to meet demand increased by stringent laws that made it more difficult to import dogs from the U.S. There is often plenty of neglect at these mills, according to the Winnipeg Humane Society, and operators tend to put profit before the animals’ well-being.

There was another surge in pet adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, which many backyard breeders saw as an opportunity to cash in, a veterinarian told CBC. But now, as people return to their normal schedules, animal welfare organizations say they are overwhelmed by a flood of abandoned or surrendered pets.

That said, now would be a good time to make some changes to our laws, starting with mills.

In 2011, Toronto passed a law stating that all animals in pet stores must come from shelters, humane societies or rescue groups instead of mills. Cities like Montreal and Vancouver later followed suit. If this were the case in Manitoba, our animal welfare organizations wouldn’t be so hectic, and they could focus on their core work.

Without pet stores as clients, mills would have to rely on private sales to prospective pet owners. Preventing them from doing that by banning the sale of animals online and through auction houses would be a good first step toward cracking down on animal cruelty.

Undoubtedly, our current laws are not good enough if unethical breeders are still operating in Manitoba and animals are being sold like used cars and furniture. They can’t protect themselves from abuse and neglect, which is why we need stronger laws that do.

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