Correction appended – Tue, Sep 27
On September 16, Paws ‘R’ Us Kennel, a rural dog breeding facility located in Quebec’s Clarendon Township, about 90km outside of Gatineau, was found to be in violation of the Quebec Animal Welfare Act (QAWA). That weekend, employees and volunteers from the Humane Society International (HSI) and Le ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) removed over 500 dogs from the facility.
Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI, spoke with The Daily concerning the conditions at the rural Quebec kennel, where over 40 breeds of dogs were found.
“I have participated in removals before, and I can say that this was the largest breeding facility I have encountered, where the most basic needs of these animals were not being met,” she said.
The Quebec Animal Health Protection Act, known as P-42, states that, “Safety and welfare of an animal is jeopardized where [it] has no access to drinking water or food in quantity and quality compatible with the biological requirements of its kind.”
The bill also states that fines for an owner or custodian of an animal whose treatment violates the conditions regarding the safety and well being of animals or the facilities in which they live, range from $400 to $3,600.
According to Aldworth, an inspection on early Friday morning was “warrant for immediate removal.” Videos posted online by HSI show the condition of the dogs as they were being evacuated from the kennel.
The owner of the operation, Charlene Labombard, insisted that there was no wrongdoing on her part. According to the Ottawa Sun, Lambobard said that the seizure was part of an ongoing campaign by a former customer to slander her.
In a 2009 ruling by the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario, a former customer of Paws ‘R’ Us, Lorie Gordon, was forced to pay $14,000 in reparations for slandering Labombard’s business.
Gordon owned two dogs born at Paws ‘R’ Us: one was euthanized after being diagnosed with hip dysplasia – which can be easily bred out with genetic testing, a common practice with most breeders – and one which had mange, a skin disease.
The crux of the case was Gordon’s online description of the business being a puppy mill. The judge used the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC) definition of a puppy mill to deem Gordon’s description slanderous.
PIJAC defines a puppy mill as “a high volume, sub-standard dog breeding operation, which sells purebred or mixed breed dogs to unsuspecting buyers.” The definition continues to list common characteristics of a puppy mill, including the failure to provide socialization, safe housing, maintained sanitary facilities, veterinary care, and husbandry.
During the evacuation, Labombard spoke to reporters, stating, “I just wanted to breed dogs so that they could go to families and be loved… I am losing my livelihood and I’m very upset.”
The intervention is the latest incident that adds to Quebec’s poor animal rights record. Quebec was called “the best province to be an animal abuser” in a report released by the U.S. Animal Legal Defense Fund earlier this year.
The evacuation has sparked calls for reformation to P-42.
“HSI has been working with the Quebec government on new legislation that will be coming out in [the next few] days that will help shut down some of the worst offenders,” Aldworth said.
Higher fines and jail sentences for offenders were among changes that Aldworth felt could be effective.
HSI is also calling for people to stop buying dogs and cats at pet stores, especially ones who do not actively trace the origin of the pets they sell.
Aldworth said that the onus is on pet owners to be aware of where their dog is coming from. “People don’t really know what they’re buying. They see a cute little puppy in the window and have no idea where that dog comes from.”
Katherine Macdonald, an employee at the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the president of McGill’s Animal Liberties Club, tied the weekend seizure to a lack of public awareness.
In an email to The Daily, Macdonald wrote, “The closure of Paws ‘R’ Us is yet another example of the overpopulation problem, especially in Quebec…there aren’t enough inspectors to cover all of Quebec, making the probability of a puppy mill being discovered slim.”
Due to an editorial error, in the printed version of this article (News, pg. 7, Sep 26) inaccurate information is given regarding the nature of the basic needs of animals not being met in the breeding facility. The Daily regrets the error.