January 7, 2021

The Dark Side of that Puppy You Just Bought

There continues to be a regular flood of media concern about the “pandemic puppy” phenomenon. If you haven’t followed the story, it boils down to this: thousands of people who are bored and lonely during the lockdown are rushing out to buy or adopt puppies, and when the health crisis is over, all these puppies and dogs are going to be dumped in animal shelters.

I don’t believe this is a real problem, certainly not in Ottawa. I am very concerned though about where all these puppies are coming from. The headlines on this have appeared with much less notice. In June, the Toronto Star headline:

“Dozens of puppies found dead after Ukraine flight lands at Pearson airport.”

In October, Global News reported this:

“5,000 pets found dead in boxes at Chinese shipping depot”

These incidents are likely just the tip of the iceberg. There are likely many more incidents of deaths and suffering like these that go unreported. The demand for puppies is so great now that people are desperate and they are asking very few questions. Just as, it turns out, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the federal agency responsible for regulating and overseeing animal importation, asks few questions when masses of puppies land in Canada. CFIA admits they don’t even know how many pets are brought into Canada annually. Our friend, Dr. Scott Weese at Guelph University points out that it is easier to import a puppy into Canada than a case of beer.

In November, CBC’s Marketplace covered very well the story of the demand for puppies and the disreputable people who are filling that need — at an extraordinary profit. What the episode doesn’t cover is the suffering, mainly of the puppies, but also the adopters, many of whom will likely see hefty veterinary bills down the road.

On top of a shocking lack of government regulation, in the end the problem is demand. People don’t want to wait for a reputable breeder or humane society to find them a pet. Our consumer culture tells us if we want something, we should be able to get it immediately, and with free shipping.

Until we address this, the suffering and deaths will continue.

Bruce Roney
President & CEO