Wellesley council’s recent split decision over a kennel application reflects the township’s yearslong struggle to find a balance between farm-based operators and concerns about animal welfare.
Council last month narrowly approved a Linwood-area farmer’s request for a kennel to breed golden retrievers and poodles, with Coun. Shelley Wagner raising questions about the care of the dogs, particularly after they’re past breeding age. Such issues have been ongoing concerns for Wagner, and have at times made the township a focus of animal rights groups.
In fact, Wellesley put a moratorium on kennel licenses for 16 months starting in July 2018 so that it could review its kennel bylaw to address previous concerns, a process spurred on by Wagner.
Her questions for the latest applicant indicate some concerns remain, particularly when kennels are requested for farm locations that aren’t well connected to breeding industry resources.
“I like to find out what the person that’s applying, what type of experience they have in breeding, and what resources they have. So, I’ll use this [latest] one as a good example: When our bylaw officer mentioned about the new applicant maybe not having access to a computer, that triggers certain things for me right away. It triggers to me that they don’t have at their fingertips an easy access to finding out about breeding, to contacting other breeders that breed the same breed, that they probably [don’t have] easy access to their veterinarian. But if they don’t have internet access, they probably don’t drive an automobile, and that means that they probably rely on a veterinarian that maybe is more of a large animal than your small animal practice veterinarian,” she said.
“So those are some of the red flags that that come up for me for that type of thing.”
Wagner, who has a background in a veterinary practice, says she looks at things differently compared to others on council. During her four terms as councillor, she says that at least five applications for kennels have been denied. She also says when she started there were about 13 kennels, there are now about 22 within Wellesley Township.
While many more applications have been approved than denied, she says there are changes that would improve the situation, including having all applicants undergo some form of minimal training, not allowing operators to use brokers to sell the puppies and ensuring that operators start their kennels with fewer dogs.
She says increasing the amount of inspections – especially drop-in inspections rather than ones where notice is given – would also provide a more accurate picture of what goes on at kennels in the township.
“I’d like to see more [drop-ins] instead of the annual one where they get 24 hours’ notice. I’d like to see him drop in, just drop in and say ‘hey, can I take a walkthrough quick?’ I mean, it’s easy if you’ve got 24 hours notice to clean up whatever maybe isn’t what it’s supposed to be. But if you’re doing the right things, we should be able to stop in anytime and just do a quick walkthrough inspection. I’d like to see more of that.”
Sharing her concerns to increase the amount of drop-in inspections are Donna Power and Martin Field of Pet Adoption as a Working Solution for Ontario (PAWS-4-Ontario).
Field said in some jurisdictions when kennel owners know, or have an idea, that an inspection is upcoming, they move dogs to a neighbouring property or another location, then quickly clean up so that it appears they operation is adhering to the bylaws.
Power added that on any given day, a bylaw or animal control officer should be able to walk into a kennel and see that they are following the rules set in place.
“That’s the concern – if the inspections aren’t really that diligent and thorough, then they’re going to not spend the money on the proper care for the animals.”
PAWS-4-Ontario calls for rules that ensure kennel owners disclose all potential health concerns related to puppies they are selling, with Field noting that it sometimes takes three to five years before most health concerns appear within the animals.