In the middle between farmers who see dog kennels as way to supplement their income and animal welfare groups who worry about mistreatment of the dogs at such operations, Wellesley councillors are not rushing to any decisions during the latest review of the township’s kennel bylaw.
Meeting Tuesday night by videoconference, they heard delegates from both sides make pitches that the bylaw, last reviewed in 2019 is either too stringent or not prohibitive enough.
The discussion was the latest in a series about whether the township should limit the number of breeding kennels, and what rules should apply to such operations. In this and subsequent meetings there has been no shortage of suggestions.
“My understanding is, for over 10 years, concerns have been raised in regard to suspected puppy mills, within your licensed kennels. Each time residents would come forward and ask council to take a more proactive role ensuring that the dogs are housed in humane conditions, that breeding is ethical, and that the level of care is good, and the operations are transparent. But this council, in my opinion, remains passive in addressing community concerns in regard to their level of oversight. At this time, I think it’s important to note that dogs in the community are not considered livestock,” voiced Donna Powers of Pet Adoption as a Working Solution for Ontario (PAWS-4-Ontario).
“The puppies are not defined and dogs are not differentiated on the definitions. So, I think that is very important, because some of the specific bylaws pertain to just puppies or adults,” she added.
The organization has been vocal in its criticism of Wellesley’s handling of kennels, noting there’s a difference between raising cattle, for instance, and raising dogs.
Submissions from residents spoke to many of the same issues.
“Our township can have good laws, but without proper enforcement they mean nothing. Strong enforcement will include: someone knowledgeable in canine welfare, behaviours and breeding should be employed for all inspections; inspections are done multiple times a year on an unannounced basis,” said Wellesley resident Diane Hallman in a written submission.
“If there is shown evidence of one licensed facility in our township not operating properly, this should not only be an automatic inspection of the facility in question, but all our licensed facilities to ensure they are all operating under our laws.”
For resident Cheryl McCabe, the issue was ensuring good veterinarian care for the dogs.
“It needs to be veterinarians in good standing with the College of Veterinarians, and who do not have a prior or current ethical violation. It is very important it is changed to a veterinarian who has good standing with the College of Veterinarians, and that it’s confirmed each time records are submitted to the animal control office,” she told councillors.
Kennel operators who spoke stressed their qualifications to carry out the work.
“I’m sorry to hear that she thinks it’s not written specifically enough to me as a farmer. I’ve been farming for many, many years and doing livestock from a young age. I think we know how to care for animals,” said farmer Mark Burkhart in response to calls for a stronger kennel bylaw.
“It is always to our best intention to take good care of our dogs and puppies. And it’s often said that an unhappy animal is not a productive animal. And to that end, I can gladly say we spent or I spent more time in the kennel than I have at any time in the last 25 years, some would say it’s the best environment on the whole farm. We’ve got good air movement and cleaning out regularly. It’s always been a very pleasant place to work in.
“Secondly, we are interested in having annual meetings with the kennel owners, and possibly events or members of the council and staff so that we can be further educated about the dog business. We could possibly even appoint the main steering committee from the community that could help with issues of concern, because a lot of us are not very well educated in the terms of wording or these bylaws. But we think we know something about dogs. We’re always interested in learning. But none of us here have internet and all of those things,” he added.
“Given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased demand for companion animals in this time, it’s often the case that animals are being traded or resold through various unsupervised or unregulated means, whether it’s by Kijiji, Facebook marketplace, etc. So regulation now more than ever is important,” argued Scott Tinney, a staff lawyer at Animal Justice.
Councillors made no decision about the draft bylaw, deferring a vote until August 31 to allow time for more public input.