December 8, 2011 6:59 am

Rosemont-La Petite Patrie bans sales of pets

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MONTREAL – A Montreal borough has passed a bylaw prohibiting new shops from selling pets in a bid to encourage shelter adoptions and curb the number of abandoned animals.

Rosemont-La Petite Patrie borough council passed the bylaw, which applies to all types of pets, by a majority vote on Monday.

The retail pet sale ban is one of a series of measures the borough wants to enact to curb the number of abandoned dogs and cats and reduce mistreatment, borough mayor François Croteau said on Wednesday.

“If we continue to buy animals from stores, shelters will continue to be full of abandoned animals,” he said. “We have to encourage people to go and adopt animals in shelters, where they’re abandoned.”

Two pet stores that already operate in Rosemont-La Petite Patrie are exempt from the bylaw because it applies only to any new businesses that want to open there.

Only the province can regulate how existing stores do business, said Croteau, who sits on Montreal city council as a member of Projet Montréal party.

The city estimates 50,000 animals are abandoned in Montreal each year, about 8,000 to 9,000 of them in Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, he said.

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Toronto banned the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores in September, and Richmond, B.C. was the first Canadian city to do so last year.

Advocates of the measure say it’s a way to combat puppy mills, where dogs are bred and raised in cramped and inhumane conditions, since such places supply many pet stores.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Johanne Tassé, president and founder of Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec (caacQ), an animal welfare advocacy group, said of the Rosemont-La Petite Patrie bylaw.

Ideally, all boroughs should apply the same regulations because it’s too easy for pet buyers and businesses to go to another neighbourhood if they don’t like one borough’s rules, said Tassé, a member of two committees advising Montreal and the province on measures to battle the mistreatment of animals.

Pierre Lampron, the lone Rosemont-La Petite Patrie councillor to vote against the bylaw, argues that pet stores are legitimate businesses and aren’t the cause of the high number of abandoned animals.

“It’s the wrong target,” the Vision Montreal councillor said. Lampron said he’s in favour of other measures, such as mandatory sterilization, to control the pet population.

“You have to be careful not to compare a living being with a cellphone,” Croteau said. “I agree with the logic of free enterprise, but in a case like this it’s too important to protect animals from mistreatment and abandonment.”

The borough decided to rethink its approach to animal control this spring after Radio-Canada aired images of shocking euthanasia practices by Berger Blanc in April, Croteau said.

The private pound handles abandoned animals for boroughs that contract its services, including Rosemont-La Petite Patrie.

Berger Blanc’s contract with Rosemont-La Petite Patrie expires in 2012. The borough plans to tighten the specifications when it goes to tender for the next contract, Croteau said.

For instance, the borough will require the next contractor to follow veterinarians’ standards, sterilize all animals it handles and implant devices in animals so they can be tracked if lost. As well, the borough plans to pass a bylaw early next year to require pet owners to sterilize their cats and dogs, Croteau said.

Tassé says she supports the idea but cautions that the borough or city will have to finance at least part of the program since veterinarians charge as much as $200 for sterilization. Otherwise, the bylaw could spur more people to abandon pets.

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