Ontario government takes aim at puppy mills in new legislation

In this Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 file photo, Puppies play in a cage at a pet store in Columbia, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

The Ontario government is planning to introduce new rules it says will crack down on large and unethical dog breeding operations, often referred to as puppy mills.

New legislation unveiled by the Ontario government on Monday is designed to ban various breeding practices often associated with industrial dog-selling operations.

As part of the new rules, minimum penalties of $10,000 can be levelled for those operating puppy mills that run afoul of the rules. Those fines would rise to $25,000 if the alleged violations lead to the death of a dog.

“The Preventing Unethical Puppy Sales Act will help to ensure Ontario remains a leader in animal welfare by being the first province in the country to introduce minimum penalties specific to puppy mills,” Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said.

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The changes will ban breeding a female dog more than three times over two years or breeding a female dog who is younger than one year old.

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Other changes will punish separating a mother from her puppies before they are eight weeks ago and failing to keep the dog’s environment free.

The advocacy group Animal Justice, however, said it was underwhelmed by the plan, which it called “toothless.”

The group said the fact dog breeders don’t need to be licensed under the bill will make it “virtually impossible” to actually apply the rules the government has set out to enforce. The group also said other issues needed to be covered, including legislating issues around space dogs are kept in.

“We need real breeder transparency and accountability in Ontario to protect dogs and puppies,” lawyer and Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuk said in a statement.

“Until Ontario requires licenses, creates standards of care, and proactively enforces those standards, puppy mills and irresponsible breeders will continue to put profit over the welfare of animals in their care. We are encouraged to see the government recognizing the importance of protecting dogs, but so much more is needed.”

Regulations for the legislation will also address questions around procedures like declawing, tail docking and debarking with a goal of establishing penalties, the government said.

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