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Markham pet store under scrutiny after complaint over animal living conditions

Markham pet store under scrutiny after complaint to OSPCA
WATCH ABOVE: A Markham pet store is at the centre of an OSPCA investigation after a complaint about living conditions for puppies and kittens. As Shallima Maharaj reports, the city is also looking into the business.

A sign posted on the door of Teddy Club in Markham tells consumers the business has been undergoing renovations since Tuesday. The day before, a complaint was made against the pet store which has since spawned an investigation.

“The kittens had water, but none of the puppies had water and the larger breed puppies were struggling,” explained animal welfare activist Ashley Cote.

Cote and a friend went into the pet store on Monday and said they were alarmed by the living conditions for puppies and kittens. They described to Global News, intense heat radiating from overhead lights and animals that appeared lethargic and in need of hydration.

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She captured footage of the animals on her phone and posted the videos to Facebook, drawing plenty of responses.

“They heard us talking about the animals being in distress,” she said of workers in the store.

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“One kitten had some mucus dried to her face and they heard us talking about that as well. So we went out to the car and decided what we were going to do next.”

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Cote, who has been rescuing animals for 15 years, called the Toronto Humane Society, which then contacted the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA).

She said they had an official on the ground in two hours.

“Most people don’t get to experience that, so I knew for sure that we needed to take video of the water dishes and clearly show the barren tanks that the kittens and puppies were kept in,” she said.

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The mayor of Markham told Global News that council directed staff late last year to come up with a report on a proposed bylaw, which would ban the sale of puppies and kittens from pet stores unless the animals are from a reputable rescue.

Toronto took that step in 2011. A number of other communities in Ontario have imposed their own restrictions.

“There’s been full co-operation by the business owner,” said Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

“They’ve agreed to make changes. They’ve made changes already. They’ve shut off those hot lights the dogs were under.”

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We asked the OSPCA about the investigation and a spokesperson responded via email.

“This is an open investigation. To maintain the integrity of this investigation, we can’t share details at this time,” read a response from Melissa Kosowan.

When asked about rules and regulations surrounding pet stores in the province, Kosowan responded: “The Ontario SPCA does not regulate pet stores. To clarify our authority, the Ontario SPCA enforces animal cruelty legislation. Pet stores in Ontario also have to meet the Standards of Care outlined within the Ontario SPCA Act.”

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We then inquired about the store’s doors being closed and received this reply: “In terms of whether the business is closed, that’s not something we can speak to. The Ontario SPCA does not have the authority to shut down a business.”

However, the business is also being looked at for another reason.

“In this particular case, there actually may be another issue in that the property may not be zoned for this type of use,” said Scarpitti.

“Our staff are looking into that — seeing whether there is a zoning issue. So if that’s the case, they may have to cease operations entirely.”