With an extended lockdown for Ontario, the demand for pets is continuing to increase. However, shelter staff and animal rights advocates are warning buyers about the health and ethical risks of purchasing puppies and kittens online.
The Atkinson family in Port Perry say they bought their Yorkie-Bichon pup, Bonnie, in January.
“My family, they moved to Canada with me to join me last year and we had to leave all of our pets behind in the U.K., and so coming to Canada for them in the middle of a pandemic was kind of awkward,” said Kirk Atkinson.
Atkinson says while looking for a dog to purchase, he came across numerous ‘dodgy ads’ from online sellers.
“They want to meet you in strange place and you have no idea of what the dog is or what the dog looks like ahead of time.”
The family says they were finally able to purchase Bonnie from a family in Courtice, Ont.
On websites like Kijiji, puppies are being sold for thousands of dollars above pre-pandemic norms. Kara Olsen with the Humane Society of Durham Region says it’s impossible to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder right now. As a result, animals are being traded like commodities online.
“Because of the demand, the puppies you’re buying now online are most likely from a puppy mill,” Olsen said.
Puppy mills are facilities breeding large amounts of dogs as quickly as possible for profit. They are often put in cages and living in poor conditions.
Olsen says online sellers are also exploiting kittens, adding the health implications from trade-offs can be deadly for the animals.
“Kittens have died. Things like panleukopenia or for puppies it’s called parvo virus, when they leave their moms, sometimes when they’re not vaccinated, they can develop these diseases.”
Camille Labchuk who is a lawyer and the executive director of Animal Justice says Ontario’s breeding regulations are ineffective. As a result, she says, buyers should be wary of organizations who may have ulterior motives.
“Because there’s so much money to be made right now and because breeders know that people would prefer to rescue animals, they will put online posts on Kijiji and other websites,” she said.
“They’ll make it sound like they’re a rescue or they’re adopting animals but the reality is they bred those animals.”
Labchuk says the safest way for people to obtain a furry companion right now is to go through a shelter.