Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: February 1, 2023

A year and a half after it received a report recommending annual inspections for all establishments that breed, sell, board or adopt dogs, the Nova Scotia government is still reviewing the advice.

The recommendation came from an expert committee commissioned by the previous Liberal government. It submitted its report in July 2021, just weeks before the Progressive Conservatives came to power.

Inaction since then has frustrated some advocates who continue to lobby for regulation of the dog-breeding industry, while others say more consultation is needed.

The chief provincial inspector for the Nova Scotia SPCA, Jo-Anne Landsburg, was on the committee that made the recommendation to the province. She said the SPCA is all for regulating the dog-breeding industry.

“I think the public would be shocked to know about some of the situations that we come across in our line of work and I think for that reason it would be a very good time to start these regulations in Nova Scotia,” she said.

In addition to an annual inspection and a licensing fee to offset administration costs, enforcement and a database, the committee recommended breeding animals be microchipped and health-certified by a veterinarian.

The province would maintain the database that includes licence status, the microchip numbers and information on the previous owners of the animals.

The committee also recommended breeders adhere to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s code of practice for Canadian kennel operations.

“It is something that would be beneficial for everyone, certainly for the dogs, consumers,” said Robb. “This is the right thing to do.”

It’s an issue she’s passionate about.

In 2017, she and her veterinarian husband, Paul Robb, adopted a dog confiscated by the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) from a puppy mill.

The dog, Rosy, bred litters for six years.

How the current system operates

Under the current system, the SPCA responds primarily to complaints.

Kathy Robb noted people bought dogs from Rosy’s breeder, but no complaints were made.

“Her living conditions were horrific, so that system isn’t effective,” she said. “I think what would be more effective is something in place to prevent and ensure humane living conditions, which is what these recommendations would do.

The committee included two veterinarians (Paul Robb was not one), a lawyer and former shelter CEO, Landsburg and a representative from the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), the primary registry for purebred dogs in Canada.

The CKC said consultation was inadequate. It cited concerns about data privacy and the impact on members who breed dogs in their home and adhere to its code of ethics and practices.

“Producers, brokers, and sellers of random-sourced dogs are not bound by such requirements, so how will the draft regulations address these groups?” said club spokesperson Sarah McDowell in a statement to CBC News.

McDowell said the group would welcome resuming discussions to develop regulations that are reasonable, non-discriminatory and enforceable.

Janice Kivimaki is a CKC member and home breeder who has raised one or two litters of labs per year in West Porters Lake, N.S., for decades.

She’s not opposed to regulation, but said people are still going to continue to own and breed dogs.

“We’ll pay for a licence, but it’s not going to fix the real problem, and I don’t think that I’m the real problem,” she said.

She’s concerned about how much the annual fee would be — which was not defined in the report — and privacy.

“You already know where we are, why does every dog need to be put into the database?” said Kivimaki.

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association wrote to Agriculture Minister Greg Morrow in November 2022 urging him to implement the recommendations, noting similar legislation exists in New Brunswick and British Columbia.

What the province is saying

In a statement, a government spokesperson noted the report was commissioned under the previous minister and the committee did not have departmental representation.

“The department has received the report and is reviewing it now. It will be tabled as a topic of discussion when the Forum on Animal Welfare (a stakeholder group) meets again,” Marla MacInnis said in a statement.

The Animal Protection Act prohibits cruelty to animals and gives the SPCA the power to enforce the act.

For the buying public, a key requirement in the act is that animals must be sold with a veterinary certificate of health paid for by the seller.

But veterinarian Paul Robb is not comfortable with that.

“We’re almost being used to provide false endorsement by signing these puppy health certificates,” he said.

Paul Robb said while he could say a puppy is healthy, there’s a missing piece.

“I cannot attest to the health or the wellbeing of the animals that are producing these puppies,” he said.

Landsburg said there is no guarantee a healthy puppy will stay that way, noting her organization has received many complaints about dogs who were given a veterinary certificate of health, but later developed significant health problems and behavioural issues.

“Even if a puppy is raised at a very early age, because of the conditions that the female was raised in, we’re seeing that as the puppies grow up and have severe behaviour issues,” said Landsburg.

Puppies are big business. The committee report notes they sell for $800 to over $2,000 on websites like Kijiji.

Annual fee proposed

Paul Robb suggests the annual fee be the price of one puppy from a litter — perhaps $1,000.

Janice Kivimaki said that’s outrageous.

“I can’t even imagine paying $1,000 for a licence to have a couple litters a year,” she said. “We’re already paying crazy amounts for dog food, we’re paying crazy amounts for vet care.”

Kivimaki is also leery about the recommendation that all breeders adhere to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s code of practice for Canadian kennel operations.

She said its standards are made for larger kennels that home breeders could not meet, such as floor drains.

However, Landsburg noted the code has exemptions for home breeders.

“They can carry on … what they were doing and there shouldn’t be any control mechanisms put in place … so that they can’t do it the way they’ve always been doing,” Landsburg said.