Thursday, October 23, 2008

A pound of flesh

Montreal SPCA isn't the only game in town when it comes to collecting, storing and euthanizing stray and unwanted dogs in the city. There are about a dozen privately run pounds who have contracts in the various municipalities of the Greater Montreal Area to provide the cheapest animal control possible. Whereas the Montreal SPCA ostensibly has the animals' best interests at heart, these private pounds are operated by anyone who holds the winning bid and as a result, the pounds are highly inconsistent with respect to their facilities and care offered to the strays. Some are run by well intentioned owners, others are run by businessmen for pure profit.

The minimum services the pounds must provide are specified by the Cahier de Charges of the respective municipalities. These guidelines generally deal with enforcement of noise by-laws, capture of strays, pick-up requirements, etc. They say very little, if anything at all, about how the dogs are to be treated once under the "care" of the pound. For many dogs, depending on the municipality, that may mean three days of caged lock down, often without water or food, and then death. There are no incentives for pound owners to adopt out their strays so from a cost perspective, it's cheaper to euthanize.

A city contracted dog catcher doesn't get rich very quickly, though, so side business opportunities are exploited. As it turns out, many of these pounds are also pet stores, selling the most desireable of the unclaimed dogs, including the intact ones, to anyone who has the money.

One such pound occupies a non-descript building with its office and pet store on the main floor. In the pet store, along with the usual pet accessories and bags of dog food, there are some Shitzu puppies for sale. The stray dogs that have been caught are kept in pens in the basement. There are no windows and unless someone is down there, the lights are turned off so the dogs are in total darkness almost the whole time. The air is noxious. These unwanted strays are on sale, as is, for cheap: between $25 and $35. If they're not sold by the end of the weekend, they'll be euthanized. It's ironic when sometimes an unfortunate Shitzu gets abandoned and tossed into the pit and eventually euthanized when just upstairs, the store is only too eager to sell more Shitzus.

In another pound, which also doubles as a pet store, there is a room in back where dogs are kept in pens. Some of these dogs are being boarded. Some of them are strays. Some of them are for sale. The drains in the room are clogged with feces and urine but at least at this place, the dogs are sometimes allowed out into the backyard. The owner's son also breeds and sells Labs.

The largest pound/pet store is located just half a kilometer from the head office of one of Quebec's largest puppy mills, Lamarche & Pinard. Inside the pound, along with the pet merchandise, are cats in cages along one side wall and dogs in cages along the back. The open grill bottoms of the cages bruise and injure the animals' feet so cafeteria trays which cover about half the base area, have been kindly inserted.

These are the pound's strays but most of the dogs here are "desirable" breeds: small purebred, lap dogs, less than a year old. Very few are the larger mixed breeds. If you've ever been in a shelter, especially in North America, you'd know there was something strange about this mix. The stray dog ratios are almost always reversed, the majority being the larger mixed breeds and few, if any, of the little purebreds.

These dogs also happen to be for sale, $250 and up - especially for the designer breeds.

The suspicion is that some of the private pounds may be breeding stray, intact dogs. It wouldn't be difficult. Say a purebred, unaltered Boston Terrier is picked up one day. Keep that one around for a while until a female unaltered Boston Terrier is picked up. Pack them in together and a couple of months later, out pops one or two thousand dollars worth of puppies. Sell them unaltered, to save on costs, to anyone who asks, including possibly puppy mill owners, and who knows, maybe in a few more months, they'll breed and that's more dogs to pick up and more cash in the bank. And the ones that don't sell will just end up on the city's euthanasia tab since there are no accurate, transparent records of the numbers of dogs processed.

Any which way you slice it, there's money to be made.

Continued here.


Cathrine said...

So what, if anything, can the concerned citizen do to bring pressure on la Ville de Montreal to change the bylaws and enforce them? Is anybody out there working on this, and maybe can you publish some information about them so those of us who care can contact them?

Fred said...

Thanks for asking. There are indeed people working on a solution and I'll be posting on that tomorrow.

Caveat said...

Makes me sick, people profiting on the backs of helpless dogs - on both sides of the issue.