Sunday, October 19, 2008

Incestuous and impotent

How does an operation like Paws R Us fit into the overall dog manufacturing industry in Quebec? Why are they not shut down like they would be if they were located in another Canadian province? Why are there an estimated 2000 breeding facilities in Quebec (no one knows for sure but I'm guessing these breeding facilities run the gamut from backyard breeders to large scale puppy mills)?

Here are the connections: Many puppy mills in Quebec are due paying members of PIJAC, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a lobby group for the pet industry. PIJAC is on the board of Anima Quebec. Anima Quebec is the provincially created body whose mandate it is to enforce Quebec's outdated animal welfare regulations. So, here we have Anima who is supposed to police the pet industry but at the same time has pet industry reps on its board.

Hmm, I can just imagine one of their board meetings now.

Chairperson: This week we are going to inspect the We Aren't a Puppy Mill Kennel just outside of Sherbrooke.

Industry rep: Oh no, I personally know the owner of that kennel and I can assure you that it is not a puppy mill.

Chairperson: But we have dozens of complaints from customers who say they have purchased sick and dying puppies from the place.

Industry rep: Some people just don't know how to take care of their dogs and then they blame the merchandise, er I mean the puppies.

Chairperson: But we also have complaints from nearby residents about the stench and howling and barking that come from the place.

Industry rep: Nosey neighbours. You know the type. Jealous and can't mind their own business.

Chairperson: There are also photographs taken by someone who snuck into the barns where the dogs were being held. The conditions didn't look very healthy and there were a lot of dogs.

Industry rep: Then I suggest you find that person and arrest him for trespassing.

Chairperson: There's also a lot of public pressure to look into this one. I'm afraid we can't avoid it. We have to go in.

Industry rep: Is there nothing I can do to make you change your mind?

Chairperson: No, absolutely not. The public trusts us and we must uphold the law.

Industry rep: Er okay. So when do you think you'll be going in?

Chairperson: Tomorrow. Oh no, actually, not tomorrow. Our inspectors have got their beer and bowling night tomorrow. Let's make it the day after.

Industry rep: Sounds good. Err, please excuse me while I make a phone call.

Chairperson: Of course.

Industry rep (on phone to answering machine): Er, allo? Louie? I just wanted to call to let you know that you need to do your "laundry" tomorrow because the day after "papa" will be showing up for a visit.

A week later:

Industry rep: How did the inspection at We Aren't a Puppy Mill Kennel go?

Chairperson: You were right. The inspector found nothing. As a matter of fact, when he arrived, they told him they had just finished doing their daily clean-up. The place was spotless.

Industry rep: See what did I tell you?

Chairperson: Funny thing, though. There were a couple of other barns there which were locked and the inspector thought he heard whining coming from inside them but he didn't go in because he didn't have time.

Industry rep: I'm sure it was nothing. Probably just chickens.

Chairperson: Yes, I'm sure you're right. Just chickens. Ha ha ha ha.

Industry rep: Ha ha ha ha ha.

Chairperson/Industry rep (together): Ha ha ha ha ha ha ...

Even without this direct industry influence, animal regulations in Quebec are, to say the least, pretty loosely interpreted.

Excerpt from P-42, the Animal Health Protection Act, found on Anima's website:

"The moral element required for conviction excludes mere negligence. In a criminal prosecution, the person who neglects to request the information that someone reasonable and prudent would ask, or who does not know the facts they should know, is innocent in the eyes of the law."

So, even if someone is negligent towards their dogs, as long as they admit that they were negligent due to ignorance and general stupidity, it's okay. Carry on.

How does this fantastic piece of legislation translate into real world numbers? In 2005, the first year Anima started their inspections, they checked more than 200 breeding facilities and out of those 200, only closed down two and even then, they were voluntary closures.

Nicole Blouin, spokeswoman for Anima Quebec, was asked if inspectors who came across obvious cases of animal abuse would prosecute to which she replied they are not prosecuting such cases. "We are applying the provincial law."

It's a good thing, too, that Anima Quebec doesn't demand too much from itself because with only 5 inspectors for all of Quebec (compared to Ontario's 300), they wouldn't want to be overworking their staff.

From Huguette Lepine, director of Anima Quebec:

"The main target of Anima Quebec is safety and welfare of animals - not just to find guilty people. We are in a hurry but going slowly."

No kidding.

Continued here.

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