SURREY â€” Neighboursâ€™ complaints about dogs with their snouts taped shut and all-hours barking at a Surrey dog daycare led to the owner losing her business licence, while the SPCA and bylaw officers investigate.
But the owner denies she did anything wrong and continues to take in dogs, which raises questions about adequate regulation of the growing industry.
North Vancouver Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite, who last year tabled a private memberâ€™s bill setting out minimum standards for dog and cat breeders, said the same is needed for dog daycare and dog walking businesses, including adequate food, water and exercise, and limited tethering.
â€œWeâ€™re just seeing the tip of the iceberg (of problems),â€ she said.
The number of daycares doubled to 21 in Vancouver alone over the past five years. Theyâ€™re generally governed in B.C. by municipal business licence requirements and B.C.â€™s prevention of cruelty to animal act.
Owner Zhu (Ivy) Gong last month had her business licence revoked to operate the daycare in the 10900-block Partridge Crescent. But she told The Province she had four or five dogs there on Wednesday and that she had made changes to the facilities required by the SPCA to maintain her licence after its random inspections.
Surrey bylaw enforcement manager Jas Rehal confirmed a â€œnumber of dogsâ€ were muzzled with tape and the licence was revoked.
â€œWeâ€™re concerned about the animalsâ€™ well-being and weâ€™re investigating,â€ he said.
Shawn Eccles of the B.C. SPCA said thereâ€™s an â€œactiveâ€ cruelty investigation against Gong, but couldnâ€™t discuss details.
Neighbour Ginger Hartman said she saw â€œseveralâ€ dogs muzzled with electrical tape removed by the SPCA and has heard dogs fighting and barking.
Shinder Bhardwaj said heâ€™s heard â€œlots of dogs barkingâ€ and has tried to speak with the owner, but she told him she doesnâ€™t speak English. Others had complaints but didnâ€™t want to be named.
Gong is subject to a $500 fine each day she operates without a licence and has been issued a â€œcouple of tickets,â€ said Rehal.
â€œIf she chooses to operate, we will have to take some legal actions,â€ he said.
Gong said she used muzzles she bought from a pet shop on the dogs, not tape, until the SPCA told her she couldnâ€™t. She also said she spent $50,000 to soundproof and improve ventilation and she doesnâ€™t understand the complaints.
â€œDogs bark, thatâ€™s what they do,â€ she said. â€œDo we not want dogs in Canada?â€
Heather Sorenson of Heatherâ€™s Place in Vancouver said dogs only bark when theyâ€™re in distress. She said she would welcome regulations she follows: One staffer for every 10 dogs, staff trained in canine first aid and behaviour, and enough space so dogs arenâ€™t stressed.
She admitted her business model isnâ€™t highly profitable and understood why other operators have â€œdouble or tripleâ€ the ratio of dogs to staff.
She said regulations would be â€œextremely difficultâ€ to enforce, a view shared by Eccles, who said the B.C. SPCA supports more laws, but said government would have to enforce them and asked whether that would be a â€œprudent use of taxpayersâ€™ funds.â€
Thornthwaite said funds could come from licensing fees.
Itâ€™s buyer beware for pet owners, who should ensure the centre follows vaccination protocols, looks and smells clean, that staff are trained and that dogs are happy.
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