(Wikimedia photo)

Advocate ‘cautiously optimistic’ Surrey will ban retail animal sales

Paws for Hope group asked Surrey to ban the ‘inhumane’ practice at council meeting Monday

SURREY — An advocacy group wants Surrey to ban the retail sale of animals within the city.

“The argument I think is really strong for Surrey,” said Kathy Powelson, executive director of Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, who appeared before Surrey Council Monday night with the request.

“The presentation went well I think,” she said after her delegation. “Staff approached me after and told me that they have been asked to write a report, so we are cautiously optimistic that ban will be recommended and approved.”

Powelson asked Surrey council to enact a bylaw to ban retail animal sales from pet stores, specifically dogs, cats and rabbits.

“Surrey has such a pet overpopulation problem. The city shelter is the busiest shelter in the province,” she said. “From Jan. 1 to the end of June of this year, they received 1,255 in their shelter. That’s just a six month period.”

While there are no stores in Surrey that sell puppies, said Powelson, she aims to stop some of the bigger chains from selling cats and rabbits.

”It will signal to Surrey residents that Surrey Council understands the animal welfare issues associated with this inhumane business practice,” she added.

Powelson noted there’s a “massive cat problem in Surrey,” which has been identified by the Surrey Community Cat Coalition and the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association. “They estimate that 2,000 cats a year are rescued from the streets. That’s not including the ones who are still roaming. And there’s also increasingly a feral rabbit issue in Surrey, particularly in the Fleetwood area.”

After her presentation, Councillor Bruce Hayne said he doesn’t think there’s “anybody up here that wouldn’t share your passion for healthy and safe pets and animals.”

He asked if banning “unscruplous breeders or the puppy mills” would perhaps be more effective.

Powelson said while a good step, that wouldn’t stop stores from bringing animals in from outside B.C. and Canada. so provincial breeding regulation “wouldn’t touch the import issue.”

Councillor Vera LeFranc said she would support not allowing pet stores to sell animals and wasn’t aware of any in Surrey currently doing so.

“But going back to Councillor Hayne’s point, is there any ban on importing pets? It seems that’s part of the issue and that would be a different level of government,” said LeFranc.

Powelson agreed that it’s a major issue, but said that’s a federal issue and “we have very little control over that.”

“There are stores in Surrey that sell small animals,” Powelson added. “Hamsters, gerbils, (and rabbits and sometimes cats) and that’s problematic as well. To say that there’s no store that sells animals is not accurate….. So there’s nothing stopping them from bringing in puppies currently, with the regulations.”

Powelson has urged other Lower Mainland municipalities to ban the retail sale of animals.

First, she unsuccessfully asked Burnaby to enact a ban. Powelson said she did so after she heard complaints against Pet Habitat in Burnaby’s Metrotown Mall.

Later, Pet Habitat’s lease was not renewed by Metrotown.

BC SPCA Lorie Chortyk confirmed the animal welfare organization received “numerous” complaints against Pet Habitat but said the store would remedy the issues after their visits.

Chortyk said the SPCA also wants to see such a ban enacted.

“We have a larger philosophical issue with it because we know good breeders don’t sell animals to pet stores,” Chortyk told the Now-Leader. “The reason we push so hard to try and ban the sale of animals in retail settings is because we know puppy mills and puppy brokers sell through these channels… so they’re often inbred, not given property veterinary care, often have serious health issues.”

While Burnaby didn’t enact a bylaw banning the retail sale of animals, Richmond and New Westminster have, after Powelson’s advocacy.

Vancouver has also enacted such a ban.

“Vancouver City Council was incredibly quick to respond,” Powelson said. “Council unanimously supported it.”

With more and more municipalities creating bans, Powelson said she’s hopeful Surrey will follow suit.

“When we have a success like Vancouver, hopefully it makes it easier for Surrey and other communities to say yes. We’re seeing it as a trend across Canada and the U.S. Over 200 cities have implemented bans, 15 in Canada.

“The vast majority of people don’t want this,” she added. “So it’s a really easy political win.”

Powelson emphasized her efforts aren’t attacks on breeders, because “good breeders won’t sell to a pet store.”

“There was a point a time where people would buy tigers in pet stores and when we hear that, we think, ‘What?’” she added. “I believe 20, 30 years from now we’ll be saying, ‘You used to buy dogs in pet stores, oh my god?’ Times are changing and we can’t deny what we know about puppy mills, animal breeding mills period.”

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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