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Puppy mill ban faces local opposition

Lisa Badach with the store cat Russel.
January 29, 2013 - 4:49 PM

After a woman compelled city council to ban the sale of animals from puppy mills at local pet stores, a Vernon businesswoman is telling them why they shouldn't. Lisa Badach, who owns AJ's Pets and Things with her husband Andrew, agrees puppy mills are tragic, but says banning the sale of animals from so-called factory farms in pet stores is not the way to go.

Gina Son, an animal rights activist, urged council to follow in the steps of other municipalities who have established the ban, such as Richmond. She said many pet store animals, including dogs, cats and rabbits, originate in the horrible conditions of puppy mills. Animals sold via online ads are often from the same boat.

Badach says AJ's never takes in animals suspected to have come from a puppy mill. "Most of our animals are from mom and pop breeders," she says. By that she means families or individuals who find themselves with a pregnant pooch—either planned or unplanned. She says many of their puppies are the last two or three from a litter that haven't sold. With no one else to turn to, the families reach out to the pet store. Sometimes AJ's buys the animals, but other times families are just happy to get the puppies off their hands.

According to Badach, AJ's sold three puppies last year. She says none of them were from puppy mills. Her husband Andrew says boxes of kittens are sometimes left on their doorstep—something most people associate with animal shelters. The Badachs say they always find homes for their animals, even when that home is theirs.

"That's why we feel insulted, because we do take responsibility for our animals," Andrew Badach says.

They feel the discussion generated by this debate is a valuable one.

"Everyone has a role in this, including Gina Son," Andrew said. "But blaming pet stores is not the solution."

Part of their opposition to the ban stems from the negative perception is creates. "Just seeing pet store and puppy mill in the same article can give a negative perception," Badach says. "We want people to be proud of their local pet stores."

Badach says the ban would do nothing to stop puppy mill operators from connecting with customers over the internet. She says the mills themselves must be regulated, and would support this type of legislation over a ban on pet store sales.

The Badachs circulated a petition opposing the ban that garnered 200 signatures.

Gina Son is disappointed by the opposition.

"If Lisa is truly against puppy mills, she would support this ban," Son says. "This doesn't affect her if what she says about purchasing animals from responsible breeders is true."

Badach admitted it wouldn't affect her because AJ's only sells animals from responsible breeders, but maintained the perception accompanying such a ban would send a negative message about pet stores. 

Son says the area is "glutted" with puppy mills, everywhere from Kelowna to Salmon Arm. 

"If Vernon says no to this, it sets a precedent for other municipalities," she says, worrying the politicians will listen more intently to the business voice.

She says, "I speak for the animals."

—Charlotte Helston

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