Ontario to ban puppy mills, introduces legislation to curb 'bad actors'

TORONTO — Ontario has introduced legislation aimed at stamping out puppy mills, the first in a suite of animal protection measures it hopes to implement in the coming months.

The bill introduced Monday would prohibit puppy mills and lead to the creation of record keeping for dogs to ensure a canine's history can be traced.

"It will specifically speak to bad actors, bad dog breeders and our stakeholders have told us this is something that's important," Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said in an interview.

"I really appreciate the awareness that's been brought to the forefront and we're acting."

The bill also leaves the door open to regulating the sale of dogs in the future.

Kerzner said Ontario would become the first province to introduce minimum penalties for those caught operating puppy mills through the bill called the Preventing Unethical Puppy Sales Act, or PUPS Act, which modifies the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, or PAWS Act.

Those found to be operating puppy mills would be subject to a minimum $10,000 penalty and $25,000 for the death of a dog in a puppy mill.

The province intends to make it illegal to inbreed, breed a female dog more than three times in a two-year period and breed a female dog younger than a year old.

The bill would also make separating puppies from mothers before eight weeks of age illegal, as well as make it illegal to keep breeding dogs in filthy environments.

"We're going to ensure that we don't penalize the good breeders, the ethical breeders," Kerzner said.

"This whole PUPS Act is designed to go against the poor breeders because when a person buys a dog, unknowingly to them, that may have come from a bad actor, they're forced with many different responsibilities as to how to care for that animal, that dog."

The province plans to increase the number of animal welfare inspectors, which currently stands at around 100, who are stationed throughout Ontario.

The government is also considering banning "medically unnecessary" procedures for dogs and cats such as declawing, debarking, tail docking and ear cropping.

Kerzner said the province will begin consulting on those issues in the new year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press