'Society has changed': Orangeville bylaw bans for-profit sale of cats, dogs, rabbits

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Unless a cat, rabbit, or dog is from a rescue or shelter, pet stores will not be able to sell these animals in Orangeville.

At its Nov. 9 meeting, Orangeville council voted in favour of staff recommendations on a bylaw in response to numerous concerns raised to the town over the past several years about the sale of pets.

Perhaps the biggest point of controversy among councillors on the issue was that there is only one store in town that currently sells pets for-profit.

“This bylaw is really pointing at one retailer in town, and I don’t think we should be attacking this particular retailer,” said Mayor Sandy Brown. “There’s no evidence they’ve treated animals poorly in Orangeville.”

The business, Doogan's Pet Emporium, has been in town for 40 years and the source of pets for a number of residents.

“I don’t want to see this small business that has served the community well for (many) years put out of business with this,” said Brown.

Doogan's did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In January, the OSPCA confirmed it was following up on a viral social media post showing the condition animals were being kept in at the store. The post also prompted an Orangeville resident to launch an online petition calling for the bylaw council is now considering. To date, it has garnered more than 9,000 signatures.

“I really feel this family is being targeted,” said Coun. Debbie Sherwood. “I’ve bought several pets from there; the bylaw officers have been there and they regularly inspect it.”

The bylaw, as written, would provide the business with a one-year moratorium to cease the for-profit sale of pets. Both Sherwood and Brown felt they should be grandfathered in, allowing them to continue their business as they have.

“Once that business ceases to exist, whether he retires or closes, or upon its sale, they would fall into the new rules,” said Sherwood.

One other concern raised by Brown was that once there was no longer any options in town for people to purchase kittens or puppies, they would see more people going to Kijiji for animals.

“There are no controls there, and there is a lot of fraud,” said Brown. “Having sales on Kijiji isn’t an acceptable solution and yet that’s where we are.”

Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh said he was against the idea of grandfathering, because it would set a bad precedent.

“Society has changed; things that were accepted before are no longer,” said Macintosh. “There are other pet stores coming into town. You can’t tell them not to sell animals when this one is. We either do this or we don’t.”

For licensing framework, a vague timeline such as retirement or sale of business would also make things difficult. So even if the business were to be grandfathered in, a specific timeline would have needed to be set.

COVID-19 has led to a number of businesses needing to adapt how they operate quite quickly, with little turnaround time, and Coun. Grant Peters and Lisa Post felt that the pet store should be able to do the same.

“A number of businesses have had to adapt and change their business models based on COVID,” said Post. “To me this isn’t targeted towards the one business in town. He’s run a very successful business, I’ve purchased from him in the past as well.”

She added that she believes the Macintosh is correct in stating that adaptation to the changes in society is necessary.

“I think by supporting a rescue or the SPCA, he can be just as successful,” said Post. “That’s been shown in other municipalities as well.”

In the GTA, Toronto, Oakville, Mississauga, and Brampton have already adopted bylaws to prevent the sale of for-profit cats and dogs in pet stores.

Despite an attempt to extend the sunset clause to five years for the retailer, the motion passed with a one-year only sunset clause. Both Sherwood and Brown voted against it.

A bylaw will be brought back by staff at the Nov. 23 meeting of council.

Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner