Should Pets be Adoptable in Pet Stores?

It has been very satisfying to witness passionate Burnaby residents discuss the outcome of City Council’s review on Burnaby’s animal control by-law in September.* We haven’t spared any avenue from talking about the issue, from one-on-one discussions with the newspaper and social media. It is lovely to witness what an animal loving city we live in, hence the passion and lively discussion, no matter which side of the fence we might be on.

The two key issues to be discussed by the council at the next meeting on August 26* are – whether or not to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and whether to put in breed-specific legislation on pet ownership. While the former topic has been debated extensively, we must not forget the implications of a breed-specific ban, without stressing the need for pet training, socialization, and leash regulations.

Both issues are multifaceted and it will be challenging to come up with a consensus. Coming up with a simple answer such as banning sales or banning pitbulls would amount to tackling the issue lightly. I sincerely hope that no single answer is sought during this review. We are a forward-looking city in most aspects of business and environmental initiatives. I would like to see the same approach taken to tackle this very sensitive topic on animal care and protection, one that other cities in the province might follow.

I agree with the animal advocate groups and rescue groups about the abundant need for local adoption of homeless or abandoned pets in not just Burnaby but in our province as a whole. We need to consider that a pet store sales ban would address a very small proportion of the homeless pet situation when it comes to local dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Also, a simple ban on pet stores would move the problem to puppy and kitten mill animals being sold through the Internet and backyard breeder type sales which may include the purchase of animals from out of province or even from across the border. If animals for sale are being imported from the United States for sale in Burnaby, it is decreasing the likelihood of adoption of local shelter-based adoptions. In my opinion, it is trivial to discuss whether these animals are coming from puppy mills or not, or if they are being sold by a pet store or an individual; as a city, our emphasis should be on minimizing homeless animals locally.

One of the pet store owners has been reported to contact local feline shelters to help sell their cats and this effort should be lauded and encouraged by not just the city of Burnaby but also the shelters involved. It could be a match made in heaven, assuming both parties meet the quality standards, as the abandoned pets in shelters could replace the sale of imported pets as opposed to competing with each other.

In my opinion, the City Council should consider a futuristic animal control model where pet stores may be able to provide adoption of pets within specified guidelines. The guidelines may include certification and ongoing inspections of the facility where pets are made available for adoption.

This would also include a commitment to home local pets only, which are obtained through the SPCA or local shelters so as to discourage local puppy and kitten mills and out-of-province adoptions. After all, the council is deliberating the draft on animal control issues rather than animal sales alone.

Likely, an association between pet stores and local shelters would lower the cost of adoption for new pet families as most veterinarians in Burnaby are committed to decreasing homeless pets through discounted veterinary services for shelter and homeless animals, TNR (Trap-neuter-return) programs, spay-neuter clinics, etc. Pet stores willing to work within City Council guidelines such as re-homing local adoptable animals only as well as in association with local animal advocacy groups would still be able to provide pet adoption if they so choose. Thus, the suggestion would be to allow adoption through pet stores, as opposed to the current model of pet sales.

Everyone in the pet care industry needs to do more in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Education of prospective pet owners involves a thorough discussion regarding pet care needs, the cost of pet care, licensing of pets, need for neutering, longer life expectancy of pets (thus a longer commitment to your new friend), and support from the avenue it was adopted from. Fostering prior to adoption should be encouraged by adoption agencies including pet stores.

Adopting a kitten or puppy can be a bigger challenge as a first-time pet – new pet owners should be given an option to adopt an adult. This may help make their first pet experience a smoother ride compared to the surprises a kitten or puppy would bring in day-to-day needs.

The way to address the need for responsible pet ownership is not only through legislation but also through public education. As individuals, we should consider adopting locally instead of buying pets.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby since 2005 and BC’s first Veterinary Dermatology Resident.

*This was originally published in Burnaby Now in their August 2013 issue

Wait Until After Easter to Adopt a New Pet

How great would it be to have a puppy or kitten or rabbit running around the house for Easter? They sure are cute. But unfortunately, not every cuddly pet adopted during this time of year gets a happy ending. By getting a pet on impulse, you could be putting you, your family, and especially your new pet under a lot of pressure to adapt and get used to something so new so fast…as if Easter wasn’t enough of a busy time of the year!

If you are planning to adopt a new pet, it’s best that you wait until after the busy Easter season. That way, you and your family will have more time to learn about the necessary pet health care and training needed by your new family member.

Why Holiday Seasons Aren’t the Best Time for Adoptions

Adopting a pet is a more serious decision to make; it requires more forethought and planning than you may realize. There are also some dangers in purchasing any pet as a holiday gift:

  1. At Easter time in particular, parents often have a vision of their surprised and happy children holding baby animals when there may be no suitable place on the property to raise them. Any baby animal will grow into an adult, and so they will require extra living space as they grow.
  2. Your child may be too young to accept the responsibility of caring for a pet. Any small animal can be mishandled or mistreated by young children who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Many Easter pets could be hurt by accident when they are dropped by excited children or not given proper support when held. Also, keep in mind that a frightened or hurt animal may harm the child as well.
  3. You may not have the time and opportunity to teach your child how to properly handle and care for new pets that are brought into the family unexpectedly.
  4. All animals need a safe environment, and holiday seasons present particular dangers not normally present, such as decorations, candy, and treats that may attract pets but are toxic to them.

Consider Your Lifestyle Carefully When Adopting a Pet

Animals always need love and attention, so they require a commitment from owners for a lifetime of pet health care. Ask yourself the following questions before you adopt:

  1. Can you and your family provide the care needed? Do you have time to housebreak a kitten or a puppy? Do you have a place to house your new pet? Will you be able to feed the new pet on schedule? Does your new pet require exercise and do you have time for that?
  2. Do you have the money for pet food or any other supplies that are needed to care for your pet: a leash, a harness, a cage, bedding, toys, grooming supplies, and other accessories?
  3. Will you be able to pay for veterinary care, which may include spaying or neutering, vaccinations, medications, flea and parasite prevention, and emergency care?
  4. If you buy a pet for your child, are you prepared to take over its care if your child loses interest and neglects the pet?

Animal-Related Easter Gifts Can Be More Welcoming and Exciting 

If you have decided to adopt a new pet and wisely choose not to spring it on to your family at Easter (or any other holiday season), consider animal-related substitute gifts. After deciding on the type of animal that would fit your lifestyle, announce at gift-giving time that the family is going to adopt a pet after the holidays. Present gifts of books and videos on pet care for the particular animal on which you have decided, or gift certificates for pet care items and accessories.

Once the Easter season is over, make sure everyone has had time to become familiar with the specific pet health care, training, and attention that will be needed for the animal you have chosen. It will then be the perfect time to select and adopt your new pet and, soon after, welcome him or her into your home. Enjoy your new family member!

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Guidelines for pet parenting and pet adoption | Hastings Veterinary Clinic

Guidelines for pet parenting and pet adoption

Burnaby Now June 2014 article

With increased travelling, pet lovers are adopting pets from places far away from home. California, Texas, and Mexico seem to be common places pets get adopted from these days. Then of course, there are the pets moving in with their families to beautiful BC from the east. So what does this mean for all the existing and new pet parents? It means a lot. Adopting a pet is a major life decision – you are bringing a new member in to your family, after all.

Pets that may come in from southern USA or Mexico are exposed to potential infections that are unheard of in BC – these include deep fungal infections (which can stay dormant in a pet’s body for years) and heartworm (a parasitic infection of the lungs). Pets previously exposed to harsh weather and a high UV-light index can also be prone to skin problems we are not used to seeing in our pets in BC. Other more uncommon infections may be imported with adopted pets from Asia, South America, or Europe. While few of these diseases have potential to spread to other pets, the pet most at risk would be the one carrying the dormant infection.

Adopted pets have usually had some form of care lacking in their history (as well as an incomplete medical history record). Thus, a non-infectious underlying medical condition can also be a concern in newly adopted adult or geriatric pets. Adult cats that have lived outdoors previously in endemic regions for life-threatening viral illness (feline AIDS and feline leukemia) are best confirmed to be negative for such illness before or soon after adoption.

What can pet parents do? Be thorough. It is important to do your research prior to adopting a pet from a different geographical region, even within Canada. Enquire if the pet has been receiving long-term preventive care based on the surroundings. An example would be ongoing heartworm preventives for a pet living in Ontario or California. Ask if the cat being adopted has been an outdoor pet previously, which would indicate a need for AIDS (different from HIV in people) and leukemia testing, if it hasn’t already been performed. Ask for a copy of previous medical history, if available. Ask if there is a specific medical reason for the pet being on its current diet.

Once you have brought the new family member to your house, prioritize a complete veterinary evaluation with your veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know where the pet has come from. This would help potentially detect underlying medical concerns, as well as give your veterinarian a chance to ensure that the diet and preventive care are in line with the individual pet’s needs. For example, pets adopted from Alberta may not be current on flea prevention, which would be absolutely necessary round the year for a dog or cat with an outdoor lifestyle in the Lower Mainland. While I recommend all pets to have veterinary health insurance, I strongly advice health insurance for newly adopted adult pets, as a veterinary examination at adoption does not preclude the chance of medical bills in the near future.

For pets that are moving with their families, again taking the pet to a veterinarian soon after moving would help ensure that you are following a veterinary health program suitable for the new region you have moved into. Because of all the pets moving in and out of lower mainland with their families or through adoption, it is even more important than before to keep them up to date with vaccination, flea, tick, and deworming programs.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.