How much is that doggy in the window?

If an Ottawa advocacy group has its way, it could be worth a hefty fine.

Puppymill Awareness Working Solutions (PAWS) has been lobbying Ottawa City Hall to adopt a bylaw banning the for-profit sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits at local pet stores.

It means they would no longer be able to sell pets acquired from breeders.

“Reputable, ethical breeders don’t sell their puppies through pet stores,” says PAWS spokesperson Eileen Woodside. “We would like those pet stores to embrace a more ethical, responsible approach to their business model whereby they will collaborate with local animal rescue groups and shelter groups to help re-home the countless animals that are already in our system."

The idea is to give puppy mills and disreputable breeders one less avenue to sell their animals. Woodside says similar bans are in place in other cities and have made an impact on adoption rates.

But critics of the ban argue it only punishes legitimate businesses. Bad breeders will still thrive on the internet, and might even benefit from the ban.

“I think that we would probably have to close our doors,” says Lori Dalton, Manager of Little Critters at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre.

Dalton has been with the store for 30 years. She says they rely on a small number of local, reputable breeders. And their pets are one of the few things that separate them from the big box pet stores.

“We are here and we're accountable to the public. People can see what's in our windows. They can see the health of them,” says Dalton. “That's not the case with backyard breeders and puppy mills.”

Ottawa Councillor Mark Taylor says there are only 3 Ottawa pet stores that still rely on breeders. And he admits they are doing a good job according to Bylaw Services. Nevertheless, he is in favour of a ban. “This doesn't solve the problem about these animals being bred by unscrupulous breeders. What it does do though is it takes away a retail point of sale for them," he says. 

Taylor suggests that the existing stores could perhaps be grandfathered into any new bylaw.

It’s a bone the city intends to chew on in the coming months. Following public consultations in February, the issue will go before the Community and Protective Services Committee March 21st.