(This post last updated Sept. 19, 11:37 p.m. Newer updates here. Nov.24 court decision against Paws R Us post here.)
If you want to help the Paws R Us dogs, Humane Society International has set up a website here.
They are still involved in a lawsuit against one of their former customers, Lorie Gordon, after she went on-line and called them a puppy mill but to many people it comes as no surprise that Paws R Us, proudly self-proclaimed to be Canada's largest commercial dog breeder, was raided yesterday by ANIMA-Quebec and Humane Society International Canada.
The Ottawa Citizen reports there were four hundred dogs found at Paws R Us though reports from other individuals involved in the raid have indicated there may have been as many as eight hundred dogs. Either number is believable given that witnesses in previous trials involving Paws R Us have testified to there being as many as 80 different breeds of dogs at the facility.
From 2009 trial testimony:
Defendant’s witness Daniel Davenport testified that he carries officer-of-the-peace status in Quebec. He is an investigating officer of the Montreal SPCA and has been for twenty years. He testified that he visited the facilities of Paws-R-Us five times until he was refused entry in February 2005. He explained that in Quebec there are several organizations that govern the breeding of dogs. He testified that during his inspections of Paws-R-Us, he did note a number of health concerns, such as open sores on the dogs, extremely dirty kennel areas, and over-crowding. He testified that with each visit he would examine paper records and from the documents could say that there was 80-85 different breeds of adult dogs. When asked about the number of puppies, Mr. Davenport testified that from May 1999 to March 2000 he received reports from the attending veterinarian of vaccinations of 412 five-week old puppies that were followed until they were 12 weeks old. He also testified that on one day in April 2000 the attending veterinarian reported vaccinating 312 puppies 6-weeks of age or older. Mr. Davenport never testified that he counted all of the dogs in all of the buildings at Paws-R-Us. He did state that at the times that he inspected the operation, there were many dogs and they were kept in sub-standard conditions. When asked if they were a puppy mill, he responded that in his professional opinion Paws-R-Us was a puppy mill at the times that he did his inspections. He further testified that just because he believed that they were a puppy mill, in Quebec that is not enough to file charges. He explained that in Quebec the test that they must meet is found in the Criminal Code of Canada and the dogs must be abused to the point of life-threatening conditions. Mr. Davenport was asked to confirm that he believed that Paws-R-Us was a puppy mill and he confirmed in examination and in cross-examination that Paws-R-Us was a puppy mill.
In that trial, despite all the evidence confirming the obvious, the presiding judge somehow still found it necessary to declare Gordon guilty of defamation and awarded $14000 to Paws R Us. Gordon has since been involved in a lengthy appeal process against Paws R Us at a not insignificant personal cost.
If nothing else, Paws R Us was brazen in peddling their wares and never saw anything wrong with what they were doing. Here's a comment I received from one of their "supporters" after a blog post concerning their business:
It is people like you that dont take anything you read online with a grain of salt that cause most of our worlds problems. A judge is a judge for a reason, if after looking at all of the information on both sides that was his ruling then he was probably right. Just because someone has a certain number of dogs does not mean it is a puppy mill. It is the conditions and treatment of the animals that define a puppy mill, so as long as they treat their dogs well and keep them in good health why should someone that cannot afford $800-$1000 for a puppy be able to have the right dog for them at a better price?
Oh I see. Paws R Us was breeding puppies in the hundreds because they were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts for the benefit of poor people.
I suppose it's minutely debatable whether or not a handful of employees could possibly "treat their dogs well" when there are four hundred or more dogs to look after but, regardless, a judge somewhere disagreed with the "in good health" part, at least disagreed enough to allow Friday's search and seizure.
According to the Labombards, the inspectors told them they were seizing the dogs because of cobwebs on the ceiling, because the floors weren’t tiled and the kennel didn’t have proper ventilation.
Really? That's it? A judge would do that? I somehow doubt it especially in Quebec where running a puppy mill is really no problem and the law only gets involved when "the test that they must meet is found in the Criminal Code of Canada and the dogs must be abused to the point of life-threatening conditions". Call me biased but I'm going to guess that whoever issued the search and seizure warrant was shown enough evidence to sway him or her to think that "the dogs must be abused to the point of life-threatening conditions".
Maybe we'll find out how strong the evidence against Paws R Us is this time if HSI-Canada releases video footage of the raid.
From The Citizen: “I’m losing my livelihood and I’m very upset,” Labombard said, trying to hold back tears. “It just breaks my heart.”
But that's hardly recompense for the tears you've caused.
Update Sept.17, 12:46 p.m.: Turns out it was Humane Society International who was involved with the raid, not HSUS. There was also assistance from the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, Red Rover, and the Ottawa Humane Society.
The HSI-Canada website has more details on the raid. From their site:
Humane Society International/Canada, in partnership with the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec and local law enforcement, rescued more than 400 dogs and puppies from a large-scale commercial breeding facility in Outaouais, Québec. The animals were seized and removed after multiple investigations indicated dogs were not receiving proper care.
“By far, this was the largest commercial breeding facility, involving some of the most inhumane conditions, that our Animal Rescue Team has ever encountered in Canada,” said Lauren Scott, campaigner for Humane Society International/Canada. “Hundreds of dogs were denied their most basic needs and proper care and lacked adequate socialization.”
The seizure followed an inspection by authorities in which numerous infractions were observed in regards to the security, and welfare of the animals.
Update Sept.17, 5:58 p.m.: Now the number of seized dogs, according to the Canadian Press is over 500, making it the largest puppy mill seizure ever in Canada. Many of the dogs were reported to be suffering from skin and respiratory problems.
And look at this: "The investigation is ongoing and charges could be laid against the operators of the puppy mill, Auclair said. A puppy mill! Someone forgot to tell him that Paws R Us is not a puppy mill. It's a commercial dog breeder. But what was it the Bard said? A puppy mill by any other name would reek as foul.
A lot of people are wondering why Paws R Us had been able to stay in business for so long given their notorious reputation. But, as others who have tried taking them to task in the past, the burden of proof was difficult to obtain. From one of the people involved in gathering evidence to obtain a warrant for yesterday's seizure:
They needed MANY more dogs out to prove it. And they had to be of various breeds and ages. And it had to be done in a certain way otherwise it left loopholes for them to slide thru. The dogs had to go straight to a vet from the mill. Otherwise they could have said that any of the issues with the dogs were the owner's fault. As Lorie knows even [epileptic] seizures could be explained away as the new owner's fault for hitting them on the head. So they had to go straight to a reputable vet "as is" to be seen and documented. So no baths prior, no feeding prior, no stops in anyone's home prior.
Also, from the Canadian Press article: [Quebec] has long been considered the puppy mill capital of North America, with an estimated 800 unregulated breeding operations in Montreal alone. Quebec was named "the best province to be an animal abuser" in the 2011 annual report prepared by the U.S.-based Animal Legal Defence Fund.
Between cleaning up the atrocious Berger Blanc animal killing mess in Montreal and yesterday's Paws R Us bust, maybe Quebec is on its way to ridding itself of that ignoble moniker.
CTV has some video.
Update Sept.18, 12:45 a.m.: A rescue shelter worker posts on Montreal Dog Blog about the seizure operation at Paws R Us.
I held my breath all week knowing something was brewing but not being told where until the very last minute.
You should know this happens a lot. Mill owners get a warning to clean up and if they pass inspection … basic food, water and shelter , raids are called off. Of course after the authorities leave the premises the misery returns.
Perhaps the authorities will pursue this as a criminal case after all.
Photos from the seizure, care of Toronto Star.
Update Sept.18, 4:03 p.m.: Video, care of Humane Society International Canada, of some of the seized dogs at their temporary shelter.
Update Sept.18, 9:51 p.m.: The Labombards, like any good corporation, are starting to fight back against the tarnishing of their brand name. In this Sun article/video, the owner of Paws R Us claims her family is a victim of a "setup" and she thinks a former customer, Lorie Gordon, is behind the whole thing.
The Labombards and Gordon may not be on speaking terms, especially since the former is suing the latter for defamation, but I'm thinking the chances of Gordon being the main reason for the seizure is about as likely as the chair I'm sitting on being the incarnation of Elvis Presley. But what do I know?
Update Sept.18, 10:56 p.m.: From Montreal Dog Blog.
I really wasn’t angry until then. I was too busy caring for dogs. The ones the person on the TV claimed to care about.
The ones who are covered in sores, making their skin raw and swollen. The golden retriever who cannot lift her head to look me in the eye in fear of what she might see. The cocker spaniel with green mucus flowing out of his eyes, the tiny pom on IV fluids fighting to breath.
I held her dogs today. The whippet that cried in the crook of my arms and didn’t want to let go, the bichon who was covered in his feces, the little yorkie with the bad limp.
I cried with her dogs today. The bernese whose babies were stillborn, the schnauzer with the dead eyes who was brave enough to come to the front of her crate, the small Australian shepherd mom and pup who I put next to a sunny window as they watched the goings on outside with disbelief. It’s my understanding this morning is the first time they saw daylight.
And from the Humane Society International Canada Facebook page, photos from the seizure:
Update Sept.19, 2:00 p.m.: From Ottawa Sun,
Ottawa resident Julian, 24, went to Paws “R” Us in February 2010 and saw an eight-month-old wire hair fox terrier named Joey.
The breeder immediately showed him Joey’s hairless, pink legs.
“She said it was because of allergies. There were a few scars and marks,” Julian said Sunday.
In hindsight, he said, he should have seen red flags, but since it was his first pet, he was overly excited.
He paid $350 and renamed the pup Apollo.
The same day the puppy came home, “I had dropped the garbage bin on the floor in my kitchen. Apollo bolted out of the kitchen and hid behind my couch, shaking uncontrollably for nearly 20 minutes,” he said, adding Apollo’s overall behaviour was bizarre.
“He was very different from other dogs. He wasn’t socialized, he didn’t bark. I couldn’t bring him anywhere. He would lose his mind.”
Update Sept.19, 11:37 p.m.: Adoptions of Paws R Us dogs could begin as early as next week.
Quebec Agriculture Minister, Pierre Corbeil, says charges will be laid against Paws R Us within 90 days.
More at CTV.
Video from Humane Society International on the seizure:
Updates continued here (sorry, this post is getting too long).