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he asks the animals in their cages just before he starts killing them. "I smell death. Do you?" he asks in a sing song voice. He's a man who's happy on the job.  He picks up a dog, a Min Pin perhaps, holds it up by its neck, sticks a needle into its chest. The dog is terrified of course. It screams, writhes in pain, dies.

This is Montreal animal control as provided by Berger Blanc.

Radio Canada (that's the CBC to us in Toronto) aired Enquete's investigative report into the situation behind the closed doors of Canada's largest privately run shelters. You can see it here in it's original French version or here in a highly truncated version edited for CBC's The National. I have to admit I couldn't watch the whole French version. After seeing the semi-paralyzed cat fall to the floor and then try to run for its life from the employee, I had to stop.

And in another segment, from the edited English version, the camera pans across a room of dead and dying dogs laid out on the floor and in the background there is one lone Golden Retriever tied up to a post looking on in terror, waiting to be killed by someone in rubber boots.

update, May 14: Here is the whole Enquete segment hosted on Youtube. Not sure how long this link will work before someone takes it down. Warning: very graphic - I still haven't watched the whole thing.

In my previous blog, at this point, I would have likely gone on about what karmic justice would be sufficient for the people responsible for this barbarism but now I will refrain. There will always be individuals out there who remain unaffected by suffering, other than their own of course, and have no problems committing atrocities for minimum wage or just because they feel like it.

A civilized society, I would hope, tries to minimize the impact from such people upon the rest of us.

So how civilized are we? From factory farms (including puppy mills) to private, for profit pounds, anytime animals are processed for profit there's great risk for abuse and abuse on a sickening scale.

We look at the cruelty inflicted upon these most human trusting of creatures by the staff of Berger Blanc and we are for a few moments pushed ever so slightly into an unknowable horror - I will never forget the look in the eyes of that dog - but it's no surprise to the residents of Montreal who have been fighting that organization for years and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who understands that processing animals for profit means animal abuse for profit.

Why would any businessman worry about animal care when that's just something that's going to eat away his filthy lucre? It's a lot more efficient to collect money from the municipality for euthanizing an animal, done quite cheaply with a jab of poison into the heart, than it is to house it and feed it and put up lost and found notices on some fancy, expensive to maintain website, and then having to deal with the annoying public about their lost pets, never mind putting up the unwanted ones for adoption which might take days or weeks or months before someone takes them home. Even if a business did spend money on providing adequate animal care now, the next time contracts go out to tender, someone else who doesn't mind a bit of animal neglect and is willing to cut costs is going to get the contract because he can do it for less.

If killing dogs is a business then it only makes sense to use the cheapest equipment, the cheapest poisons, and hire the cheapest dog killers you can find. That's how it was in Montreal and that's how it still is. Right now.

If Quebec's animal welfare enforcers had any balls, they'd have raided Berger Blanc but they don't have any balls. If Montreal city council actually cared enough about the animals in that hellhole, they'd have shut the place down but the place is still open for killing.

So why am I going on about what's mostly Montreal's problem? There's not much we can do about it here in Toronto except take in a few of their abandoned animals every now and then. Well, maybe I'm paranoid, but my concern is that Montreal's problem could too soon be Toronto's problem. I'm worried that what we are seeing in Montreal is going to be the future of Toronto animal control. Our present mayor and much of city council are committed to cutting city services (they've already started at TAS) and a large part of their plan is to privatize whatever they can get away with.

Privatizing garbage pick-up is one thing but privatizing suffering is something else altogether.

Toronto Animal Services has its faults and its detractors but one thing not up for debate is that because it is a publicly run department, it's transparent. Under freedom of information, all records pertaining to TAS operations can be obtained. All animal stats, all financial information, all staffing information. If you don't like what's going at Toronto Animal Services, at least you can find out what's happening there and maybe do something about it.

Try doing that with a privately held firm. Unless there's an undercover reporter around, who will ever know what really goes on behind the Keep Out sign. There won't be any witnesses because animals don't talk.

The only thing that would hold back council from putting animal control out for tender is if they support animal welfare. That's it. There's nothing else. There's no law that says animal control has to be a publicly run department. Imagine how much cheaper it would be to rent out some warehouse space, stack a few rooms with wire mesh crates and staff it with cruelty for kicks needle jabbers and a couple of animal hating dogcatchers in vans. And you know there are a lot of people out there who would love to see this type of low maintenance, high abuse set-up if it means they can save a few bucks on their taxes. The question is how many of those people are on our city council.

Montreal has for years now blindly allowed the torture and killing of tens of thousands of dogs and cats because they use private animal control firms. We must remain vigilant in Toronto that city sanctioned abuse on that scale never happens here.

Additional commentary, in French, on the CBC Berger Blanc news report, including from Johanne Tasse of CAACQ here.

The truth about Berger Blanc facebook page is here.

CTV report on Berger Blanc here.

Firsthand accounts of the Berger Blanc "customer" experience here.

Montreal SPCA reaction to Berger Blanc and why for profit pounds don't work for the animals here.

20 Comments to “"Can you feel death in the air?"”

  1. elle says:

    Thank you for making this post, I can't believe this is a reality; it is utterly disgusting. The response from the City of Montreal is not acceptable - what is happening at Berger Blanc is heinous and inhumane and increasing the number of inspections won't do anything when you've got employees who obviously take joy out of killing the animals. All they will do is learn how to hide it better next time. I've linked to this post at my blog to raise awareness about the issue and appreciate your updates on the issue.

  2. selkiem says:

    I couldn't watch this show, I couldn't - just reading this makes me sick to the soul. But I am so not surprised. Quebec is Canada's puppy mill mecca after all. My sister used to live around Ste Hyacinthe and she and friends would spend their weekends tramping through the woods.... and rescuing when they could dogs that no longer were "profitable" - studs that were played out, bitches that could no longer carry litters- tied to trees and left to die. Do you think anything will come of the publicity about these atrocities? I don't think so.

  3. Deva says:

    I hope the protests will continue. Kudos to Radio Canada for putting this on prime time.

  4. C's Mom says:

    Fred, I can't bring myself to watch the video. Reading your post had me in tears already. When you wrote about the golden retriever watching all this, waiting for his turn to die I really lost it because I've got a GR. Why does the human race have to be so cruel! This has to stop, not only in Montreal but everywhere.

  5. siouxee says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am mortified, and in shock and horror, as I watched this video and sit here pondering why there's such sadistic people working at a SHELTER. My heart will never cease to ache over situations like this. When will the rest start to be human? And humane? Will my tears ever stop? Will my efforts ever be sufficient? Why is it only a small group of us that fight against this? I want answers... This is disturbing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This Berger Blanc must be stopped and all contracts cancelled and everybody prosecuted. I think their punishment should be the same as what they did to the animals so they will know how it feels. Montreal should step up and show the world that we will not tolerate anymore animal abuse. Quebec should do the same and show that we are truly caring people that care about animals. Some nation has to be the first why not Canada?????

  7. Deva says:

    Actually, as noted in previous posts here, Canada's cruelty laws already lag far behind those of many other nations. Germany was the first to adopt an animal rights law (

    There are numerous petitions asking for the closing of Berger Blanc. Not sure how effective those will be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    While Montreal is not perfect, MANY of us protested in the streets last weekend in an effort to get Berger Blanc closed down. Those of us who care for animal rights have been trying for years to have this place shut down and exposed for the house of horrors it really is, but I find it hypocritical for certain people in Ontario to pass judgement on Quebec. Ontario is the ONLY province in Canada to enforce inhumane laws resulting in the canine genocide of several breeds. Fight to have your own BSL laws repealed and THEN you may pass judgement on Quebec! We don't kill friendly dogs here simply because of the way they look or that they may "resemble" another breed.

  9. Fred says:

    Anonymous at 4:31 pm, stop being so defensive and politicizing the issue. Animal abuse is animal abuse whether it happens in Ontario with its stupid, ineffective anti-Pitbull laws or in B.C. with their Husky culls or in Quebec with its puppy mills and private pounds. Everyone here is appalled by the abuse of our trusting canines where ever it occurs and if you've read through the rest of the site and comments, you'd realize that.

    The rally in Montreal was very well attended especially on such short notice and may you have the best of luck in shutting down Berger Blanc. Don't take that as an affront to your province. It's in support of your cause.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It would be amazing if you guys could sign the petitions to help us close the Berger Blanc. I am from Montreal and it is right to say that we knew something was going on there but no one knew what. Thanks to Radio-Canada, they did a good job at showing everybody what has been happening there for years. Something has to be done and we need everyone's support. Please, please, please, take a minute to sign the petition, to email Gerald Tremblay (Maire de Mtl) or do whatever you think could chage things. We desperately need your help to reach our goal, close this awful place. I am totally ashame to be from Montreal, Qc right now.

    Thanks! (Please disregard my mistakes, english is not my first language)

  11. mel says:


    Quebec may not kill friendly dogs because of the way they look, but the province certainly allows the torture and abuse of thousands of other dogs. I'm not sure which is worse. Regardless - BSL is a ridiculous law. Bash Ontario all you want - I'm not going to get defensive about it, as I am not my province.

    I'm not sure why you're being defensive - no one is attacking you, or the people who are fighting for this amazing cause - they are upset with the Government for allowing these atrocities to continue, all for money. Surely this upsets you as well.

  12. Fred says:

    Anonymous at 9:45, thanks for the excellent suggestion. Here is the petition url:

  13. Penelope says:

    Hi Fred,
    It looks like that petition can only be signed by Montreal residents. Do you know of other steps one could take?

    BTW, in reference to TAS suffering from budget cuts, not to start anything but Toronto is such a very wealthy city - tons of money here. It infuriates me what it doesn't get spent on.

  14. Fred says:

    Hi Penelope, there's not much we can do other than spread the news and help out with the dogs. It's their city council. Let's just hope Toronto AC doesn't get privatized and descend to that level.

  15. Deva says:

    I have signed the petition and I am not in Montreal. I have seen signatures, from Barrie, Calgary and Paris, France on it. I think anyone can sign, although I think the municipality is likely to be more taken with Montreal citizens who are commenting on how their money is spent.

  16. penelope says:

    Thanks, Fred and Deva. I try to remember that hope floats!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting about this, even though you are not in Montreal. And thanks to other commentators who have signed the petition. Please know that just by posting about this, you are raising awareness. However, putting outside pressure on the Montreal municipal government, and the provincial government, is also effective and very much wanted by us, here in Montreal and in Quebec. Please check out various websites and Facebook pages, including "The Truth about the Berger Blanc" or The Montreal Dog Blog, or the SPCA, etc., to find out how to sign a petition or keep abreast of all the news. We need to shame those who believe that for-profit services are more effective and acceptable. We need your help to change popular attitudes and beliefs about companion animals. My wish is that other Canadians will also start writing letters and supporting people on the front lines, here in Quebec who are trying to tighten up lax laws. Merci en avance. Thank you.

  18. Niomi says:

    Just looking at the picture got me horrified. And reading got my crying. It took me countless tries to actually finish the video. I hope they're shut down and taken to court for their crimes. And for the numerous animals mercilessly killed and dumped into, well, dumps- R.I.P. There's people fighting for you. I know it happens everywhere, but this is by far one of the worst cases I've seen in cruelty. To be betrayed by whom you thought you could trust in handling your animals is a hurting situation.

  19. Anonymous says:

    More news in this clip about the horrible abandonment crisis each year in Montreal, conditions which lead precisely to sloppy for-profit municipal pound services:

    Please pass on to your contacts. I am a Montrealer through and through but we must work hard to change the despicable societal/cultural attitudes toward companion animals in this province.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I am sick to my stomach Make this madness stop!!! PLEASE!

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.