527 dogs were rescued from a puppy mill outside Quebec in what appears to be the largest animal cruelty case in the province’s history. Quebec is known as the puppy mill capital of North America.
Dogs from 30 different breeds that ranged in age from puppies to adults were found Friday at a large-scale commercial breeding facility in a rural part of Montreal. They were reported to be living in unsanitary conditions without sufficient food and water. Many of the dogs suffered from skin and respiratory problems.
A routine inspection of the facility during the day on Friday led officials from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food back to the puppy mill that evening to seize the animals. Workers from Humane Society International Canada accompanied them.
It took until late Saturday night for workers to transport all of the dogs to an emergency shelter set up outside Montreal.
Guy Auclair, a spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said the scale of the seizure is “without precedent in Quebec.”
Rebecca Aldworth, executive director for the Humane Society said, “It was quite the logistical effort. We’re used to transporting animals in emergency situations but this was a very intensive, long operation.”
Lauren Scott, also with the organization said, “I personally can say that I found it heartbreaking to see what these dogs have endured.”
Volunteers with RedRover Responders and ANIMA-Quebec will provide round-the-clock care for the dogs while they are evaluated by veterinarians and the court decides if they will be adopted or returned to the owner of the puppy mill.
Owner Refutes Abuse Claims
Charlene Labombard who operates Paws “R” Us defended her breeding facility. She told the Montreal Gazette that her family started breeding dogs 20 years ago.
She accused inspectors of seizing the dogs because of “cobwebs on the ceiling” and because the “floors weren’t tiled.” She also blamed the dogs’ genes for some of the defects found on them.
On Sunday, Labombard told the Toronto Sun the raid had been a “setup.” “She believes a disgruntled former client and the animal rights community are behind the raid.”
The client admitted she gave information to officials after several of the dogs she purchased became sick and died. The two parties have been in a legal battle for the past 3 years.
Photo from jwbonez via flickr
The raid took place as Quebec prepares to release updated Animal Welfare Regulations for puppy and kitten mills. There are an estimated 800 unregulated breeding facilities in Montreal. A series of disturbing abuse cases earlier this year gave Quebec the title of “the best province to be an animal abuser” from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The new Animal Welfare Regulations are straightforward and set minimum standards for cleanliness, euthanasia and abandoning animals.
They also call for the animals to have access to food and water, proper cages and sufficient exercise. An increase in fines and possible jail time is included for those found guilty of animal cruelty.