More than 500 rescued dogs find refuge in Lachute
The piteous wail of hundreds of barking and crying dogs drowned out the noise of passing cars on Wednesday, September 21, as representatives from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture and various animal-rights organizations gathered at a formerly vacant Ministry of Transport garage in Lachute.
The parties were there to discuss the seizure of more than 500 dogs, followed what is considered to be the largest puppy-mill bust in Canadian history.
According to representatives from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ), the dogs were living in bad and dirty conditions, in which they did not have sufficient quantity or quality of water and in which sick animals failed to receive adequate treatment.
The dogs were seized on September 16 from a dog-breeding facility being operated just outside Shawville, Quebec, about 80 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. Following a visit by provincial agriculture inspectors, trucks were called to the site and the dog cages were loaded. They were delivered to an emergency shelter that had been prepared in Lachute.
During an exclusive interview with CBC News, Paws R US kennel operator Charlene Labombard defended her facility and alleged that she had been set up by inspectors. She also claimed that animal-rights activists were lying, despite reports that dog bones and remains were recovered at the facility. Others dogs were reportedly suffering from skin and respiratory problems that required immediate veterinary care.
According to Aldworth, this is not the first time that this facility has been investigated, nor is it rare for an installation of this type to be located in close proximity to the Ontario border. She explained that the passing of stricter animal-rights legislation and heavy fines in Ontario led to the subsequent closure of many Ontario puppy mills, which soon relocated to bordering towns in Quebec.
"Many dogs were kept in one cage and the more dominant dogs were eating more than the littler or more submissive ones, who were starving," said Nathalie Hebért, a representative for the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec.
According to Aldworth, the rescue facility in Lachute was chosen because the vacant government buildings suited their needs and the location was halfway between the puppy mill and access to animal-relief workers. Many workers will be commuting from Montreal and the surrounding area to care for the dogs.
Several organizations have lent their assistance to the shelter, which has a daily operating cost of about $6,000 per day. Donations of money, dog food, canned puppy food, toys and blankets are desperately being sought, as are volunteers - particularly those with medical or veterinary experience.
More than 40 volunteers from the California-based Red Rover Organization crossed the border and relocated to Lachute at their own expense to assist with the rescue and care for the battered animals.
Lachute city council voted to approve the emergency shelter prior to the arrival of the dogs, which are expected to remain at the shelter for at least three to six weeks. In the meantime, a court decision is expected in which a judge will decide whether or not to sever the kennel owner's right to own these dogs.
Until such a time as ownership is determined, volunteers will continue to feed, clean and look after the dogs and to care for the 90 puppies that have already been born and the 30 other litters of puppies that are expected to be born over the next few days.
More than 30 different breeds of dogs are living in the shelter and most appear to resemble pure-bred dogs of every type and size, from tiny Pomeranians to giant Great Danes.
"A facility like this has so many breeds of dogs that you can barely keep count of them. Some of the dogs were so clearly terrified and most had never been outside before. It's going to be a longer road for some to recover, but there's hope on the horizon for all of them," said Aldworth.
Foster families will be needed to care for the pregnant mothers and their puppies and people who are interested in assuming this responsibility or making donations should contact HSI representative Lauren Scott via email at email@example.com.
If a judge does choose to transfer ownership of these dogs to the province, then the hundreds of dogs and puppies will be prepared for adoption and will be distributed to shelters and animal welfare groups across Canada.
Charges are expected to be laid against the kennel operators in the next 90 days. In Quebec, animal abuse is not a criminal offense, which limits penalties to nominal fines.
This legislation is currently being amended to introduce stricter regulations and higher fines.
"The Review apologizes for an earlier post in which Rebecca Aldworth was quoted as saying that "There was not sufficient quality or quantity of food or water. They were living in bad and dirty conditions and sick animals weren't being treated." This quote should have been attributed to representatives from MAPAQ.