Minto declines to review bylaw governing kennels despite concerns from residents

MINTO – Council here has declined to review the town’s bylaw regulating kennels after discussing concerns expressed by local residents.

Six letters from local residents troubled about the number of licensed kennels, number of dogs per kennel and conditions in which the dogs are housed were on the agenda at council’s July 14 meeting.

“We are quickly becoming one of the known puppy mill capitals,” stated Minto resident Darlene Eschlboeck.

“You may not be aware that most of kennels in the [town] are selling their puppies through puppy brokers, with the public having no means of tracking where the puppy came from. A lot of them are ending up in the city shelters, pounds and rescues.”

None of the letters named specific local kennels as violators, but several referenced news of a plane from the Ukraine landed at the Toronto Airport in June carrying over 500 dogs, many of whom were in poor health while others had died enroute, in an incident of apparent “dog trafficking.”

Councillor Mark MacKenzie suggested council consider revising its bylaw.

“I’m sure that if we’ve had a lot of violations, or any, that (bylaw officer Cam Forbes) would have dealt with them. I haven’t heard of any, but just from these letters…” said MacKenzie.

“Our bylaw is a good bylaw, but public input here is now asking us to tighten it up a bit because of the dog trafficking.”

MacKenzie added, “We need to set a number of kennels that we want to see in the Town of Minto. Right now there’s one for every six square miles, that’s what it works out to and we’ve got three more applications on the go.

“I think we need to do something and reduce the number of dogs also allowed in a kennel … it’s becoming a big issue in the province and we certainly don’t want this label which is out there in some cases that Minto is a puppy mill capital.”

Mayor George Bridge noted that changing the bylaw with pending applications could cause those applicants to lose part or all of the roughly $9,000 in fees they are charged by the county and the town for zoning amendments to allow kennels on their property.

Bridge noted one of the letter writers cited an incident from 13 years ago, before the Town of Minto existed. The current bylaw was updated in April of 2019.

Bridge also questioned allegations that “puppy mills” were being run by any of the town’s registered kennel operators.

“I think we’ve been mislabelled here a bit,” the mayor stated.

Chief building official Terry Kuipers noted the town requires kennel owners to keep track of litter size for each female and “where all the puppies are being sold to.”

Vaccination and rabies shot records are also required.

“We’ve never had a problem with any of our kennel owners producing that information,” Kuipers stated.

He also pointed out the town has only received three complaints over the 17 years he has been on staff.

Of those, he said, two were unfounded and another turned out to be “an illegal kennel operation that got shut down.

“So I wouldn’t say we’ve got major issues as indicated in the letters,” Kuipers stated.

Councillor Jean Anderson asked if the town had records of how many dogs are in the town’s kennels.

Kuipers replied that town staff review the information on site but don’t keep copies due to “privacy issues.”

“There is quite a difference between a puppy mill and a kennel and I think we need to differentiate that,” said deputy mayor Dave Turton.

“We have a lot of kennels that are abiding by the rules. Our issues are with people that aren’t registered. So if we put a cap on the number of kennels, that’s not going to do anything for us.”

Councillor Judy Dirsken said she had recently spoken with a kennel owner who had switched from selling dogs at the farm gate to selling them through a broker.

From what he told me about the people who buy his dogs, I have absolutely no problem with it,” said Dirksen, adding the brokers seem like “caring people.”

CAO Derek Thomson stated, “We take allegations of animal cruelty very seriously and we will go out and investigate and we will bring experts with us to do those investigations …

“If people have concerns about abuse of an animal, we will go out and we will investigate.”

Councillor Ron Elliott said he would feel more comfortable with the process if staff conducted unscheduled inspections.

“It doesn’t give them the opportunity to clean up or make things better,” said Elliott.

While the town’s bylaw does allow for random inspections, Kuipers said staff can encounter difficulties with access due to biosecurity issues as some kennels are located on farms.

“I feel comfortable that our staff are on top of this,” said Bridge.

The mayor added he is “a little worried” about limiting the number of kennels because it could lead to more unregistered dog breeding operations, which the town would not be able to track.

MacKenzie replied, “The more kennels we have the more of those dogs that go through the brokers.

“I think there are enough dog kennels in Minto at the present time.”

MacKenzie moved a resolution to reconsider the town’s dog licensing bylaw.

The motion was defeated with MacKenzie, Elliott and Anderson in favour, and Bridge, Turton, Dirksen and councillor Geoff Gunson opposed.