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Puppy and kitten mills

Region: Ontario Answer # 4047

What are puppy and kitten mills?

Puppy and kitten mills are commercial farming operations where puppies and kittens are bred in large numbers and usually sold to pet stores or to individual pet owners. While the majority of animals bred this way are puppies, kitten mills are becoming more popular. The goal of operators is to maximize profits and minimize costs. Animals are bred until they can no longer reproduce. According to the Society for the Protection of Animals Canada (SPA), female canines are expected to have 2 litters per year which is an accelerated rate of reproduction and very physically demanding on the animal.

It is estimated that there are well over 2,000 puppy mills in Canada, the majority of them located in Ontario and Quebec.

What is the difference between a puppy or kitten mill and an animal breeder?

An animal breeder is someone who breeds animals with carefully selected mates, normally of the same breed, to reproduce babies with specific qualities and characteristics. Responsible and legitimate breeders provide a high standard of care for their animals. Puppy and kitten mills are facilities that breed animals strictly for profit, with a disregard for any standard of care and the goal of selling as many animals as possible.

What are the typical conditions in puppy and kitten mills?

Animals in puppy and kitten mills are often kept in inhumane conditions without environmental enrichment.

The animals are usually kept in tight conditions for very long periods with very little room to move freely. Dogs tend to be tied up. In addition, they may be inadequately protected from extreme weather conditions, suffer from malnourishment due to a lack of quality of food and adequate water, and may not receive proper veterinary care.  In these unsanitary conditions, they are likely to develop infections and diseases and develop behavioural problems.

Where do the animals come from?

Thousands of puppies are imported into Canada each year. After arriving in Canada, they are sold online, usually for between $3000 and $6,000, or 10 to 20 times the amount paid to purchase them. These animals are often sold to puppy mills.

The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible under the Health of Animals Act for regulating animal and human health in Canada. Those who are engaged in importing, exporting, and selling animals must comply with the requirements in the Act and its Regulations. Specifically, the transportation and handling of animals, including those being sold and/or for the purpose of breeding, must follow certain standards laid out in the Regulations.

Is a licence required to operate a puppy or kitten mill?

In Canada, there are no laws specifically regulating the operation of puppy and kitten mills. However, provincial laws and municipal bylaws often require operators to acquire permits for breeding animals for sale or for operating kennels.. These laws usually address the number of animals that may be kept at a time. Provincial and federal animal welfare and animal cruelty legislation address concerns regarding the conditions and care of animals that may extend to puppy and kitten mills.

Provincial law

In Ontario, the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act (PAWS Act) provides that anyone that has custody of an animal must comply with the standards of care as prescribed by the regulations. The regulations provide the basic standards of care for all animals which include:

  • Ensuring the availability of adequate food and water
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate and appropriate medical attention
  • Ensuring safe transportation that maintains physical safety and general welfare
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate resting and sleeping areas
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate and appropriate space to move and exercise, sanitary conditions, lighting, and protection from the elements
  • Ensuring that enclosed structures or pens are non-toxic and safe.

In addition, section 15 provides that no one shall:

  • Cause an animal to be in distress
  • Permit an animal to be in distress
  • Knowingly or recklessly cause an animal to be exposed to an undue risk of distress

Penalties for contravening the Act include:

  • For an individual, on a first-time offence, a fine of up to $75,000 or a term of imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. On a second or subsequent offence, a fine of up to $100,000 or a term of imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.
  • For a corporation, on a first-time offence, a fine of up to $100,000. On a second or subsequence offence, a fine of up to $250,000.

View the Act for more information regarding offences and penalties.

What can be done if it is believed unsafe conditions exist?

Under PAWS, in certain circumstances, an animal welfare inspector may enter and inspect any place for the purpose of determining compliance with standards of care or if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an animal is in distress. Under section 30(1) of the Act, the inspector may

order the owner or custodian to take such action as may, in the opinion of the inspector, be necessary to relieve the animal of its distress, which may include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, having the animal examined and treated by a veterinarian at the expense of the owner or custodian.”

Municipal laws

In Ontario, the City of Toronto includes bylaws which directly target the concerns raised by puppy and kitten mills. For instance, under Chapter 349 of the Toronto Municipal Code there is a restriction on the number of dogs and cats that an individual may keep within their dwelling unit within the city. Specifically, no person shall keep more than three dogs and no more than six cats within their dwelling unit. For further clarification, the bylaw defines a dwelling unit to be “one room or a group of rooms, occupied or capable of being occupied as the home or residence of one or more persons, and containing only one kitchen or other facility for the preparation of meals.” However, this provision does not apply to service dogs required by persons with a disability.

This bylaw also establishes the responsibilities of an owner to care for animals within their custody, including:

  • Providing food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal growth or maintenance of body weight,
  • Providing open or adequate access to potable water,
  • Providing access to an enclosed structure sufficient to protect the animal from wind, rain, snow and sun, and
  • Providing veterinary care

If found guilty of contravening any provision under Chapter 349 of the Animals By-law, there may be a penalty upon conviction of a fine of not more than $100,000.

Criminal Code of Canada

The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal, with a maximum imprisonment of 5 years or a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months. It is also an offence for an owner or custodian of an animal to fail to provide suitable and adequate care, subject to imprisonment for up to 2 years or a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. View topic 4000 Criminal Code of Canada for more information.

More info

For more information, view topic 4045 Breeding and selling animals, or contact your provincial or municipal government or local animal welfare organization.


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