Who can, or will, enforce new Quebec humane legislation?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:
MONTREAL–Once a six-year-old pianist at
the Toronto Conservatory of Music, 30-year
broadcast journalist and 20-year CFCF news anchor
Mutsumi Takahashi on her web site says she plays
piano to her dogs to help maintain her on-air
Serene as she seems, Takahashi makes no
secret of caring about animals, and of being
frustrated at perennially ineffective Quebec
humane law enforcement
On the evenings of August 27-29, 2006
Takahashi introduced Puppies for Profit, a
three-part series by CFCF reporter Annie DeMelt
that exposed the recent rapid growth of the
Quebec puppy mill industry.
“Why is Quebec the puppy mill capital of
Canada?” Takahashi asked Anima Quebec executive
Joan Clark, Montreal SPCA executive director
Pierre Barnoti, and Pet Industry Joint Advisory
Council/Canada executive director Louis McCann.
Their discussion flushed into the open a
running dispute over just who can, or should,
enforce Quebec humane laws–but brought it no
closer to resolution.
Founded in 1869, the Montreal SPCA
historically claimed the mandate but lacked the
budget, the inspectors, and the prosecutors to
reach often or far beyond the Montreal suburbs.
Regional humane societies that tried to
bring prosecutions in the mid-1990s complained of
Montreal SPCA interference, as Barnoti
economically strengthened the organization and
sought to consolidate authority.
Commercial dog breeders exploited the conflict.
The Quebec government eventually became
convinced of the need to establish an independent
province-wide animal law enforcement authority.
This might have paralleled the
establishment of the provincial wildlife law
enforcement agency some 30 years earlier, in
place of wardens hired by local consortiums of
landowners organized under hunting club
umbrellas. But existing agencies were not eager
to take on humane law enforcement. Animal
advocates were reluctant to see the job entrusted
to the provincial agriculture department. And
the Quebec National Assembly hesitated to fund a
new agency that many members felt could be funded
Creating Anima Quebec under agriculture
department auspices was the resulting compromise.
Like the Montreal SPCA and regional humane
societies, Anima Quebec is a nonprofit
corporation–but structured to include board
representatives from the pet trade. Anima Quebec
received a provincial subsidy of about $150,000
Canadian for each of its first three years, but
is expected to raise additional funds. It
employs four inspectors.
But the Montreal SPCA, with rapidly
rising revenues under Barnoti’s tenure, now has
an annual budget of over $9 million, already has
nine inspectors, Barnoti told the CFCF audience,
and has offered to train 25 more to cover all of
More still are needed, Barnoti
emphasized, pointing out that Ontario has 231
“You don’t build up a police force overnight,” Clark said.
Clark, an attorney and author, served as the
Montreal SPCA board president for 17 years
preceding Barnoti’s tenure.
During the Clark years the Montreal SPCA
maintained friendly relations with dog and cat
breed fanciers, struggled to shake a reputation
as one of the last bastions of English-speaking
dominion in Quebec, held the Montreal animal
control contract, and killed more than five
times as many dogs and cats per 1,000 Montreal
residents than are killed now by the present
animal control contractor, Berger Blanc, the
Montreal SPCA, and all other local humane
Formed in 1983, Berger Blanc won the
Montreal Urban Community animal control contract,
covering 14 cities, by underbidding the Montreal
SPCA in early 1994.
Barnoti responded by escalating Montreal
SPCA promotion of low-cost pet sterilization,
adoptions, and involvement in high-profile
anti-cruelty law enforcement.
“This has been my battle for the past 13
years,” Barnoti told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Obviously
the voice of the industry speaks louder than that
of animal lovers. The Quebec government has
chosen to create a paragovernmental agency called
Anima Québec, on the board of which sits
prominently a representative of the pet
industry,” McCann, “who among his members
counts puppy mill operators,” Barnoti charged.
“To the Quebec government, the pet industry
represents over a billion dollars a year,
generated by the possession of pets from puppy
mills. Correcting the problem equals closing a
lot of the pet sources, and this scares the
McCann, a Montreal SPCA inspector during
the Joan Clark regime, left the organization
before Barnoti was hired.
“PIJAC Canada stands on record in full
support of the new Quebec animal protection
legislation, and of Anima Quebec,” McCann
responded. “PIJAC Canada is also on record for
supporting a proposed regulation that would call
for the mandatory registration of all commnercial
establishments operating in Quebec that deal with
cats and dogs. This regulation has not seen the
McCann noted that the PIJAC/ Canada
position was in opposition to the positions of “a
handful of dog breeders.”
But Barnoti is scarcely the only critic
who alleges that the PIJAC/Canada influence
within Anima Quebec is holding back law
enforcement. A furious letter from Catherine
Bégin of the Lost & Found Pet Network in Laval
prompted ANIMAL PEOPLE to ask former Montreal
SPCA board member Anne Streeter, no Barnoti fan,
for her perspective.
“They turn a blind eye to the most
outrageous puppy mill situations,” Streeter
charged, “but have inspected the SPCA Monteregie
four times, at the request of a disgruntled
ex-employee, the Sherbrooke SPCA, and a
well-run small independent shelter. Their
deliberations are confidential so no one knows
what they have done.
“SPCA Monteregie founder Linda Robertson,
myself, and two others met with Brome-Missisquoi
MNA Pierre Paradis a couple of weeks ago,”
Streeter continued. “Paradis,” a member of the
Quebec National Assembly since 1980 and Quebec
environment minister 1989-1994, “understands the
issues and gave us quite a bit of time. We
discussed the intolerable situation, the
underground economy, the lack of registration
for breeders, and the vast sums of money going
into government coffers [from pet-related sales
taxes] with nothing returned to the animals. We
asked if the file could be removed from the
agriculture department. Paradis said it could
be done, agreeing that agriculture was the worst
possible place for it. We all agreed that Public
Security would be a better fit.”
Replied McCann, “As a member of the
Anima Quebec board, my responsibilities are
focused on financing the new association. I am
not party to the work of the inspection
committee, nor do I have any doings with
inspectors and carrying out inspections. All
official inspections are carried out by
government-appointed inspectors, without any
interference by board members.
“One thing is sure,” McCann added. “All
shelters in Quebec, like any other pet
establishment, stand to be inspected by Anima
Quebec. Some shelters,” McCann mentioned,
“were inspected to see if they could meet the
requirements to become housing facilities for
animals seized by Anima Quebec. I am not aware
of any shelters shutting down as a result of
Anima Quebec operations,” McCann continued.
“The SPA de la Mauricie shelter in Trois-Rivières
was closed by the government’s health and safety
department, as it posed a threat to the animals
and employees due to presence of mold and fungus.
It has since reopened with a brand new facility.”
Anima Quebec has in fact raided puppy mills,
beginning by seizing 23 adult German shepherds
from an alleged illegal breeder in LaPlaine on
Marcy 31, 2005.
Cheryl Cornaccia of the Montreal Gazette
saw that as an overdue new beginning.
“For years, Quebec has been seen as one
of the worst places in North America for animal
welfare,” Cornaccia recounted. “Ontario,
British Columbia, New Brunswick and Alberta have
all passed tougher animal welfare laws and put up
substantial amounts of provincial money to bust
puppy mills. Quebec has done little but sit on
the fence–and on a package of tough animal
welfare laws that were first introduced in the
National Assembly in 1993,” passed in January
2005 as the law now cited as P-42.
Anima Quebec director Huguette Lepine
told Cornaccia that the agency is working closely
with the two professional orders that
representing Quebec veterinarians, to enlist and
train vets and vet techs to perform inspections
and lay charges under P-42.
Barnoti points out that the Montreal SPCA
already has vets and vet techs capable of doing
the job–but for more than 100 years it mostly