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Betty, the Poodle from CityPlace, inspired change in Toronto

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Think back: When was the last time you saw a puppy in a pet shop window?

If you’re having trouble, that may be thanks to Betty, a CityPlace-dwelling poodle who was the inspiration for a Toronto ban on the sale of cats and dogs from pet shops.

Betty was a puppy when she was adopted by CityPlace resident Dean Maher in February 2009. She quickly found herself at home in the downtown condo community as she and her family became an active part of the local dog scene.

While Maher looks back on that time fondly, he was less taken with a pet shop and groomers on Front Street West that he and Betty used to frequent.

“I remember seeing many puppies for sale. There one day, gone the next, sometimes marked down in price,” said Maher, “They were cute, but it was also sad to see the conditions they were housed in.”

Maher recalls seeing dogs kept in small enclosures; some with insufficient ventilation, others with uncomfortable wire mesh floors. He also worried that the for-profit nature of pet shops would discourage vendors from screening customers before trusting them with a pet.

Maher’s concerns turned to action when he noticed a female poodle puppy for sale. This dog bore a striking resemblance to a younger Betty—and there she was in a cupboard, waiting to be purchased by anyone.”

Dean Maher`s report picture.

Maher was spurred to covertly take pictures and draw up a report on the animals’ living conditions. He sent his findings to Toronto City Council in April 2010, and with the support of community members, local rescues, and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, Maher requested that they ban the retail sale of cats and dogs from pet shops.

Retail pet sales have negative implications for animal welfare that go beyond the in-store living conditions.

“The demand of the market results in puppy and kitten mills where animals are kept solely for breeding purposes and with little or no concern for their well-being,” said veterinarian Dr Kenneth Hill, a supporter of Maher’s proposed ban, “Offspring produced can suffer from an array of breed-specific genetic conditions because of poorly regulated breeding programs.”

Maher’s proposed ban was unanimously passed by Toronto City Council on September 21st, 2011. While it hasn’t singlehandedly shut down puppy mills, it may inspire others cities to follow suit.

Betty has no idea she inspired a change that’s keeping dogs out of pet shops. She’s just happy to enjoy life’s simple pleasures with her family.


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