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Droves of pandemic puppies being seized and surrendered, says BC SPCA

With demand dropping, many backyard breeders in B.C. are unable to sell their puppies. This has resulted in more seizures and surrenders, says the animal welfare organization.

People in B.C. looking to make fast money over the pandemic decided to breed puppies, but once the demand weaned off they were left with a litter they couldn't care for. 

That's according to the BC SPCA, which is reporting a huge increase in large-scale animal intakes.

“We've seen that phenomenon,” says Lorie Chortyk, chief communications officer for the animal welfare organization, noting animals have been seized from across the province.

"From northern B.C. to Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland," she tells Glacier Media.

In just the past two months, there have been six individual breeders who have had to surrender their animals or have had them seized after not being able to sell them or care for them.

"In these breeder cases, usually they've been between about 15 and 40 animals coming in at once. It definitely puts a strain on our resources," says Chortyk. 

The BC SPCA is currently dealing with six more large seizures from pandemic breeders and there will likely be more.

"I don't see it falling off anytime soon.”  

Pandemic breeders focused on popular breeds such as golden retrievers, labrador retrievers and Aussie shepherds.

The animals that have been seized over the last eight weeks have been in dire shape, Chortyk says.

“Where we find the issues is when a breeder is really just doing it only for profit. The money has stopped coming in so they don't provide proper nutrition. They don't provide proper veterinary care. And we're seeing animals coming in in very, very rough shape,” she says. 

Due to limited space at its shelters, the BC SPCA often relies on foster homes for the animals, she adds.

If someone does find themselves unable to care for an animal, Chortyk says the BC SPCA wants to "be part of the solution."

“We definitely don't want anyone to feel like they can't reach out to us. We want people to call us if animals are in distress, or if they're feeling overwhelmed,” says Chortyk.

Are breeders regulated in B.C.? 

BC SPCA has been pushing for breeding regulations for a while, as there is no legislation in place for people to become breeders or sell animals. 

“We actually did create breeding regulations for the government's consideration. So far, there's been no action on it,” says Chortyk, adding there's no way to guarantee if someone is reputable.

"Anyone can say they're a breeder,” she says. 

‘Mistake' breeding on the rise

The Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) says it has seen a rise in families and individuals who have ended up breeding  their pets by mistake.

Executive director Sarah Jones says a lack of access to veterinary care, including spay and neuter services, is one reason for the uptick. 

“We're seeing a lot of that, which is a concern,” she says. 

LAPS, she adds, has also seen more dog surrenders. Many were not properly socialized during the height of the pandemic, she says.

“Now, they're scared of the world and they're acting out.” 

Animal protection advocates worried about euthanization 

Jones has spent 30 years in the animal welfare industry and is concerned with the current situation.

"I'm worried, to be totally honest,” she says. "I'm really concerned that if the amount of animals that keep coming in and the amount of adoptions are not increasing, that we are going to go back to the days of euthanizing for space.”

LAPS would never euthanize for space, she adds.

"But not everybody has those same resources across the province,” she says. “It’s a much bigger issue."

More government funding into animal welfare would go a long way, she says.

"I'm really concerned that not enough resources are going into animal welfare, and that's from the public as well," Jones says, acknowledging the difficulty of asking for donations when people can't take care of their own pets.

What to do if you suspect breeder neglect 

The BC SPCA is an enforcement agency that can recommend charges to Crown counsel after investigations of animal cruelty.

However, the organization relies on the public to alert staff to issues or concerns, Chortyk says.

“The BC SPCA really depends on people out there being our eyes and ears,” she tells Glacier Media.

If anyone visits a breeder and believes an animal is in distress or something doesn't look right, they’re encouraged to call the BC SPCA animal helpline at 1-855-622-7722.