Clean Up the Puppy Trade

Article excerpt

EVER wonder what makes that cute, sad-eyed puppy in the window so sad?

Canadian animal authorities think they know. Agriculture Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the United States Department of Agriculture, has drafted a set of strict regulations to keep US dog brokers from trucking large numbers of puppies north to be sold at auction and later in Canadian pet stores. Under the proposed rules, USDA-approved breeders would sell direct. No middlemen.

The reason for the rules goes beyond the high price of puppies. Canadians are finding added emotional and financial costs because their US-bred dogs are often sick or injured from early maltreatment. About 20,000 young dogs, worth about $4 million, are shipped each year from the US to Canada. That's a tiny financial stake compared to the multi-billion-dollar softwood-lumber trade battle with Canada earlier this year and other spats over steel and cars.

Yet the US pet industry is urging sanctions under the 1989 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement if the new regulations are implemented.

That's ridiculous. Before lobbyists or the administration in Washington begin to chatter about sanctions or "harmonization" of US and Canadian laws, the US should put its own house in order. Industry representatives have recently asserted that US dogs sold in Canada are "96 percent healthy." But the growing problems in US dog breeding and brokering are becoming too well known for that poorly supported claim to stick.

Canadian officials and animal-rights activists have traced the problem to a process that permits a US broker to purchase puppies from scores of individuals and breeders at "buying stations" scattered across several states, mostly in the Midwest. …