Two of the area’s top dog breeders agree that if you buy a puppy at a flea market, you’re simply asking for trouble.
Their comments came in the wake of reports a flea market puppy merchant sold rabies-infected animals in Etobicoke last month. Over 60 people have received rabies vaccinations since.
As a result, the city is considering strict new regulations, including a possible license to sell puppies.
“You have to be an idiot to buy a puppy at a flea market,” said Margery Armstrong, who has been in the dog breeding and boarding business for almost 20 years. “You need to go to see a breeder, you need to see where the puppies are kept, the mother, the father.”
“You need to be responsible.”
Armstrong, who bought her first Borzoi puppy over 30 years ago from a leading breeder, also worries about bringing an animal with an unknown history into the home.
“How can you bring a puppy into a house with children when you have no idea about its health? How sensible is that?” she said.
If the mother of the pups had been vaccinated in the first place, the pups would not have contracted rabies. According to Armstrong, the problem is that puppies cannot be fully vaccinated until four months of age.
Puppies being sold at markets are often too young to get their first shots, she said. Until they are vaccinated, they rely on nutrients received through their mother’s breast milk to stay healthy.
Armstrong does not believe a new city licence will resolve this potentially fatal issue. Instead, she firmly believes the owners of markets should be enforcing rules requiring sellers to provide proof of vaccination for the mother dogs.
Simone Tracy, a licensed local breeder, agrees.
“We need to focus on responsible dog ownership, not more licences and fees,” said Tracy, who runs her business with husband Gary. “Another city licence seems like punishment to good breeders.
“Problems happen because of people that fall between the cracks, the ones that don’t bother taking their animals to the vets to get vaccinated,” she said.
“Do I think these new regulations and licences will help? No. Not from the sounds of it.”
Tracy views the possibility of a new city licence as a potential cash-grab.
“This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to something that hasn’t been an issue for a very long time,” Tracy said. “We haven’t seen rabies in domestic animals for many, many years.”
Although the city is suggesting a new point-of-sale licence on puppies that are sold, the root of the problem is not being addressed, Tracy said.
“Buying a dog should not be on impulse. Serious dog owners need to do their research.”
Even though the puppies will get licensed upon purchase, problems lie in the health of the parent. If the mother has rabies, the pups will too, Tracy said. Sellers need to prove upon purchase that the parents are healthy, and then licence the pup, she believes.
“Buyers beware. No matter what breed you are looking at, contact the Canadian Kennel Society (CKS), and get a list of reputable breeders. Do your research.”
Armstrong and Tracy strongly disapprove of flea market puppy sales.
“Sellers often get puppies from puppy mills. Its a terrible practice, people should not buy from them, they are only perpetuating the problem,” Tracy said.
“If you are looking to buy a pup, why not be charitable. Go to the humane society: you can get dogs there that will offer a lifetime of companionship and happiness.”