Alberta dog rescue files appeal against proposed kennel and breeding facility

BARCS Rescue started an online petition against the development west of Carstairs

By Leanne Murray | July 29, 2022 |5:00 am

Joy Unleashed Ltd. has applied to develop a dog kennel and breeding facility but members of the public are pushing back.

Photo: Shutterstock

A rescue organization north of Calgary has filed an appeal against a proposed dog kennel and breeding facility.

BARCS Rescue created an online petition against what it called a “puppy mill” on Tuesday and it quickly garnered thousands of signatures — almost 6,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Joy Unleashed Ltd. made a development permit application to Mountain View County on May 24 regarding a property west of Carstairs.

Proposed dog breeding facility

According to the application, the proposed development is for a “commercial kennel, specifically specializing in ethically breeding dogs under 20lbs.”

The application stated there would be 35 dogs on the premises with constant staff supervision and customer visits during set hours.

“Our goal is an exceptional environment to live (sic) our dogs a great experience and keep our neighbours very happy and both are achievable,” reads the application.

Regarding possible noise, the application states, “Keeping a quiet environment is important to us as it helps the dogs to feel peaceful and calm.”

Joy Unleashed goes on to reference a multifaceted plan to keep noise levels at an extreme low, including insulation and bark collars when dogs are outdoors.

A letter addressed to adjacent property owners included in the application says the goal is to raise quiet-natured, small non-shedding dogs that will be regularly vet checked.

Conditions of approval

Mountain View County’s Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) considered the development application on July 7.

It was approved with several conditions including the following:

Approval is granted for a maximum of 24 puppy litters a year and up to 55 dogs (including adult dogs and puppies) for breeding at any one time.

On-site supervision shall be maintained during the active kennel operation. The dogs shall not be allowed outside without supervision, and they will be housed indoors during the night from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The applicant, landowner, and/or operator will not allow the dogs to bark or howl excessively or otherwise disturb any persons.

The dogs shall not be permitted to run free off the property.

All breeding operations and associated facilities shall be kept in a manner satisfactory to the health authority and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA).

In addition to being posted on Mountain View County’s website, the decision was advertised in the local newspaper, The Albertan, on July 12 and 19, and an article was published on July 24.

The article is what caught the attention of BARCS Rescue, located in nearby Cremona, AB.

Development not sitting well

Amanda Thomson is a social media and fundraising coordinator with BARCS, and the proposed development of the breeding facility did not sit well with her or her colleagues.

“First thing that came to my mind was that it was going to be an overbred puppy mill, just with the amount of breeding animals that they were saying that they were going to have on-site,” Thomson says.

Based on what she was able to read in the application, Thomson doesn’t agree with the way Joy Unleashed Ltd. plans to operate.

“We totally understand people who are breeding dogs in a way that is ethical and to support a specific breed,” Thomson says.

“But when it comes to this quantity, with the methods that they’re using to breed these dogs with the barking collars, it just doesn’t seem to be approaching it in the right way that we would be OK with having next door to us.”

Rescues and shelters are struggling

Thomson started the online petition in hopes of stopping the development in its tracks because she feels it’s not OK to create a dog breeding business, especially since so many rescues and shelters are already bursting at the seams.

“Calgary Humane Society, AARCS, all within the last month have announced intake freezes and organizational crises with the amount of intakes that they are having to do, with the amount of owner surrenders that are coming to their organizations,” Thomson says.

AARCS executive director Deanna Thompson confirms surrender requests are way up.

“We have had to close intake a number of times due to the capacity of pets being surrendered. We (along with many other shelters and rescues) are having to turn pets away or add them to a wait list until space opens up,” Thompson says.

BARCS is a smaller organization and Thomson says even they are being approached with approximately 45 owner surrender requests every month.

“Some of them, we are in a position we can help, but unfortunately a lot of them — just with our capacity and what we are able to manage — can’t assist and intake the dogs,” Thomson says. 

“We do offer to provide training and lots of different tools to help these people who need help with their dogs, but unfortunately, we can’t take them in.”

Appealing the decision

Upon hearing about the proposed development, Thomson soon realized the deadline to appeal the MPC decision was quickly looming — July 28 at 4 p.m.

BARCS Rescue immediately started fundraising for the $425 appeal fee and managed to officially submit just hours before the deadline.

As per Mountain View County’s appeal process, an appeal hearing must be scheduled within 30 days.

Thomson, her BARCS colleagues, and other supporters will present their case to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board at the hearing.

Calgary Citizen reached out to Joy Unleashed Ltd. for comment on the proposed project and the public concerns but did not receive a response as of press time.

Support from the public

Meghan Huchkowsky, co-owner of Calgary’s Doodle Dogs Boutique, is one of the thousands of people who signed BARCS’ petition.

“I work in pet foods and pet nutrition, so I’m trying to get to the root cause, which is, dogs that are coming into this world the wrong way and for the wrong motivation,” she says.

Huchkowsky was compelled to support BARCS’ petition because she says her dog came from a so-called puppy mill and it’s a practice she is personally passionate about ceasing.

“Breeding facilities are where that kind of ‘wholesale puppy’ mentality comes from because then they can mass produce puppies, and it’s an entirely unregulated industry. There should be legalities and regulations around it.”

Pushing for change

Huchkowsky has an online petition of her own, which she started about a year ago, and has gathered almost 22,000 signatures to date.

“I’m trying to get a municipal bylaw created for banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores,” she explains.

“Essentially, what I wanted was a bylaw created that would only allow pet stores in Calgary to sell animals that were from rescues.”

Huchkowsky is continuing to push for the bylaw and is trying to get meetings with Calgary councillors and city officials.

She also wrote a letter to Mountain View County councillors regarding the proposed kennel and breeding facility.

“I just want people who may not know much about animals or sourcing animals to understand why this is bad,” Huchkowsky says.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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