Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Activist battles on in anti-puppy mill war

Seeking court's permission to sue the government. Hoping to send a strong message to provincial election winner

Sunday, March 25, 2007 Catherine Solyom The Gazette (Montreal)

Next to tax cuts and health care, animal welfare rates low on politicians' list of priorities heading into tomorrow's provincial election. But one tireless activist plans to make whoever wins the election answer in court for allowing an alleged puppy mill to remain in business despite what she calls overwhelming - and enduring - evidence of animal cruelty.

Nicole Joncas, founder of Teja's Animal Refuge in Ontario, is asking permission in Quebec Superior Court to sue the attorney-general of Quebec and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for failing to enforce Quebec laws on animal welfare when it comes to the Centre d'elevage Lamarche & Pinard in Ste. Justine de Newton, about 65 kilometres west of Montreal.

For the last 21/2 years, Joncas alleges, the breeder has kept animals in overcrowded, unheated and unsanitary facilities. Dogs are routinely left in cages with other sick, dead or dying animals, in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius and are mistreated or beaten by employees, in blatant contravention of the Animal Health Protection Act, the lawsuit alleges.

Also named in the lawsuit is Anima-Quebec, a non-profit organization responsible for carrying out the inspection and enforcement provisions of the legislation.

Despite complaints by both Joncas and a former company employee armed with video footage of the dogs' deplorable living conditions, Anima-Quebec has failed to either shut the business or rescue the animals, the lawsuit alleges.

Joncas hopes the lawsuit will send a strong message to whichever party wins the election that the government needs to honour its obligations.

"Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated,' " said Joncas, whose animal refuge is just over the border in Ontario, about 18 kilometres from the Lamarche & Pinard facility. "With this lawsuit, we're asking the Quebec government, what kind of nation are we?" The lawsuit is the latest in a string of attempts to redress alleged mistreatment at the facility.

Even before Joncas became involved, former Lamarche & Pinard employee Gilles Potvin first complained of conditions at the breeding facility to Anima-Quebec in May 2004, then to the Surete du Quebec in March 2005. Since then there have been protests outside the breeding facility and in front of the company's headquarters in Montreal East, and more groups have come on board to denounce the inaction of the Quebec government with regards to puppy mills in general.

Professor Wendy Adams, who teaches a course on animal law at the Faculty of Law at McGill University, says the problem in Quebec is not the law itself, but that the law is not enforced. Anima-Quebec has only four inspectors for the entire province, which has an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 large-scale breeding facilities. "Quebec has arguably the strongest animal welfare legislation in Canada, but its record of enforcement is one of the worst," Adams said. "Whether it's the Liberals or the Parti Quebecois in power, no one seems interested in having this legislation enforced." Adams nevertheless believes the lawsuit could force the government's hand.

"Governments need flexibility in making enforcement decisions, but at a certain point you have to ask, when is a law not a law? I think Teja's Animal Refuge has a strong case here, and people are going to be shocked when they see the condition in which these animals are forced to live and allowed to die."

Among the evidence to be presented in court, if the lawsuit moves forward, is a videotape showing dogs living in cramped and filthy conditions, dead puppies from a new litter left to decompose in a cage, the incinerated remains of several dogs in a furnace, and a decapitated German shepherd puppy. Reached yesterday in Montreal, the owner of Lamarche & Pinard, Pietro Ruscito, said the video footage, as well as all the allegations made against the company, are false.

The SPCA and Anima-Quebec have inspected the facility and any recommendations they made on how to improve it have been followed, Ruscito said. The company has never been fined for violating Quebec law, he added, calling Potvin a disgruntled tenant who still lives on the grounds of the facility in Ste. Justine de Newton. "Yes, I breed dogs - that's how I make my living," Ruscito said. "But everything's legal ... I don't understand any of this."

No one from the attorney- general's office or Anima-Quebec could be reached for comment yesterday.

Link: Puppy mill owner gets fine, ban for keeping dogs in filthy conditions

Comment: Visit Teja's Animal Refuge for more on this story and to see how you can help with their lawsuit. http://www.tejasanimalrefuge.ca/ The page is no longer active and the refuge closed in early 2015. There were numerous concerns raised, especially in recent years, regarding the welfare of the animals and the capabilities of the woman in charge of the refuge. As recently as May 30, 2014 the OSPCA ordered various corrections.  

If you ever see anything that doesn’t seem right, please document and report it all to the appropriate agencies. The animals rely on you.  Visit our Rescue/In Memory/Facts page.

February 2009 Volunteers threatened if they speak publicly about "shelter" conditions

March 2009 Petland faces class action lawsuit

January 5, 2012 Woman sues to prove dogs are 'living souls,' not property

October 26, 2012 California Court of Appeals Says Pets are More Than Inanimate Property

March 9, 2015 First Lawsuit Filed Against the NYPD for Not Enforcing Animal Cruelty Laws, Historical Original Argument as to Why Dogs and Cats Should Have Rights in a Court of Law and Why Animal Activists Have Standing to File

Comment: In 1994, the Animal Advocates Society of BC consulted a lawyer with the intention to have the BC SPCA charged with not enforcing the PCA Act. We were told that Crown would never accept the charge. We also discussed the SPCA’s “care” of animals and were again advised there was no chance of proceeding with action, despite well-documented proof of the organization not following its mandate and killing unwanted animals at its facilities as a means of population control.

Necessity: A defense asserted by a criminal or civil defendant that he or she had no choice but to break the law. The necessity defense has long been recognized as Common Law and has also been made part of most states' statutory law. Although no federal statute acknowledges the defense, the Supreme Court has recognized it as part of the common law. The rationale behind the necessity defense is that sometimes, in a particular situation, a technical breach of the law is more advantageous to society than the consequence of strict adherence to the law. The defense is often used successfully in cases that involve a Trespass on property to save a person's life or property. It also has been used, with varying degrees of success, in cases involving more complex questions.  

Jan Olson, who rescued, or stole (depending on one’s viewpoint) neglected and/or mistreated dogs for several years was eventually charged with theft, but argued in court that “ animal cruelty laws in Canada encompass one paragraph, and even those laws are not enforced. So my defence is I'm not intentionally breaking the law, I'm intentionally enforcing it."

So, does one have a moral duty to act in situation where there’s suffering and neglect? I believe so, regardless of the law. And throughout history, many others refused to stand by and do nothing.

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts. Mahatma Gandhi

May 2015: Dog By Dog Documentary

According to this film: “After conducting extensive research over many years, we came to realize that in many cases it is massive, publicly-traded corporate farming companies that are protecting puppy mills and blocking any attempts to pass humane legislation that would regulate these large scale breeding facilities.”

Times are changing, though. Animal rights, and the recognition of animals as sentient beings, has become an important social, legal, and moral one.