August 19, 2021

An Open Letter to Mayor Bowman and Councillors,

My name is Robert Brissette and I am the President and CEO of Petland Canada. We are a national pet store chain with our headquarters proudly located here in Winnipeg. Barbara Brissette and I opened our first store in Winnipeg back in 1975. We have diligently grown our company to over 37 locations and are continuing to grow across Canada. We have just opened our 4th location in Winnipeg this summer and boast over 40,000 square feet of pets and pet supplies for our local guests. You cannot successfully develop a business of any kind unless you love the business you are in; we at Petland love what we do. And how could we not? After all, it’s ultimately all about pets and the people who love and cherish pets.

At Petland, we have a responsibility to provide the very best in care and housing for all of our pets. Over the past four decades and with the help of numerous veterinarians, animal nutritional specialists, marine biologists and many other animal experts, Petland has developed some of the most comprehensive animal care programs in the industry. Our Petland University has seen thousands of graduates complete our comprehensive courses. Our industry is always changing, and because of this, our training constantly evolves to include up-to-date, factual information of which our dedicated team relays to our guests.

First and foremost is our unwavering responsibility to the pets in our care and for the education of our guests, whose ultimate goal is to provide the proper care for their pets. We help them do this with our knowledgeable team of over 1,200 pet counsellors.
At Petland, we have a mission statement, but these are not just words on a piece of paper. It is the foundation of our company and our pet counsellors prove that every day in everything they do. Petland’s mission statement;

“Our pet counsellors are dedicated to matching the right pet with the right guest and meeting the needs of both. To our guests who already have pets, we are dedicated to enhancing their knowledge and enjoyment of the human-animal bond.”

The City of Winnipeg Animal Services division has always done an admirable job. Petland sits on their advisory board; it is a strong relationship that has spanned many years. Having said that, we can clearly see that some of the proposed changes to the animal bylaw are needed while some are definitely not.
To begin, I would like to state that Animal Services did indeed visit our location to let us know that there would be proposed changes to the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, however did not elaborate on what those proposed changes would be and then requested our support. We could not support something we did not receive detail on and having seen the proposal from Animal Services will not support changes that affect specialty pets and their families in particular.

Animal Services proposed changes to the keeping of Pets in Winnipeg.  Click Here

Winnipeg Animal Services has said that by making these changes to our bylaws that they want, “to make Winnipeg the leader in animal control and welfare.”
The reality is that these changes would make Winnipeg the most anti-pet city in Canada, if not North America. Many of the most fundamental pets kept in people’s homes - from small animals to birds to fish and common reptiles - are being banned in our beautiful city. None of the animals that the city plans to ban are dangerous to the public in any way; most come from private breeders that are all located here in Canada.

The proposed changes to the bylaws with regards to “exotic” pets is extreme to say the least. I believe many of the changes that they are proposing are based on the philosophies of extreme animal activist groups that are actively trying to ban all pets across all homes in North America. Their model is that no animal should be kept as a pet and all animals should be set free. That includes all farm animals, domesticated pets and any animal, which are commonly kept as pets in people’s homes.

According to Wikipedia, an exotic pet is a pet which is relatively rare or unusual to keep, or is generally thought of as a wild species rather than as a pet. Most of the pets that this bylaw looks to ban are not exotic, but rather common companion pets and have been so for many years.

The City of Winnipeg already has a prohibited animal list under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, which the City of Winnipeg Animal Services themselves created back in 2013. I can understand the addition of some animals to this list, but simply creating a broad stroke to ban so many pets that are not at all dangerous to anyone - and have never been dangerous to anyone - is ridiculous to say the least.

The City of Winnipeg has four main issues with the keeping of exotic pets here in Winnipeg.

1. Exotic animals are either poached from the wild or born in captivity.
There are a multitude of laws and regulations across many nations, which protect their native Flora and Fauna and regulate the number of species that can be exported. The pet industry only acquires animals that have been legally exported and imported. Most are born in captivity right here in Canada. I don’t understand how being born in captivity is a negative thing rather than being taken from the wild (as the Winnipeg Animal Services would have our citizens of Winnipeg believe).

2. Exotic animals have little quality of life in captivity.
Most pets kept in captivity live far longer than they would in the wild; this is a sign that they are much better taken care of, both environmentally and nutritionally, than they would be in the wild. No one is going to hunt and eat them in our homes.

3. There are currently no limits (except on dogs and cats), which can lead to hoarding.
Very rarely does hoarding ever occur with these kinds of pets, even the City of Winnipeg should know and recognize this fact.

4. Stray exotic animals require law enforcement resources.
Rarely does an “exotic” animal end up in the City of Winnipeg facility, and we at Petland have informed the Animal Services Division, on numerous occasions, that if any “exotic” animals were to show up in their facility we would gladly rehome them at no cost, thus taking away all financial burdens from the City of Winnipeg.

These are the four main reasons or issues that the City of Winnipeg Animal Services has with the current bylaws with regards to keeping “exotic” animals.
These recommendations have not been authenticated with anything other than opinion. If I am incorrect in this statement, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how (and why) certain pets have been disqualified from the “It’s okay to keep” list.

Tens of thousands of families in the City of Winnipeg will be affected negatively by the changes in this bylaw. This does not just affect the lives of business people, with some needing to close their doors because of these proposed changes, let’s be clear about that; this affects well over 750,000 people living in our city of Winnipeg! To propose bylaws based on opinions of a few people and what they deem/feel an exotic pet represents leads to decisions based on one-sided and unbalanced research.
As a matter of interest, all of Petland’s Ball Pythons come from private breeders here in Canada and none are taken from the wild, just like most of the animals that they plan to ban.

There are many international (CITES*) and national (CFIA**) laws which protect and prohibit the trade and importation of animals into Canada, as well as the rest of the world. Many of the pets that are kept in people’s homes live much longer than they ever would in the wild, and the main reason is that pet people take proper care of their pets with regards to housing and nutrition, as well as behavioural needs.

We cannot and should not pass this kind of preposterous bylaw here in the City of Winnipeg.

I believe what I mentioned previously needs to be said again-if these proposed bylaws should be taken into consideration, we will turn our pet loving city of Winnipeg into one of the most anti-pet cities in Canada! As a city, we need to show that we take an enlightened, educated and thorough approach to researching this matter, putting pets and their families first.

Many businesses here in Winnipeg will also be forced to close because of the changes to the bylaw. These businesses love what they do and are simply doing what thousands of other shops are doing across North America which is enhancing the enjoyment of keeping fish in people’s homes. This is a hobby that has been actively growing for thousands of years and we here in Winnipeg will try to eradicate it?! Let’s not let a few animal activists change how we keep pets here in the City of Winnipeg.

Thank you for reading this letter and allowing me to provide you with the views of our company. Thousands of pet owners here in the city are very concerned about these suggested changes from Winnipeg Animal Services.

I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss these concerns in person. In the meantime, please reach out to me if you have any questions and I will be very happy to address anything that you need with regards to these bylaw amendments.

Robert Brissette
Petland Canada
President & CEO

Animal Services proposed changes to the keeping of Pets in Winnipeg.  Click Here