Ontario’s animal welfare agency has ordered a couple who sell puppies at a London market to quarantine their dogs after they were potentially exposed to a deadly virus.
An officer from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) visited the Norwich home of Huite and Margaret Bruinsma on Oct. 21, issuing an order to quarantine 17 puppies and a family dog held in a kennel on the Airport Road property.
The Ontario SPCA launched the probe after receiving complaints about the Bruinsma’s company, Cedar Lanes, said spokesperson Melissa Kosowan.
She wouldn’t comment about complaints the agency received, saying an investigation is ongoing.
The Free Press spoke to five people who say they bought puppies between July and October from Cedar Lanes at the Trails End Market on Dundas Street. The dogs were diagnosed with parvovirus, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease.
Dylan Gray said he knew something was amiss from the moment he brought an eight-week-old Yorkie home after buying it Oct. 8 from Cedar Lanes.
“Within a day, we started seeing signs of him not acting like a puppy, not doing normal puppy things,” Gray said of the pet he named Charlie.
At firstm Charlie wasn’t eating much and spent most of the day sleeping. When the puppy started vomiting and having diarrhea, Gray brought him to a veterinarian, whose diagnosis was parvovirus. Though Gray shelled out thousands of dollars to treat Charlie, the puppy had to be put down.
Four of the five puppy owners who spoke to The Free Press say Cedar Lanes refuses to reimburse them for their costly vet bills.
But the Bruinsmas say there’s no way to tell exactly where the animals contracted the disease.
“We don’t know where they picked it up. Either (they) came already sick or became sick later,” said Huite, who has been selling puppies at the Trails End for seven years.
Cedar Lanes gets its dogs from area farmers and breeders, Huite said.
An Ontario SPCA agent gave the couple an order Oct. 21 saying 17 puppies and one of their two dogs had to be quarantined because of possible exposure to parvovirus.
“The veterinarian who clears the animals shall provide the OSPCA officers with a report stating medical clearance before the animals can be sold, moved or otherwise,” said the order.
Huite said all of the puppies sold at the market come with their first round of shots — including a vaccination for the parvo disease, spread through direct contact with infected dogs or infected feces — but even vaccinated puppies can still contract the virus.
All five Cedar Lanes customers who spoke to The Free Press said they weren’t issued a receipt or ownership papers after paying between $300 and $600 for puppies of different breeds.
London Humane Society executive director Judy Foster said no one should buy a dog without getting the proper paperwork.
“That should raise a red flag, when there’s no transfer of ownership,” Foster said.
Huite and Margaret Bruinsma at their home and dog-brokering business in Norwich. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)
“When you’re transferring ownership of an animal, there should be an adoption agreement and ideally a receipt of payment.”
Margaret said she will issue a receipt — but only when requested by a customer.
Teresa Ward paid $1,209 in vet bills to treat her eight-week-old beagle-pug mix for parvovirus.
“I was one of the lucky ones. He has pulled though,” said Ward, who bought the dog Oct. 8 from Cedar Lanes.
Ward said she contacted the Bruinsmas and asked for the breeder’s contact information, but they refused to give it to her.
Huite said he advises his custoers to contact him if their puppy gets sick, adding vets often overcharge pet owners, and he’ll help his customers find affordable treatment.
Randi McCallum forked out $1,568 in vet bills after an eight-week-old chocolate lab puppy she bought from Cedar Lanes on July 16 contracted parvovirus. “We had to quarantine her for a month. It was scary,” McCallum said of the ordeal.
McCallum said Huite finally reimbursed her after she threatened to take legal action.
Huite said he was able to get the money for McCallum from the breeder from whom he bought her puppy.
Margaret, who has been fielding calls from customers whose puppies became ill, said the stress is taking a toll on her.
“We didn’t mean for all of these families to be brokenhearted,” she said.