Ritchot council denies dog breeder’s request to expand operation

·6 min read

In 2018, a dog breeder’s request to open a business in the RM of Ritchot became a source of public outcry, but only after council had approved the operation. The concern revolved around the philosophy that, as long as animal shelters are overrun with unwanted dogs, it may not be wise for breeders to be given free license to bring more into the system.

About three years after receiving her first business permit, Svetlana Shakhov, owner of the Shibu Inu dog-breeding kennel, located two miles north of St. Adolphe, came back to the bargaining table.

Earlier this month, Shakhov submitted a request for a conditional use permit which would allow her to ramp up her breeding operation to 40 dogs. The original request, made a few years prior, was to keep up to 20 dogs. At the time, council determined that 15 dogs was the maximum they could approve.

Shakhov’s son, Daniel, who lives with Svetlana and shares in the breeding operation, called into the May 19 council meeting by phone. His purpose was to answer any questions council may have.

Councillor Janine Boulanger opened the question period by wondering whether the demand for Shibu Inu puppies warranted a request for almost three times the number of dogs as before.

Daniel explained that the business advertises primarily by word of mouth, spread by prior clients who were “obsessed with the puppies and the way the Shakhov kennel is run.”

This has significantly driven up demand, he told council.

He expounded further on one of things that makes their kennel unique. While the breeding site is equipped with a garage and barn, Daniel said that the dogs are mostly kept inside the house where the Shakhovs reside.

“The inside of our house is very empty because these dogs love to chew on couches or anything on the ground,” Daniel told council. “The majority of the time, they are in the house, like overnight or when it’s raining, or too cold or too hot.”

This raised further concerns by Mayor Chris Ewen.

“I have a hard time with this,” Ewen told Daniel. “I think 40 is an excessive amount, especially inside your home. It’s more [about] safety and animal welfare.”

Councillor Boulanger, too, inquired whether they are accountable to any regulatory bodies in terms of the number of animals and the space they require.

“We are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club and there’s nothing regulations-wise that we have come across,” Daniel responded.

Furthering the concern of animal welfare, Councillor Curtis Claydon asked about the process required to ramp up from 15 to 40 dogs.

Daniel assured him that the females are bred only once per year. The majority of the breeders are female, with only a few males. As well, the Shakhovs have recently procured a pair of Shikoku Ken, a new pedigree they are hoping to begin breeding soon.

Both Ewen and Boulanger suggested that the accompaniment of a more thorough business plan may have helped council visualize the concept more fully. As it was, they said the proposal lacked convincing evidence.

“I just want to add that, when they came to us and asked for 20 [dogs], we said 15, and I think we kind of gave them clear direction as to how we felt and what we were allowing [back in 2018],” said Boulanger as the question period came to an end. “To come back just [a few] years later to ask for more than double… I think we’ve already debated it and shared our thoughts.”

Council voted unanimously to deny the permit request.

Svetlana: “Council Likely Didn’t Fully Understand Request”

The Citizen reached out to Svetlana for her thoughts on council’s decision. Since she wasn’t in attendance at the May 19 meeting, she was glad for a chance at a rebuttal, saying that council likely didn’t fully understand her request before they denied it.

The reason for the need to house more dogs, she says, is not necessarily to breed more puppies. Instead it allows the kennel to continue to provide a home for the adult dogs once they have exceeded their breeding limit.

“Female dogs produce one litter per year, which can be anywhere between one to four puppies,” Svetlana says. “They can only be bred for three years—maximum, four. So a single female usually has three to five litters per lifetime. We already have five dogs who are out of breeding, with three more this year, but we love them too much to let them go.”

She adds that the need to keep 40 dogs at any one time will likely never arise, but they chose the number as a precautionary measure.

Regarding council’s concern for animal welfare, Svetlana assures the public that the dogs undergo regular veterinary checks, which include tests specific to breeding. All the dogs are also up-to-date on their vaccinations. Every day they are fed a special raw meat diet comprised of dairy, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and fish.

She describes the Shikoku Ken as a larger version of the Shiba Inu.

“They're incredibly rare as a whole,” says Svetlana. “There’s only 300 or so of them in Japan, their origin country. We’re going to be only the second official breeder of them in Canada.”

There’s a wait list for both breeds of puppy, she adds, although the Shakhovas refuse to accept deposits on them lest the buyer have a change of heart and then feel stuck with a puppy they no longer want.

All potential buyers are required to fill out questionnaires which gives the kennel owners an added level of comfort in knowing the character of the people who are adopting. The pups usually receive visits from their new family before they leave the kennel to ensure that bonding occurs.

Once they leave, the pups will have been dewormed and microchipped and will take with them a blanket that has the scent of their mother and siblings.

“After the rehoming, we always stay in touch with our clients,” says Svetlana. “Watching our puppies grow up is something we love to do.”

She further explains that customers reach out from all across the nation to buy from the Shakhovs. Sometimes buyers fly in to pick up their puppy, and other times Svetlana or Daniel head out on road trips for personalized deliveries. Svetlana says they’ve delivered as far west as Vancouver and as far east as Montreal. On occasion, the little ones may also be transported to their destinations via WestJet Cargo.

Svetlana has since reached out to council, but says that she was told an appeal of the May 19 decision is not possible. While she has been welcomed to apply again in the future, she says they made it clear that any reapplication would likely result in a similar decision.

“We will have to move out of the municipality to a different one, where we would be allowed to have a larger number [of dogs],” Svetlana concludes. “That seems to be the only option we will have.”

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen

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