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 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 a free license to introduce more into the system.
About three years after receiving her first operating permit, Svetlana Shakhov, owner of the Shibu Inu dog farm, located three kilometers north of Saint-Adolphe, returned to the negotiating table.
Earlier this month, Shakhov applied for a conditional use permit that would allow him to expand his breeding operation to 40 dogs. The initial request, made a few years earlier, was to keep up to 20 dogs. At the time, the board determined that 15 dogs was the maximum it could approve.
Shakhov’s son Daniel, who lives with Svetlana and shares the herd, called the May 19 council meeting by phone. His goal was to answer any questions the council might have.
Councilor Janine Boulanger opened the question period by wondering if the demand for Shibu Inu puppies justified a request for nearly three times as many dogs as before.
Daniel explained that the company advertises primarily through word of mouth, spread by former customers who were “obsessed with puppies and the way Shakhov Kennel is run.”
This has dramatically increased demand, he told the council.
He further explained one of the things that makes their kennel unique. While the breeding site is equipped with a garage and a barn, Daniel said 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 canapes or anything on the floor,” Daniel told the council. “Most of the time they’re in the house, like at night or when it’s raining, or it’s too cold or too hot.”
This raised further concerns from Mayor Chris Ewen.
“I struggle with that,” Ewen told Daniel. “I think 40 is an excessive amount, especially inside your home. It’s more [about] animal safety and welfare.
Councilor Boulanger also asked if they are accountable to any regulatory bodies regarding the number of animals and the space they require.
“We are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club and there is nothing regulatory that we have come across,” replied Daniel.
Continuing the animal welfare concern, Councilor Curtis Claydon asked about the process required to grow from 15 to 40 dogs.
Daniel assured him that females are only mated once a year. The majority of breeders are females, with only a few males. Additionally, the Shakhovs recently got themselves a pair of Shikoku Ken, a new pedigree they hope to start breeding soon.
Both Ewen and Boulanger suggested that perhaps accompanying a more in-depth business plan would have helped the board better visualize the concept. As it stands, they said the proposal lacked compelling evidence.
“I just want to add that when they came to us and asked us for 20 [dogs]we said 15, and I think we kind of gave them clear guidelines about what we felt and what we allowed [back in 2018]said Boulanger at the end of the question period. “To come back just [a few] years later to ask for more than double… I think we have already debated this and shared our thoughts.
The council voted unanimously to deny the permit application.
Svetlana: “The board probably didn’t fully understand the request”
The Citizen has reached out to Svetlana to share her thoughts on the council’s decision. Since she wasn’t present at the May 19 meeting, she was happy to have a chance to rebut, saying the board probably didn’t fully understand her request before denying it.
The reason for the need to house more dogs, she says, isn’t necessarily to raise more puppies. Instead, it allows the kennel to continue to provide a home for adult dogs once they have passed their breeding limit.
“female dogs produce one litter per year, which can be between one and four puppies,” says Svetlana. “They can only be bred for three years, maximum four. Thus, a single female usually has three to five litters per lifetime. We already have five dogs that are no longer breeding, and three more this year, but we love them too much to let them go.
She adds that the need to keep 40 dogs at a time will probably never arise, but they chose that number as a precaution.
Regarding the council’s concern for animal welfare, Svetlana assures the public that dogs undergo regular veterinary checks, which include breeding-specific tests. All dogs are also up to date with their vaccinations. Every day they receive a special diet of raw meat consisting of dairy products, eggs, fruits, vegetables and fish.
She describes the Shikoku Ken as a larger version of the Shiba Inu.
“They are incredibly rare as a whole,” says Svetlana. “There are only about 300 in Japan, their country of origin. We will only be the second official breeder in Canada.
There is a waiting list for both breeds of puppies, she adds, although the Shakhovas refuse to accept deposits on them for fear the buyer will change their mind and then feel stuck with it. a puppy he no longer wants.
All potential buyers are required to complete questionnaires, which gives kennel owners an extra level of comfort in knowing the character of the people who are adopting. Puppies usually receive visits from their new family before leaving the kennel to ensure bonding occurs.
Once gone, the puppies will have been wormed and microchipped and will take a blanket with them that smells like their mother and siblings.
“After the relocation, we still stay in contact with our customers,” says Svetlana. “Watching our puppies grow is something we love to do.”
She further explains that customers come from all over the country to buy from the Shakhovs. Sometimes buyers fly in to pick up their pup, and other times Svetlana or Daniel go on a road trip for custom deliveries. Svetlana says they have delivered as far west as Vancouver and as far east as Montreal. On occasion, toddlers may also be transported to their destination via WestJet Cargo.
Svetlana has since contacted the council, but says she was told an appeal of the May 19 decision was not possible. Although she was invited to apply again in the future, she says they made it clear that any further applications would likely result in a similar decision.
“We will have to move from the municipality to another, where we would be allowed to have a greater number [of dogs]concludes Svetlana. “That seems to be the only option we’ll have.”
Brenda Sawatzky, reporter for the local journalism initiative, The Niverville Citizen