A tragic story from Canada underscores the vast, global scale of the puppy mill problem, and how important it is that we root it out wherever it exists. On June 13th, a Ukraine International Airlines flight carrying approximately 500 puppies, including at least 200 French bulldogs, arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Thirty-eight of the dogs were dead on arrival, with many more reported as suffering from weakness, dehydration and vomiting.

Witnesses in Ukraine stated that the dogs were packed in tightly and had little air circulation. Some containers were apparently shrink-wrapped in plastic, causing the animals to suffocate. According to reports, the puppies were bound for sale in the Toronto area.

But here’s the part that's even more outrageous: despite this terrible abuse, and an ongoing investigation into the incident, the Canadian government released the puppies to the importer.

Canada, like the United States, faces a terrible puppy mill problem—one exacerbated by the imports of puppies into the nation from puppy mills in other countries. The United States moved in 2014 to stop such imports from puppy mills overseas that raise tens of thousands of dogs in abusive conditions, although enforcement has been lax. Unfortunately, Canada still allows hundreds of puppy mill imports from countries like Ukraine every year. Worse, there are no clear laws to hold offenders accountable when the mistreatment results in animal suffering and death, as in this case.

The suffering for the animals doesn't necessarily end even after the dogs are sold to unsuspecting consumers online and in pet stores. Buyers are left to deal with illnesses, genetic conditions and behavioral issues in their new pets caused by the unethical breeding practices in the mills that produce them. It is not unusual for owners to rack up high veterinary bills and sometimes even to see their beloved pets die.

Our Humane Society International/Canada team has been hard at work to end Canada’s puppy mill problem. As in the United States, where we have been fighting for stronger state laws against puppy mills and for ending the puppy-mill-pet-store pipeline, HSI/Canada has been fighting for stronger provincial regulations for the oversight of commercial breeders, including in Quebec, known as the puppy mill capital of Canada. We continue to campaign for better enforcement of these regulations. We’ve also been working toward stronger animal welfare provisions within Canada’s criminal code, while pressing for local bans on sales of dogs and cats through pet stores.

One of our areas of focus has been ending the unethical imports of puppy mill dogs from overseas because of the immense suffering animals endure when flown in inhumane conditions and at very young ages. In the wake of this recent tragedy, we are calling on the Canadian government to ban the mass import of dogs destined for resale in the commercial pet trade. We will keep you updated on our progress. Allowing animals to suffer in order to satisfy the greed of a few who profit off puppy mills is inherently wrong, and we will not stand for it.