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Pandemic isolation sees booming demand for pets — and for businesses that cater to them –



All those new pet photos you’ve been seeing on social media don’t lie. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted booming demand for pets from Canadians feeling isolated after months of social distancing. And that’s meant big opportunities for a slew of Canadian companies that cater to that craving for companionship.

Daniela Amorim and Arlin Lincoln of Toronto are among those who joined the craze, adopting a four-month-old Boston terrier after the first lockdown in March. They described it as a very “2020 decision,” giving in to a longtime impulse to fetch themselves a fido to fuss over. 

Their puppy, Riley, has been everything they’d hoped for, and has quickly become the ideal companion for the pair’s current circumstances working from home.

“She forces us to get out of the house, too, and be a little bit more active, so it kind of just made sense for us,” Amorim told CBC News in an interview.

While the couple loves the companionship, free time isn’t the only thing they’re spending on Riley.

“We’re going to Petsmart pretty much every week, and then local dog stores and then puppy training … she’s the biggest expenditure,” Amorim said. “But we don’t mind. It’s weird. We’re just happy to have her.”

Two factors driving sales

Scott Arsenault runs the pet store chain Ren’s Pets, with 32 locations across Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In an interview from the company’s store in Mississauga, Ont., he said he is definitely seeing far stronger sales than usual this year.

Arsenault said even the dark days of March and April saw strong sales in stores, as existing pet owners loaded up on supplies. He said sales remained strong through the summer for two main reasons: more first-time pet owners, and higher sales to existing customers.

Scott Arsenault, president of Ren’s Pets, says sales of pet food have been booming. (Jacqueline Hansen/CBC)

With many pet owners spending more time at home these days, they are also spending more money on toys and treats for their pets who are home all day, too.

“They’re spending more time, they’re learning more about them, more treats, more training, more games, more toys,” he said. “So this whole pet craze is kind of twofold: more pets, and people are spending more time with their pets.”

WATCH | Ren’s Pets president on the pandemic’s impact on sales:

Company president Scott Arsenault explains why sales at his chain of pet stores across Ontario have been booming during the pandemic. 0:37

Across Canada, sales are up in the pet category by about five per cent in 2020 compared to last year. That may not sound like much, but, as Maryland-based market research firm Packaged Facts put it, for a mature industry, it’s actually “quite robust.”

“It reflects a high rate of pet acquisition in 2020 and it’s the kind of growth rate in a large and mature market that has made the pet industry a darling,” research director David Sprinkle said in an interview.

Canadians spent more than $5.7 billion on their pets this year, an increase of about $300 million compared to 2019, according to German market data firm Statista. And that figure is projected to grow by more than $100 million next year, too. More than a third of all Canadian households now have a dog, and 40 per cent now have a cat, Statista says. Both figures are up from last year.

More than just food and toys

All those pets don’t just need food and toys, many also require training classes. And that segment of the market is having trouble keeping up with demand.

Andre Yeu, founder and head trainer of When Hounds Fly dog training school in Toronto, says his business has never been so busy.

“We have to turn away a lot of people week after week,” he said in an interview. “We just simply don’t have enough classes or instructors or spots for all the people that are trying to get their puppy into classes.”

(Yeu spoke to CBC News prior to the current lockdown in Ontario that shut all non-essential businesses, including his own. He plans to reopen safely once regulations allow it.)

Andre Yeu, founder and head trainer at obedience school When Hounds Fly, says he expects to increase classes by almost a third next year and that still won’t be enough to keep up with demand. (Jacqueline Hansen/CBC)

He would love to expand, but it takes time to properly train someone to be an instructor, so he can’t just start offering more classes overnight.

He said he hopes to expand the number of spaces in classes by about a third next year, but even that will be just a drop in the bucket compared to the “hundreds” of requests for dog-training classes he’s currently seeing every week.

WATCH | The challenges of meeting growing demand for dog training:

Dog trainer Andre Yeu says he can’t ramp his business up fast enough to meet demand for obedience classes. 0:32

Amorim and Lincoln managed to get a spot in one of the school’s classes. And while they have some anxiety over what may happen if and when they’re no longer able to work from home and have to leave Riley alone there during the day, for now, they have no regrets about their decision to turn their duo into a trio and give Riley the happy home she deserves.

“It’s been a pretty dull year, and it’s something that gets us excited,” Lincoln said. “I think it’s been kind of a highlight of the year.”

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Ontario reports 3,422 new cases of COVID-19, 69 additional deaths – 680 News



Ontario is reporting 3,422 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday with another 69 people having died as a result of the virus.

It’s the third day out of the last four that the provincial case count has surpassed 3,000.

More than half of the new deaths, 36, are attributed to long-term care settings. The total number of people in the province who have died as a result of COVID-19 now sits at 5,409. More than 400 people have passed away since last Sunday from the virus.

Toronto reported 1,035 new cases of the virus – the first time in a week that the number of new cases has topped 1,000. Peel Region reported 585 new infections, while York Region reported 246 additional cases.

Provincial health officials conducted 60,183 tests in the last 24 hours, the first time in three days provincial labs failed to complete more than 70,000 tests. That leaves the backlog of tests to be processed at just over 30,000.

Hospitalizations sit at more than 1,500, however, as is the case on the weekend a number of hospitals have not provided data to provincial officials. There are 395 COVID-19 patients in the ICU with 293 currently on a ventilator.

Ontario administered just over 11,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, bringing the provincial total to over 200,000.

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Potential COVID exposure on two flights –




Nova Scotia Health Public Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 on two flights from Toronto to Halifax. In addition to media releases, all potential exposure notifications are listed here:

Anyone who was on the following flights in the specified rows and seats is asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately visit to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

  • Air Canada flight 604 travelling on Jan. 5 from Toronto (8:00 a.m.) to Halifax (11:00 a.m.). Passengers in rows 22-28 seats C, D, E and F are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately visit to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 19.
  • Swoop flight 408 travelling on Jan. 8 from Toronto (5:30 p.m.) to Halifax (8:30 p.m.). Passengers in rows 16-22 seats A, B, C and D are asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately visit to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Jan. 22.

Please remember:

Do not go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so. Please book an appointment online and do not go to a pop-up rapid testing location.

Currently, anyone who traveled outside Nova Scotia, PEI or Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to self-isolate alone for 14 days after arriving. If a person returning from non-essential travel outside Nova Scotia, PEI or Newfoundland and Labrador is unable to isolate alone, then everyone in the home where they are self-isolating will have to self-isolate as well.

When Nova Scotia Health Public Health makes a public notification it is not in any way a reflection on the behaviour or activities of those named in the notification.

All Nova Scotians are advised to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and are urged to follow Public Health guidelines on how to access care. Up to date information about COVID-19 is available at


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Ontario wants everyone vaccinated by early August, general says –



Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August, the head of its vaccine distribution plan told CBC News Sunday.

The updated timeline came as the province saw 3,422 new COVID-19 cases and 69 more deaths, with Toronto alone recording more than 1,000 new infections.

Retired general Rick Hillier said while accomplishing the summer goal hinges on Ontario getting a steady supply of vaccine, there’s a plan to get them in arms.

“When they come, we’re going to be able to use them all,” Hillier told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton.

“I’d love to see the province of Ontario done by the end of July or early August with all those who want to have a vaccine and who are eligible to receive it. But until we get the vaccine allocation, until we know what’s coming, we just can’t do it.”

WATCH | Hillier’s full interview on Rosemary Barton Live:

Retired general told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live he wants to see everyone who wants a vaccine get one by late July or early August. 7:52

Ontario has distributed the most COVID-19 vaccines of any province, but has administered only 72 per cent of the doses it has received. You can get the latest details by using the CBC News vaccine tracker

For now, a provincewide stay-at-home order remains in place as Ontario tries to limit the spread of the virus.

GTA continues to see bulk of province’s new cases

Toronto reported 1,035 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, marking another day that the province’s biggest city also had the most infections.

In addition to Toronto’s cases, there were 585 new cases in Peel, 254 in Windsor-Essex, 246 in York and 186 in the Niagara area. The new cases drive the seven-day average, a key figure that reduces noise in the data, to 3,143 new cases per day.

A further 69 more people with the illness died, bringing the province’s official death toll to 5,409.

At least 1,570 people are in hospital, and there are now 293 patients on ventilators. Just over 3,078 cases were marked resolved.

There were 60,183 tests completed, and the province’s positivity rate is now 5.2 per cent.

Ford, Tory touring future mass vaccination site

Ontario has now administered 200,097 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and remains in the first phase of its rollout plan.

Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory toured the city’s first mass vaccination site, located at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, on Sunday. 

Mass vaccinations haven’t started yet (long-term care and health-care settings are being prioritized) but the Toronto facility is set to serve as a blueprint for what could be coming to other locations in the coming months. The city provided these details about the mass vaccination site, which it’s calling a “proof-of-concept clinic”:

  • Opens Monday, but not to the general public.
  • Will start with 250 vaccinations per day.
  • Will use the Moderna vaccine.

Tory said he hopes the test site will provide some hope during the grey winter months.

“Vaccination is soon to come and we’re just working away at being ready to do that,” Tory said.

Paramedics transport a patient to Mt. Sinai Hospital, in Toronto. There are 1,570 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Sunday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ford said the province will be ready when it’s time to ramp up vaccinations in April, May and June. 

“Our goal is to get as many needles in people’s arms as possible,” he said.

The two leaders didn’t take questions from reporters. 

When will you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s a look at how the province is prioritizing its rollout plan

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