Just a month after the city of Chicago took action to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, mill dogs scored another major win when lawmakers voted unanimously to extend the ban to cover all of Cook County.
The Cook County Companion Animal & Consumer Protection Ordinance was proposed by Commissioner John Fritchey, who said he was inspired by Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza’s efforts to get a ban passed in the city.
Under the new law, which will go into effect in October, pet stores in Cook County will only be allowed to sell dogs, cats and rabbits from shelters, rescues and humane societies. There will, however, be exceptions for licensed breeders who have no more than five or fewer female dogs. According to the Chicago Tribune, the new law is expected to affect an additional 13 pet stores beyond the 16 in Chicago.
The ultimate goal is to protect both pets and consumers from unscrupulous commercial breeders who supply pet stores.
“Puppy mill puppies and kittens are often sold with a number of serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases that may not be detected or disclosed at the time of purchase,” said Fritchey. “As a result, potential buyers who fall in love with a puppy or kitten in the pet store may find themselves in for extensive veterinarian bills and potential heartbreak.”
The situation isn’t just heartbreaking for families who wanted to welcome a new four-legged member, but for the thousands of dogs who are left behind in mills to continue cranking out puppies and for the thousands who continue to die in shelters.
Lawmakers and supporters of the new ban, including the Chicago-based Puppy Mill Project, believe it will benefit animals not just by cutting off shady commercial breeders, but also by helping increase pet adoptions. According to Fritchey, in 2012, more than 20,000 dogs and cats were impounded in Cook County, while more than one-third of them were killed because they weren’t adopted.
Supporters also believe it will stop Chicago-based stores that don’t want to comply with the city’s new ban from moving into the suburbs.
Opponents, including the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association and Petland, argue that measures like this will hurt “responsible breeders,” put pet stores out of business and take away consumers’ rights, while others argue that not everyone wants a shelter dog or a rescue.
However, laws that stop pet stores from selling puppies and kittens from commercial breeders don’t stop anyone from getting the dog or cat of there dreams. There are plenty of breed-specific rescues around, and people can still turn to responsible breeders, none of who would ever let their dogs go to pet stores in the first place.
As far as attempting to support commercial breeders, even for those licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, standards for basic care are ridiculously low and violations go without punishments that are severe enough to get them to change. The Puppy Mill Project offers a glimpse of the conditions dogs are left in by licensed Illinois breeders on its website. Take a look to see exactly why outlets for these breeders need to be shut down.
Fortunately, as awareness about the problems that surround large-scale commercial breeders and pet store sales of animals continues to grow, more areas are adopting and working towards adopting these common-sense laws.
The efforts to protect pets and consumers in Chicago and Cook County have also led other areas in Illinois to reexamine the issue and consider similar laws, including Orland Park, which is now looking the possibility. Officials are expected to hear input during a public hearing at a Parks and Recreation Committee meeting on April 21.
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