We live in the Chicago, Illinois area, specifically a suburb northwest of the city. We used to live in Cook County, but recently moved. Chicago made big headlines recently when they banned the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores - only allowing for adoptions of rescue and shelter pets in said businesses. We were doing a major Happy Dance here on that one!
Then, almost immediately after, Cook County announced they were going to vote on passing the same kind of ban. Cook County is the second largest county in the U.S., and Chicago is a major part of it. This announcement was also welcomed with much celebration, since the initial concern about pet store owners moving their businesses to the suburbs after Chicago's ban was now moot. Cook County passed the ban in record time, and made it effective even sooner than Chicago's.
There were exceptions, of course. Home-rule towns were exempt from such legislation, meaning each town would now decide for themselves whether they would follow suit or not. Although there were no guarantees, hopes were high that these towns would now be enlightened and choose the puppy mill-free path.
To top it off, the governor of our state, Governor Patrick Quinn, announced his support for proposed legislation involving a statewide ban. He himself shares his home with a rescue dog, and is determined to improve animal welfare in Illinois. To say we in this state were elated would definitely be an understatement. In a matter of weeks, we went from wondering if a ban would pass in the City of Big Shoulders, to the relief of believing puppy mill pets would no longer be sold in stores within our state borders.
Then reality hit. The reasons we've had to fight this inhumane situation for so long came back to smack us in the face. Widespread ignorance of the true conditions dogs must endure in commercial breeding facilities (aka puppy mills). Consumer gullibility for the hard-sell and bs promoted by pet stores. Greed and fear of losing their "cash cows" by pet store owners. Politicians with their eyes on tax revenues, and a history of bowing to business interests.
I've just described those things as politely as I possibly could.
Petland sources its puppies from the Hunte Corporation (Source: Companion Animal Protection Society)
What we have today is precarious, our long-fought-for gains in the fight against pet stores selling puppy mill dogs seemingly slipping away from us. Currently, Cook County is discussing an amendment, which would water down the original legislation to the point where it would be quite lame. And if the county's legislation lacks any teeth, Chicago's will probably follow suit. And this set of circumstances would all but kill any hopes of state legislation.
We came so close.
So why the change of heart? Pet store owners started howling about proposed legislation. And stomped their feet on the legislation that was passed. And are lying through their teeth. They could still have a business, sell rescue pups even - but it wouldn't be as easy, as cheap, and with as much profit as what they've been doing. Puppy mill dogs are big business.
|Amish and Mennonite Puppy Mills|
Ron Berning, owner of the Happiness is Pets chain, stood before the Orland Park village board at a recent meeting to speak as to why this home-rule town should not consider banning what he currently sells. He gave the usual spiel about how the community wants what he provides, that it would be detrimental if the residents did not have a source for "purebred dogs", and that he personally assists his breeders with the latest in equipment and superior housing for their dogs.
Oh, and get this -- he's recently changed some of his breeders, and was very proud to assert that he now obtains many of his puppies from Amish breeders.
This is where I feel compelled to insert the question, Which part of "Amish breeders are the worst of all puppy millers" don't you get?
(Milder, for those who cannot view the above video)
The Amish are known to be the least humane with their dogs, which they consider at best "livestock". The Grabers (featured in the graphic video) sell their dogs to broker Levi Graber, who in turn sells the puppies to pet stores in Illinois.
The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) has spent years investigating commercial breeding facilities, and has compiled a laundry list of despicable puppy millers and their dirty deeds. Ida McCarthy, Chicago Coordinator of CAPS, recently wrote about Mr. Berning's breeders and their records reflecting violations of the Animal Welfare Act. She has followed his business closely, studied his business practices and researched his breeding sources. She can tell you all about the trucks that pull up to his stores. And the sad contents within.
For details: Steve Kruse Kennels (Source: Companion Animal Protection Society)
Despite the spread of considerations for banning the retail sale of pets, or perhaps because of it - Mr. Berning's chain is in the process of opening a new store in Naperville, another home-rule town. And just like the back-peddling Cook County, the dead state bill, and the probable mangling of what had been a terrific law enacted in Chicago - Orland Park and now Naperville, among other home-rule towns, are debating and weighing the pros and cons, discussing and researching their options on this subject.
What should be a clear-cut, no-question-about-it decision, has become one of those "we need to study this" political footballs. So much for progress in Illinois. We're back to square one, having to explain what a puppy mill is, that the "breeders" who sell to pet stores are ALL puppy mills (any decent breeder would never, ever sell through a pet store) - and that it's not a matter of breeder vs. rescue, it's a matter of outlawing the avenues for puppy mill sales.
This is not just an animal welfare issue, mind you, even though there's obviously a very strong argument for that. It's also a consumer protection issue. Just ask any of the pet parents who've joined the class action lawsuit against Happiness Is Pets. As much as these municipalities want to cover their butts and pay due diligence to the interests of revenues, business interests, and keeping their retailers happy -- they should also be considering the fraud that is perpetrated by pet store owners against their patrons.
Those consumers happen to be voters, in case these town board members and congressmen need a reminder.
There is no need to discuss, debate, research, and issue more continuances...pet stores sell puppy mill dogs (and cats and rabbits). Chicago was right in the first place. Those who want a guaranteed (and healthy) purebred pet should find an excellent breeder. You would never get their quality from a pet shop anyway. All others can choose from the infinite variety of pets available for adoption from shelters and rescue organizations.
And the pet stores can do what they should be doing - sell pet supplies.