Chicago passes anti-puppy mill legislation

Some Chicago puppy store owners plan to move their businesses to the suburbs to avoid the ordinance, which goes into effect in March 2015.

It’s official: Chicago now joins more than 45 other cities across North America — including Los Angeles, Toronto, San Diego, and others — in banning the sale of puppy mill dogs, rabbit mill rabbits, and kitten factory cats, in pet stores.

On Wednesday, Chicago City Council members voted 49-1 to approve the Companion Animal & Consumer Protection Ordinance, which prohibits Chicago pet stores from selling dogs, cats, or rabbits supplied by large-scale commercial breeders. Instead, pet stores will have to work with city shelters and animal rescue organizations if they still want to sell pets in their stores.

“This ordinance prevents, hopefully…these terrible practices of having these animals being abused day after day in small cages,” Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno tells the Chicago Tribune.

The ordinance will go into effect in March 2015, giving city pet stores one year to adopt a more humane business model and pair with local shelters to save more homeless pets.

Chicago officials in favor of the ordinance say it will not only promote animal welfare, but it will also protect consumers and save taxpayer money by cutting down on the number of pets at city-operated shelters.

“We pay dearly for failing to curb the sale of puppy mill animals. This legislation is going to save the lives of dogs and spare pet owners the heartache and cost of bringing a sick animal into their home. Also, I’m happy to say that this addresses a big challenge the City faces in terms of finding resources to care for strays and abandoned animals,” Chicago City Clerk and proponent of the new ordinance, Susana A. Mendoza, said in a statement last month.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) says he’s pleased the legislation passed and hopes Chicago will continue to serve as an animal welfare leader.

“As a person who grew up with three dogs, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mayor Emanuel said after the vote. “And I’m proud of the city and proud of the city clerk took a step forward to do that.”

In all, 16 Chicago pet stores will be affected by the measure, and most owners are not pleased with this new development. James J. Sparks, co-owner of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood pet store Park Pet Shop, says the ordinance does not distinguish between unscrupulous breeders and reputable ones.

“Am I for shutting down the wrong part of the industry? Absolutely, 100 percent,” Sparks says. “We do our best. We do a lot of hand-washing. We do a lot of crossing T’s and dotting I’s.”

And owner of Northwest Side shop Hug-A-Pup Susan Nawrocki says she plans to move to the suburbs so she can continue to run her business her way.

“I don’t need Chicago,” Nawrocki tells the Tribune. “Chicago needs us. Businesses that come to Chicago are not treated the way they should be treated.”

The sole “no” vote in Wednesday’s meeting came from Alderman Brendan Reilly (D).

“As the proud owner of two dogs myself, I applaud the clerk for targeting puppy mills. They’re atrocious, inhumane, and should be put out of business. I support the intent of the ordinance, but not the approach,” Ald. Reilly tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “When the City Council bans a business or products, it’s done as a statement of public policy. This is bad therefore, we’ll keep it out of Chicago.

“The reality is that most of these city bans don’t end the bad practice or eliminate the bad product,” he adds. “They simply push that business to the suburbs.”

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune,