Just mention the city of Naperville to people in the local animal rescue community and you will likely elicit an involuntary groan and disheartened head shaking. Their efforts encouraging the city to enact an ordinance banning the retail sale of commercially bred puppies in pet stores have so far been unsuccessful.
By way of background, here is the current situation in a nutshell: The issue of enacting an ordinance prohibiting the sale of commercially bred puppies was originally brought up in the summer of 2014 in a Naperville City Council meeting due to well-documented concerns that these dogs originate from puppy mills. You can find a non-graphic explanation of puppy mills here. Council members promised to look in to the matter and a Manager's Memorandum published in June of 2015 concluded with this recommendation:
Due to the number of pending lawsuits, including two in Illinois, and the lack of final rulings on the validity of the challenged ordinances, it is prudent that the City continue to monitor the legal challenges prior to considering any ordinance that increases regulations on or prohibits the sale of puppies in local pet stores.
In essence, they wanted to see how things would pan out in Chicago and Cook County, the presumption being that they would consider following Cook County's lead if the ordinance was upheld in court. Except that didn't happen. The lawsuit was, indeed, thrown out, sending a clear anti-puppy mill message in Cook County and a sign to Naperville that the water is safe, so jump in, but the city did not follow suit.
Instead, they appeared to be moving in the opposite direction as Michael Isaac, then owner of Naperville's Petland, (whose dealings with puppy mills you can read about in this Humane Society report) was appointed to Naperville's Finance Committee. It appears he has since sold to new owners. His first term goes from August 11, 2015 through May 30, 2018.
Neighboring Warrenville, meanwhile, unanimously passed Ordinance 2978 on February 1st, prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits purchased from for-profit breeders and puppy mills. As their ordinance states this is because:
...current Federal, Illinois and city laws and regulations do not properly address the sale of puppy and kitten mill dogs and cats or rabbit mill rabbits in city business establishments, and
...the City Council believes it is in the best interest of the City to adopt reasonable regulations to protect the citizens of the City who may purchase cats or dogs or rabbits from a pet store or other business establishment, help prevent inhumane breeding conditions, promote community awareness of animal welfare, and foster a more humane environment in the City
All over social media you could see this celebrated with "When, Naperville? When?" following shortly after.
So, okay, Petland has a place on the City Council for a few years now and that tells me things aren't going to change too quickly there. We can have all the thoughts about that we want but in real day to day terms, the question is this:
What does this mean for those of us who live in and near Naperville while staunchly disagreeing with their current stance?
Boycott? Walk away?
Maybe. I know there are people who refuse to shop Naperville now and others who are looking very seriously at whether they will take up residence (or continue to live) in the city. But Naperville is a large, affluent suburb so I'm not sure they have felt the pinch, in all honesty.
On the other hand, I'm not convinced that animal welfare is too much of a niche concern to warrant serious consideration within the city. I do think people care about the issue, and I'm certain local residents care about their pets. So, how do we help move the situation in a positive way?
By looking for what is going right in the city and doing all we can to help those efforts succeed. Let's make sure we are looking at the full range of ways we can send a message to the city about our desires to see it move in a more humane direction.
One clear way to help change occur is by supporting the organizations already in Naperville who are doing exactly what we would like to see pet retailers do. Namely, adopting out homeless pets into loving, permanent homes.
Consider this...if pet retailers see homeless animals lingering in agencies that seek to rehome them, it is going to be tough to convince them that working with this same animal population is a viable business model.
The more humane organizations thrive in Naperville, the more clear the message that the community DOES support this model, not just in theory, but in practice...buying habits, and all.
If you read my post yesterday on what is needed to move us toward No Kill and humane communities, you will see that the best way to do that is for animal lovers at all levels to help where and how we can to help our local homeless animals find a welcome place in our towns, neighborhoods and homes.
So...you in? Why don't we start with this guy?
Moose is currently at Naperville Area Humane Society, where he has been living in a kennel since September. He came from downstate and, like Lucy, could be a poster child for the next steps in achieving a No Kill Community. Moose did escape an unhappy fate by being pulled for rescue from a shelter that might have euthanized him but living in a kennel for months on end is tough on dogs. Moose is two years old, has all the energy you would hope a youngster would have and LOVES being close to people. And since he spends most of his day in a kennel space, he's getting a bit frustrated.
Frustrated dogs do things like bark and jump around and...basically look frustrated. In other words, they don't 'show well'. So adopters walk by, and look for a less frustrated active dog and that does nothing to help Moose feel better about his situation.
And, I guess I should tell you...Moose is blind in one eye and can hardly see out of the other. And he's not a big fan of other dogs so he would do best as an only pet. And kids in the home should be older (12 and up) because little wild children running around unpredictably can make it hard for blind dogs to navigate around.
So, yeah, Moose has a few check boxes that need ticking off on his 'awesome new forever home' list but he brings a lot to the table. Big personality, a massive love of toys and a love of snuggling that just doesn't end.
That wild stuff in the kennel...he's not like that in real life.
Never judge a dog by the kennel. Seriously. It rarely brings out the best in any dog.
So many ways you can help...SHARE Moose. Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Help educate those around you who share your humane values. You don't have to get all crazy-preachy about it but conversations can go a long way toward saving the lives of dogs like Moose and helping us build communities we can be proud to call home.
Would you like to learn more about efforts to tackle the puppy mill issue? Do check out The Puppy Mill Project. They are hosting an open house for new volunteers Feb 20th at Chicago Party Animals Loft Venue.
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