If Chicago pet storeowners want to jump to the suburbs to continue to sell commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbit next year, they may need to leave Cook County. The County Board is considering a measure that will not only ban the sale of puppy mill dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores, it will impose even stricter fines than the city ordinance. The Companion Animal and Consumer Protection act will prohibit the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits and force stores that want to deal in those animals to work with shelters, rescues and animal controls.
"We are thrilled that the Cook County Board has moved this quickly to prohibit pet sales outside the city limits of Chicago," says Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project. The advocacy group worked with Chicago on its ban. "This ordinance strengthens the law already passed in Chicago, preventing these stores from moving to the suburbs to continue to sell puppy mill dogs, kitten mill cats and rabbit mill rabbits there.”
Meyers says that County Board member John Fritchey reached out to her and her organization after the city ban passed 49-1. Chicago’s ban, which passed in early March, will go into effect next March and will impose fines each day stores are not in compliance.
“This is about protecting animals from physical neglect as well as protecting potential pet owners from financial and emotional harm,” stated Fritchey in a press release about the measure. “The public is clearly against the abusive practices that take place in the commercial pet-breeding industry, yet we’ve allowed them to exist with little to no oversight or concern for the welfare of the animals that they’ve churned out for far too long. I was encouraged that the members of the City Council saw the wisdom of passing such a law and I am hopeful that my colleagues will follow suit.”
If the Cook County ordinance passes, the heat will be on the pet stores much sooner and the fines will be much stiffer. The goal is to outlaw the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits in July. Stores that don’t move to a rescue model will be fined $500 per each transaction that violates the ordinance in their store once the law goes into effect.
The move could have a huge impact on the homeless pets countywide. In Cook County, more than 20,000 dogs and cats were impounded in 2012 according to Fritchey. A third were euthanized because there weren’t enough homes.
“This proposal ensures that the options that consumers have are humane and responsible,” stated Fritchey. “We want to encourage people looking to bring an animal into their lives and homes to consider adopting a homeless pet from a shelter, but consumers who want a specific breed always have the option of adopting through a breed-specific rescue or buying a pet through a non-commercial, responsible breeder.”
In Cook County, several pet stores have already moved to humane models. Thee Fish Bowl in Evanston stopped selling pets several years ago and this year Alsip Nursery in Frankford abandoned selling pets and now adopts out dogs and cats of all ages that have come in through rescues and humane organizations.
Like the city measure, pet stores may pull dogs, cats and rabbits from animal controls, humane associations, shelters and rescues. One store that went humane a few years ago – Dog Patch Pet and Feed in DuPage County – adopted out almost 400 dogs and about 150 cats last year just two years after abandoning the sale of puppies.
“We’ve felt all along that pet stores can move to a humane model and be successful and we’ve seen how well it worked for Dog Patch,” adds Meyers. “Our goal isn’t to put stores out of business but to work with them like we did with Dog Patch to find a new way to do business. In Greg’s case, moving to a humane model has actually brought in more business.”
The puppy mill project is asking people to call Cook County’s 17 commissioners to voice support of the measure. Contact information is listed here.
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