Once upon a time there was a pet store in the Chicago-area that was so much more than a pet store. It didn't sell unique products or work with rescue. Instead, this pet store harbored its own puppy mill in the back room where puppies were cranked out and then sold to the general public. The Puppy Parlor in Lisle amassed violations with the USDA and the Illinois Department of Ag. It made the HSUS list as one of the worst puppy mills.
Here's the bad news.
The Puppy Parlor was in business for years despite breaking the law and breeding puppies in squalor. The owner claimed she didn't operate a puppy mill...but there was no other way to describe her breeding operation. Inspectors wrote her up and knew what she was up to. Local animal controls didn't step up and neither did local authorities. Year after year, she disobeyed the Animal Welfare Act.
When her doors shut earlier this year, it wasn't because she finally broke too many laws. It wasn't because the cruelty finally went far enough over the the line. No. Protesters had picketed her store day after day until no one shopped there anymore. Almost Home Foundation took in the dogs in her care, nursed them back to health and adopted them.
Why is this relevant?
In April, Cook Counties Commissioners unanimously passed the Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Act. The Cook County pet store law will outlaw the sale of dogs and cats in the 13 pet stores in Cook County come October. But now, three county commissioners want to amend that ordinance and open the door for pet stores to continue to sell pets obtained from commercial breeding operations - puppy mills - as long as they've not had a violation for the past two years.
I tell the story of the Puppy Parlor because it shows the total lack of oversight that is out there. It shows that shutting down puppy mills and the stores connected with them isn't as easy as many people think it is under the current laws. The Puppy Parlor illustrates exactly why we need zero tolerance for puppy mills and the sale of puppy mill dogs anyplace.
This is what you need to know about pet stores, puppy mills and the current fight to upend the Cook County pet store law that will ban puppy mill sales in pet stores.
Good breeders don't sell to pet stores - Good breeders want control over who gets their dogs (and cats). They focus on one breed, limit the number of litters (usually one a year) and carefully vet anyone that wants to purchase a dog from them. They don't sell for profit and would be out of business selling to pet stores at the price pet stores purchase their dogs - $50 to $300 per pet.
USDA breeders are puppy mills - They may be large, commercial operations or small operations (like the Amish) but they have one thing in common - they are in it for the profit. They crank out as many dogs as they can for as cheap as they can and don't care about the proper care - food, veterinary or social - of their dogs.
Pet stores and violations - The new measure says stores can sell dogs and cats as long as they purchase from breeders that haven't had major violation in two years. Here's the deal - some mills that are in deep doo doo because of their abysmal record may be checked more than once a year by the USDA inspectors. The USDA has a shortage of inspectors (as does Illinois) and it's often years between inspections.
The amended proposal will stop stores from selling puppies bred in puppy mills that have violations - We currently have a pet store disclosure act in Illinois. Pet stores are to list the origin of their puppies and kittens on or near the cages. They do not do that. You need to ask for information and often have a hard time seeing the breeder records until you're signing on the dotted line. This law hasn't been enforced. If the county amendment is passed - who will be checking the records of each dog and cat sold at the store in the past year...my guess is no one.
The new law will force pet stores - all small businesses - to shut their doors - It will not. What it will do is force them to find a new, more humane way to do business. Over 60 percent of the pet stores in America do not sell pets. In fact, most stores don't and never have. They sell premium food and products like toys, beds and leashes. Pet stores also offer pet services like dog walkers, pet sitters, groomers and more. They do well. Dog Patch Pet and Feed made the move over two years ago to go humane and adopt out pets instead...it's been a huge success.
Chicago is the first Midwestern city and Cook County the first county to outlaw the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. If the measures stands as it was approved, it will be a huge blow to the puppy mills in Missouri, Iowa and Indiana - all big suppliers to our pet stores. Approving the amendment to the Cook County pet store law will be a vote in support of puppy mills.
The Cook County Board will hold a hearing to consider the amendment on Tuesday, June 17 at the County Building at 118 North Clark Street (5th floor) in Chicago at 10:45. Stand up to the three commissioners who want to reverse their original vote against puppy mills in support of a measure that will allow pet mills to continue to breed dogs and cats in their inhumane conditions and pass those pets on to unsuspecting consumers in pet stores.
Please go and fight this measure - or contact the 17 Cook County Commissioners to voice your opinion. All their contact information is in this blog post. If you'd like to hear why Commissioner Murphy waffled and changed her vote, check out fellow blogger Steve Dale's interview with her on WGN earlier this week on this post. Read here for more about why Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey and The Puppy Mill Project worked so hard to pass the Cook County pet store ordinance.
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