Naperville: Questions for the pet store debate

Naperville: Questions for the pet store debate
Pet storeowners at a Naperville City Council hearing claimed that puppy mills are not USDA licensed facilities. They added that the “good breeder” – those licensed by the USDA treat animals better. These dogs are from a USDA licensee in Nashua, Iowa. They were living in these conditions.

Where do those pet store puppies come from?

It's a question that is in the news a lot lately as animal advocates and pet stores that sell commercially bred dogs and cats fight it out at city and county hearings. As the pet store debate heats up, it's one of many questions that keep coming up from elected officials, animal lovers, even those backing pet stores.

Where do those pet store puppies come from?

Frightened dog in USDA licensed mill in West Point, Iowa.

Frightened dog in USDA licensed mill in West Point, Iowa.

Tuesday night, it was the topic of discussion in Naperville where the city council heard testimony on the pet store debate from concerned citizens, advocates and pet storeowners about pet stores and puppy mills and so-called "good breeders."

That topic quickly hit the docket after photos of the soon to be opened Happiness is Pets hit Facebook. It ticked me off that a new, much larger store was opening under zero scrutiny of their current business and prompted a blog post - Naperville: puppy mill outlet capital of America. That post struck a nerve for pet lovers in Naperville and motivated local residents to stand up and fight for action. Spurring the debate on the origin of pet store puppies.

In Naperville, where do the pet store puppies come from?

At the hearing on Tuesday, there were two answers to the question. Pet advocates, including Dee Santucci of The Puppy Mill Project, testified that pet store pets at the two Naperville pet stores that sell pets come from puppy mills – USDA regulated commercial breeding operations. That testimony described puppy mill and the minimal standards that are OK under USDA regulations. All pet store puppies and kittens are required by law to sell pets from USDA licensed operations.

The picture of this Bichon was taken during a USDA inspection of a Sully, Iowa USDA-licensed facility. He’s still presumed to be living in these conditions.

The picture of this Bichon was taken during a USDA inspection of a Sully, Iowa USDA-licensed facility. He’s still presumed to be living in these conditions.

The picture of this Bichon was taken during a USDA inspection of a Sully, Iowa USDA-licensed facility. He’s still presumed to be living in these conditions.

Mike Isaac and Adam Stachowiak, the owners of the local Petland, and Jonathon Berning, the son of the owner of Happiness is Pets, told a different story. They say they use private breeders licensed by the USDA. They testified that the USDA licensed breeders are not puppy mills – that puppy mills are those unlicensed by the USDA. And, the more they talked the more the questions just crop up in my head.

Where do the pet store puppies come from?

If they really are from good breeders, what are the pet stores like Petland and Happiness is Pets hiding?

Why do they hide the origin of their dogs and cats?

What are those breeders really like?

Yes, what are they hiding?

As the pet store debate heats up, the question ringing louder in my head is - what are the Happiness is Pets and Petlands really hiding about their breeders? If they are such awesome breeders, why aren’t they publicizing who they are far and wide?

These dogs are being held at a USDA licensed breeding facility in Winterset, Iowa.

These dogs are being held at a USDA licensed breeding facility in Winterset, Iowa.

You see, there is a Pet Store Disclosure Act in Illinois. Under that law, pet stores are supposed to display the origin of the pets they sell on or near he cage. It should be easy to find. At Petland and Happiness is Pets, you can’t find the breeder information on the cage, near the cage, under the cage collecting dog crap or anyplace else in the vicinity of the cage. The name and general information about the breeder – the “good breeders” they are so proud of – is hidden in a binder behind the counter.

You need to ask to see the breeder information. When you do, you won’t see all the names. No, the stores will just hand over the names of one or two of the breeders of a few dogs you may have some interest in. If the breeders are so great, if they are not puppy millers, why hide the fact?

Why all the secrecy?

It really is the $10 million question.

Where are these breeders?

Yes, the big secret is where are these breeders located and what are their breeding operations like?

Are they from scenic Iowa?

This dog was rescued from a Southern Illinois mill that was closed down. It had operated for years before local officials rescued the animals.

This dog was rescued from a Southern Illinois mill that was closed down. It had operated for years before local officials rescued the animals.

You’ve heard of Iowa, they have all those USDA puppy mills that are so “great” they are on the top 101 worst list – so bad that they amass years and years of violations before they are shutdown.

Are they from Indiana?

You know some of those “good breeders,” down the dirt road past the horse drawn buggies in the heart of Amish Country. Are those your breeders?

If they are purchasing from "private breeders" and not puppy mills, why are they even concerned about any new regulations. If they are not purchasing from puppy mills...what is all the fuss about?

As the pet store debate rages on, the advocates speaking for the voiceless will bring out USDA reports showing the violations, the number of dogs and the rest of the dirty secrets about where local pets sold in pet stores originate. They have all kinds of proof. What kind of proof do the pet stores have? Maybe it’s time to shift the burden of proof.

Naperville investigates puppy mills

Over the next 60 days, Naperville will be looking into the pet store debate and learning more about pet stores and puppy mills and pets in need of rescue. Both sides will show reams and reams of paperwork support their side of the argument. I, for one, just want to see proof of the good breeders. Show the list and let the public connect the dots.

Better yet, grab a reporter and head out to the country to go puppy shopping to show off those good breeders. I’m sure that’s a story that would be a much better read than the story pet stores are currently telling.

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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