Sunday is Puppy Mill Awareness Day around the country. It's a day (or in some case, weekend) where animal advocates, pet lovers and rescue folks hit the streets to march, the trails to walk and their community to adopt out pets. All of these activities are aimed at spreading the word about puppy mills and their connection to the pets sold in pet stores. In Chicago, The Puppy Mill Project and rescue organizations hit North Michigan Avenue for their own awareness march.
Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project, City Clerk Susana Mendoza and County Commissioner John Fritchey will be leading the a crowd of over 200 people (and dogs) as they walk the city's Magnificent Mile. It's been a big year in Chicago. In March, Chicago approved a ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores. In April, Cook County did the same.
That may lead you to think - why march on Michigan now?
Isn't our job done?
Far from it. Our work is just beginning.
As of last week, the Cook County Ordinance that was to take effect on October 1st was put on hold after three pet store owners filed a lawsuit to prevent the ban from taking effect. Several communities in Cook County with home rule power are debating whether to go all in with the County, opt out or make their own laws. Stores argue the ban will put them out of business even though many pet stores thrive without selling pets (see story).
That is why the march tomorrow is so very, very important. There are some very good reasons why the over 50 communities in North America have banned the sale of dogs and cats.
- Over 99 percent of pets sold in pet stores come from puppy and kitten mills. It's not a fact pulled out of a hat...it's supported by USDA records that track wear puppy mill dogs are transported and who sells them.
- Pet stores misrepresent where their pets are obtained - they say they all come from good breeders. Consumers all in love with pretty balls of fluff and buy the misrepresentation. That is often followed by high vet bills from sick puppies or dogs that grow up to be less than healthy adults.
- Each year, an estimated four million dogs and cats die in animal controls around America just because there are not enough homes. They are housed, euthanized and disposed of at tax payers expense.
The Chicago Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Act (spearheaded by Mendoza) and the Cook County version of that ordinance (spearheaded by Fritchey) aim to shutdown the puppy mill pipeline and save the lives (and tax payer dollars) of shelter pets by forcing pet stores to go humane. That would mean they would offer dogs and cats rescued from animal controls or being cared for by rescues for adoption.
Since the ordinances were passed, well-funded lobbying groups like the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) - have gone to bat against the ordinances. That particular group is lead by two directors with strong ties to the puppy mill industry - the Hunte Corporation (the largest puppy mill broker in America) and Petland (the largest puppy mill outlet in America).
As the debate has been sparked, owners of pet stores get up again and again with a straight face and tell a very convincing story that their dogs don't come from puppy mills...just good breeders. Even though USDA records tell a different story and even though good breeders sell directly to families...not through brokers or pet stores.
So, tomorrow is a big day to get out the word and build awareness. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. If you love cats or dogs or rabbits...or any pets for that matter...head on down to Michigan Avenue and join us at noon. The march starts just north of the River in front of the Tribune and heads to Water Tower Place and back. My fellow ChicagoNow Blogger Steve Dale - who also writes a lot of great information about puppy mills and the pet store connection - will be the emcee. I'll be on hand too.
Learn about the work of The Puppy Mill Project here.
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