The great puppy mill/pet store debate will be raging on in Naperville for at least another month as the city council continues to weigh options before they choose to act or not to act. After 21 people debated the issue on Tuesday night, any further action was tabled until October 7th. The good news is that the city council is taking time to investigate their options and considering legislation. The bad news is that they may be waiting on the state of Illinois to make move.
Since I’m the person behind the blog that started the debate, I hope all will bode well for Naperville in the end. Passing legislation related to selling commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores shouldn’t be taken lightly. At Monday’s meeting, council members were asking the hard questions including how they would enforce an ordinance like Chicago’s that outlawed the sale of puppy mill dogs and kitten mill cats in pet stores.
That is good because they are doing their homework and strongly considering their next move. Considering that puppy mills and pet stores were not even on the radar for the council at the start of the summer, that is progress. And, I, for one, would rather see strong, well researched legislation put up for a vote so that if it’s passed there is an impact on the pet stores still selling puppy mill dogs.
Although it seemed like the Chicago ordinance breezed through to approval, that law was actually two years in the making. The Puppy Mill Project and City Clerk Susana Mendoza did their research and reached out to the council one-by-one. The two years of hard work paid off when the Companion Animal and Consumer protection Act was introduced and passed in a month’s time.
Cook County’s ordinance followed a month later and was built on the back of the work and legislation already into play in Chicago. Naperville has two stores that would be affected by the ordinance – Happiness is Pets and Petland. In order to work, the measure will need to have teeth and the community will need to police the stores. That takes time.
That brings us to the bad news.
Naperville is keeping an eye on the state of Illinois, hoping that statewide action will happen that will move the ball out of their court. Unlike our neighboring states of Iowa and Missouri, Illinois has had a strong track record on animal welfare legislation. However, not all of the laws passed have had the impact people had hoped for originally.
- The Pet Store Disclosure act requires pet stores to post the origin of the pets they sell or near the cage. If you go into a pet store, it’s hard to find this information because it’s behind a counter and you must ask for it. No enforcement was built into this legislation either.
- The Puppy Lemon Law (also known as the pet warranty) gives consumers more recourse in the past when they purchase a pet that is sick. This legislation has been in effect for less than a ear and it’s too early to see if stores are following the law and what happens when they don’t.
- A bill passed this summer increases fines for anyone violating the animal welfare act.
Governor Pat Quinn is in the midst of a tough re-election campaign. It’s doubtful he’ll tackle this hot potato until after the election. If he wins, a statewide ban on the sale of pets in pet stores will be a tough sell in an agriculture state like Illinois. PIJAC - the lobbying group backing pet stores and puppy mills - also has a heavy hand here. If Bruce Rauner is elected, it’s hard to tell if animal welfare issues will even be on the agenda. He’ll have to tackle pension reform, labor issues and other key issues for Illinois.
So, for change to happen, Naperville really needs to take this dog by the leash and figure out how to write an ordinance that will help puppy mill dogs. And, if they want to find out how it works, look no further than Naperville's own Dog Patch Pet and Feed. Dog Patch made the move to a humane model almost three years ago...and...it's taken a lot of work to get the model right, but the business is booming.
So, I'd love to retire the title of puppy mill outlet capital of America...but that won't happen with Petland and Happiness is Pets conducting business as usual. It will only happen if Naperville controls their own destiny and writes and passes a law that will make change happen.
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