June 4, 2018
Puppy mill bans forbid retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats that come from anywhere but animal shelters. Communities put these bans in place as a means to empty overcrowded shelters and find homeless animals a family to love.
Bans on puppy mills typically have broad support from local animal shelters, police departments, animal control authorities, prosecutors and municipalities. Often, the only ones who object are those whose livelihoods are jeopardized by the ban — dog breeders and pet stores.
Sadly, puppy mills are horror shows. Dogs often aren’t properly cared for, get little to no regular veterinary attention and live in cramped, unclean cages. Breeding females have litter after litter, churning out “purebred” puppies for buyers who have no idea that these dogs are raised under horrible conditions. The Puppy Mill Project estimates that there are a shocking 167,388 breeding dogs in the U.S., steadily giving birth to new litters.
- An animal control center, animal care facility, kennel, pound or training facility operated by any subdivision of local, state or federal government; or
- A humane society or rescue organization
The need was dire — in 2013 alone, Cook County, Illinois, impounded approximately 20,000 animals. A third of them had to be euthanized because they were not adopted. According to the Puppy Mill Project, in 2013 alone, Illinois pet stores sold more than 14,300 dogs. Nationally, over 2 million puppies are bred in mills each year.
Every animal shelter and local humane society overflows with unwanted and formerly abused animals looking for new homes. While “no kill” shelters exist, many shelters haven’t the room nor the means to feed and care for all these animals until someone adopts them. Euthanasia is the tragic consequence.
The city’s policy goals are to reduce financial support for mill breeders, curb the emotional and financial burdens on consumers who unwittingly buy mill-bred pets, and reduce the cost of sheltering and euthanizing unwanted problem pets. These are unquestionably legitimate governmental interests, and it’s rational to think the puppy-mill ordinance will serve them.
Failing in court, breeders came up with a sneaky way to dodge the ordinance. The law allows Chicago pet stores to sell puppies, kittens and rabbits supplied by rescue groups that are “closely linked” to longtime commercial dealers.
As long as rescue groups provide pet stores with the puppies, the ordinance hasn’t been violated. The problem is that some of these “rescue groups” are providing hundreds of purebred and designer-mix puppies to pet stores. Those puppies originated in kennels and facilities run by dog breeders and dealers.
If the puppy comes from the right type of group and has the word “rescue” associated with it, it’s fair game for sale in a pet store. Clearly, it’s still too easy to game the system.
“Without a doubt, that completely breaks the spirit of what we were trying to get passed,” former city clerk, current Illinois Comptroller and bill sponsor Susana Mendoza told The Chicago Tribune. “I think what we were trying to get passed couldn’t have been clearer.”
He’d like to require that pets come from a government facility or an organization “that has an agreement or other affiliation with Chicago Animal Care and Control” permitting them to be sold in Chicago pet stores.
While that sounds like a positive initiative, some activists — including Marc Ayers, the Illinois director of the Humane Society of the United States — worry that this change might render the ordinance unconstitutional. Ayers told the Chicago Tribune that this change could be seen as violating interstate commerce laws by stating a preference for local rescue groups over out-of-state organizations.
Work continues to figure out a fix that keeps the ordinance legally supportable, while closing the loophole that allows non-rescue animals to be sold in Chicago pet stores.
It makes little sense to purchase a companion animal when so many sit waiting forlornly in cramped shelters. They’re waiting for someone to take them home and love them.
We need to get these animals out of shelters. They don’t deserve life in a cage.
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