Dogs and cats sold at pet stores never come from responsible breeders, and that’s why pet store sales are being restricted around America and Canada. When educated regarding the facts, many public officials seek to do the right thing for dogs and cats who have no voice of their own. Joliet, Illinois, has had the opportunity to do the same, and, despite what the community wants, public officials have been hesitant. Peggy Grandahl of Safe Pets for Joliet has authored this guest blog. If you live in the Joliet area, please speak out.
Nearly 300 cities and municipalities, including the city of Chicago and the entire state of California, have passed legislation to restrict the sales of puppies in retail pet stores. It’s clearly a movement gaining momentum, and it’s a giant step forward in animal welfare.
Why is this legislation important?
Puppies sold in retail pet stores are sourced from large-scale breeding operations known as puppy mills. The puppies are mere products and inventory—a source of profit to everyone in the supply chain. The dogs in the mills spend their entire lives supplying an endless volume of puppies to retail pet stores, online sights, and auctions. It’s all about making money, and, despite the slick marketing tactics used, the stores are not offering pets for “adoption;” puppies purchased in pet stores are purchased. That’s an important distinction, as the general public interprets adoption as something charitable and lifesaving. That is hardly the case when dogs are endlessly bred for volume and profit.
Puppies become impulse purchases, despite their inflated prices, helped by stores that offer easy financing to close the deal. The buyer depends on the seller to be forthcoming about the source and health of the animals. Yet pet stores use a loophole in Illinois’ Puppy Lemon Law to require consumers to opt out of their legal protections. Why would they do that if they were sourcing animals from responsible breeders and operating with transparency?
The movement to stop this factory farming of puppies for profit has shown that individuals seeking to add a pet to their families will always have options, including adopting a pet from shelters and rescues (with all ages from puppies to seniors, including purebred dogs) and purchasing a dog from a responsible, reputable breeder. As far as the assertion from pet stores that their puppies are sourced from quality breeders, that’s not true. In fact, breed clubs strongly discourage consumers from purchasing puppies from pet stores and their ethical guidelines do not allow for their breeders to sell to pet stores. This includes the parent breed clubs of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Breeders who breed for pet stores breed to make money—at any cost to the health and welfare of their “stock.” No responsible breeder ever sells to a pet store.
So, why would a local municipality like the city of Joliet be making every effort to not listen to their constituents, and instead be considering creating legislation based on the recently passed law in Illinois? (That’s right, the law that certified animal behavior consultant Steve Dale blogged about on a number of occasions earlier this year.)
That bill was supported by the AKC along with the Illinois Pet Lovers Association, a group whose current president, Carl Swanson, owns the Naperville Petland, which sells lots of puppies. The pet industry paid high-priced lobbyists from Morrill and Associates to slip the bill past unknowing legislators, and it was written to take away the home rule power of our cities and towns. Had the bill passed in its original form, the recent appellate court ruling upholding the challenge to the Chicago ordinance would have made Chicago’s and other similar local ordinances which were put in place to ban sales of dogs and cats at pet stores null and void. Countless groups and individuals fought for home rule power to remain intact, and it did, which is right because this is what the local communities chose to do. And not only in Illinois, but all over America and Canada.
The new law, while claimed to be a “victory,” is actually an unenforceable piece of legislation that leaves consumers forced to trust pet stores to buy their “stock” from humane and ethical breeders, which never happens in reality.
There is no longer an accessible database for consumers to research breeders’. As the United States Department of Agriculture has greatly removed public access to its inspection database, and the law explicitly states that pet stores have no responsibility to investigate their breeders if the online search tool is unavailable. However, Chicago, Warrenville, Waukegan, and, just this month, Joliet’s next-door neighbor Crest Hill’s laws to prevent sales of dogs and cats in pet stores remain intact.
Despite that, Joliet officials appear to be considering that weak, unenforceable state law to be the model for its answer to the pleas from Joliet constituents, thumbing their noses at their ability to actually use their home rule power—the power we fought for them to keep—to do something effective and desired by residents. Instead, they’re aligning themselves with the pet industry; in other words, they are supporting puppy mills.
One Councilman, Don “Duck” Dickinson, even bought a dog from a pet store earlier this year, after being assigned to the Committee that would decide on this issue and “taking a tour” of Joliet’s one remaining pet store that sells dogs and cats, Furry Babies. At the last Committee meeting when this legislation was considered, Dickinson claimed that he could not remember the name of the store that had sold him the dog.
The pet industry, seeing the critical situation of the third-largest city in Illinois discussing humane legislation, sent its heavy hitter, Curt Fiedler of Morrill and Associates, to speak on behalf of Furry Babies and the pet shop industry at that last meeting. It’s not surprising, since Roger Trolinger, head honcho of Furry Babies, was the only proponent of the state law who testified at an Illinois Senate Committee hearing back in March regarding the then-pending bill. Now, city leaders are stating in meetings that they do not want to lose the pet store trade in Joliet.
Safe Pets for Joliet has had a proposed ordinance in front of the City Council for nearly three years. The delay in passage was claimed to be waiting for the decision in the appellate ruling for Chicago, since Joliet did not want to subject itself to that potential liability. Fair enough. But when did that agenda change? Not one city resident has spoken against Safe Pets for Joliet’s Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance at recent meetings. Multiple residents spoke in favor of the local legislation, and the wishes of the people appear to be falling on deaf ears.
On Thursday, November 2, at 4 p.m., this will be decided in a Committee meeting and sent forward to the full City Council the following week. Please join us at that meeting at the Joliet City Hall to see if the pet industry is going to win another round. Keep in mind, this will likely be precedent-setting for other communities to take the easy way out and create meaningless legislation. If you don’t have a store in your town selling puppies, you soon might, because clearly the pet industry is going to do everything in its power to make it happen. While shelter dogs die.
Visit safepetsforjoliet.org for more information, including facts about Furry Babies’ breeders and ways for you to help.