Chicago Alderman Is Supporting Puppy Mills
As recently as last year, Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez (15th ward) said that he embraced tightening of the city’s so-called anti-puppy mill ordinance. Instead, he is working sabotage the current fix of an ordinance.
Who wouldn’t embrace a means to prevent puppy mills from selling animals in your community? Besides, Lopez repeatedly calls himself the “animal alderman,” which he clearly has never really been.
Not only has Lopez done an about face, he has now crafted an ordinance to support pet stores selling dogs and cats, according to a Chicago Tribune story by Stacy St.Clair and Christy Gutowski.
In March, 2015 Chicago nearly unanimously passed an ordinance, with great public support, to prevent pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits. The ordinance originated with the Puppy Mill Project and then Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza.
There weren’t all that many pet stores impacted in the Windy City as major chains that sell puppies are mostly in the suburbs or rural areas. From the moment the ordinance passed, a handful of stores not only ignored it but flaunted the law and began to allegedly defraud consumers. They quickly implemented a plan to have out-of-state sources of their animals register as non-profits. So the stores claimed to sell “rescues.” The price of these so-called rescued animals, still thousands of dollars.
I was involved in making this public, but an exemplary Chicago Tribune investigative piece followed the bouncing tennis ball – which isn’t an easy task. Sources that sell the puppies are hidden, and sold through various brokers before reaching a pet store. With zero transparency, getting to the source of the animals is no easy task. Still, you’d think the Tribune story would have led to instant fines, and changes to close the loophole in wording in the ordinance that allowed this to occur in the first place.
Lopez told the Chicago Tribune, and independently told me on the radio that he supported closing the loophole.
Lopez did forward a poorly worded proposal to close the loophole, which he didn’t work with animal advocates on, and it quickly failed.
Yet, when meeting with the Puppy Mill Project Founder Cari Meyers at City Hall to create a plan, Lopez unannounced invited Lane Boron, owner of Pocket Puppies, an alleged offender. Meyers was rightly taken aback, simply confused asking, “Is he (Lopez) really an animal advocate?”
According to the Chicago Tribune story, it was around that time when Boron made the first of several donations to Lopez. Boron’s store on North Clark Street is in the 43rd ward is about maybe 20 miles from Lopez’s 15th ward. Here’s proof of various donations from Boron to Lopez (which I reported on in July) from Reform for Illinois, (a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization). The Tribune today also reported on these donations, which Lopez told the newspaper he returned to Boron (but there’s no proof of that, according to the Tribune).
Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd ward) earlier this year forwarded an ordinance at the urging of now Illinois State Comptroller Mendoza. Hopkins explained on my WGN Radio show that he doesn’t claim to be an animal rights Alderman, and knew nothing about this pet store issue. But he has grown to be horrified by where dogs are sourced from and is convinced closing the loophole in wording is the humane thing to do, and would prevent the outright fraud happening now.
The issue now is now about evading the clear intent of a City ordinance, and alleged consumer fraud all this time.
Nearly 400 cities across the U.S. and Canada, as well as over a dozen counties have humane ordinance which prevent selling of dogs and cats (and in some communities such as Chicago, also rabbits) at pet stores. Also, three entire states (California, Maryland and Maine) now ban such sales. However, all these humane ordinances welcome LEGITIMATE rescues and shelters to adopt animals at pet stores.
What’s more, the humane issue also remains – as it always has been – where are these dogs really from? The Tribune story reports that on November 26, Chicago Animal Care and Control issued administrative notice of 13 alleged ordinance violations to Pocket Puppies on suspicion the store sourced several 8-week-old English and French Bulldogs from an Oklahoma breeder over a three-month period earlier this year, according to a City report. The City investigation was sparked by a complaint from the Humane Society of the United States, according to the report. A hearing on this matter is scheduled for January 4.
What additional proof might Chicago aldermen require?
The simple fact is that responsible breeders NEVER sell to pet stores.
It’s been a trend, when public officials repeat what they repeat over and over, it becomes fact. But THE REAL FACT is that Lopez’s history indicates that he is no expert on animal welfare, and he is hardly in the corner of animal welfare either. For example, being a USDA certified breeder (which Lopez supports) sadly means nothing. As “breeders” are not inspected often enough (due to under-staffing) and even those who pass inspection may still have horrid conditions based on 2020 standards as opposed to circa 1950 standards which they are inspected on. Apparently, Lopez doesn’t know this or doesn’t care.
Simple question: If the breeding is so wonderful, why can’t potential customers go see these places? Why all the secret brokers?
Boron has said repeatedly that an effective ordinance would put him out of business, but the Tribune story indicates that lots of pet stores do succeed by adopting animals and then selling all of what is needed for them, such as pet foods and scratching posts.
As I was quoted as saying in the Trib story, “The ordinance’s aim isn’t to close peet shops but to require them to adhere to standards to better protect animals. I don’t want to see anyone go out of business. That was never the intent. But I would rather see them go out of business than see them sell dogs unethically and defraud the public.”