Fighting Pet Store Sales of Dogs, Cats and Rabbits in Chicago


Six years ago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, all aldermen except one (vote 49 to 1 was the vote) and most important the overwhelming majority of people who live in the City of Chicago agreed no dogs, cats or rabbits should be sold at pet stores. But three pet stores responded by laughing at the new law, ignoring it from the start. Worse, they are defrauding consumers. Listen HERE on WGN Radio Steve Dale’s Pet World with second ward Alderman Brian Hopkins on closing the loophole of an ordinance which already exist.

Puppy Mill Project March in Chicago several years ago with Susan Mendoza then City Clerk, Cari Meyers of the Puppy Mill Project and myself leading the way

Here’s what happened soon after the ordinance was passed in 2014 to limit pet store sales, pet stores’ sources (puppy mills and their brokers) filled out paperwork to call themselves rescues, and to consider them as non-profits. Creative way around the law for sure. Meanwhile the pet stores have been selling these “rescued” dogs, the same dogs they’ve always sold, for thousands of dollars to consumers who may now actually believe they’re saving dogs from a real rescue.

Alderman Hopkins agrees, as does every shelter and rescue in the city, as well as a group called Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills that supporting the notion that dogs, cats and rabbits are sold at pet stores – you are inherently supporting puppy mills. That is, of course, where the poor animals are sourced from, as no responsible breeder EVER sells to a pet store. Never!

“The truth about (where dogs, cats and rabbits sold at pet retail stores are from) is convincing beyond any reasonable doubt and highly disturbing,” Hopkins says.

Veterinary Organizations Argument on the Other Side – Supporting Puppy Mills

Hopkins says one argument the organized veterinary community has to support pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits is that without the pet stores people who want these dogs will go online, or nefarious individuals will sell puppies out of the back of pick up trucks.

Brian Hopkins

The part about back of pick up trucks is not occurred anywhere else in urban areas where laws to limit pet store sales have happened. Unfortunately, in rural parts of the country people do buy dogs in Walmart parking lots. As for online sales this is indeed an issue now, one which no local City official can deal with but instead the need is for the Federal Government to step in. And Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is taking steps. But Hopkins and I wonder why the organized veterinary organizations (Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and Chicago Veterinary Medical Association) are essentially in apparent support of puppy mills. Of course, most individual veterinary professionals think otherwise and don’t support their organizations.

It’s true, Chicago alone won’t close down puppy mills. But consider the growing volume of nearly 400 cities across the country that have now limited pet store sales, as have many counties and three states (California, Maryland and Maine). If it wasn’t for the pandemic slowing legislation, other states would be onboard likely including New Jersey and New York with more to follow.

Some number of years ago, the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association worked hard to get a lemon law passed. And at that time I was in support because that’s all we could do. But this is a different time. The lemon law is supposed to allow consumers to return a sick puppy (behavior problems aren’t delineated in the law so that is an iffy return), and the purchase price is supposed to be refunded. However, while lemon laws are great for cars or washing machines, puppies are beloved members of the family and are considered by law sentient beings.  Of course, most people don’t want to return a family member; they fall in love with these puppies instantly. Also, they’re concerned about what happens to the dog if it is returned (a reasonable concern). Hopkins points out that often pet stores aren’t volunteering that the lemon law exist so people don’t know about it. And I’ve heard of instances where pet stores have refused to allow people to return the dog for the money back. Clearly, these stores are adept at routinely circumventing laws.

If you agree no dogs, cats or rabbits should be sold at pet stores, do contact your alderman.