Illinois Coalition Supports Puppy Mills?


Who wants puppy mills? Apparently, albeit unknowingly, some Illinois legislators do.

Pet stores that sell dogs and cats are selling animals from commercial breeders or puppy mills. Very effectively, a grass roots effort (assisted by Best Friends, and others) has created legislation town by town across America and Canada to prevent pet stores from selling cats and dogs. Among the city’s in Illinois to pass this legislation are Chicago, Waukegan and Warrenville, and the entire Cook County (which includes Chicago).

Now, there’s a coalition of  of apparent supporters of puppy mills – I don’t know how else to put it because they have set out to destroy these laws/ordinances which prohibit sales of dogs and cats a pet stores.

This coalition call themselves Illinois Pet Lover’s Association (IPLA), as if that adoring name will fool people. They’ve apparently, so far, fooled some legislators – who I believe truly feel they signed on to a good bill.

This group has created wording in HB2824 which will demolish efforts by communities that have banned pet store sales, but the bill hides behind (poorly worded) support of microchipping animals when sold at stores. I am all for microchipping, but the bill says nothing (that I saw) regarding registration with a chip provider, and besides it’s already law that adopted animals are chipped.  Read it for yourself:  HB2824.

It’s important for pet owners to know who is supporting IPLA, and they include the American Kennel Club, Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, and the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs & Owners, and I have reason to believe other players who benefit from pet stores that sell dogs and cats.

I want to specifically call out the American Kennel Club, working hard to resurrect their image. They’ve now welcomed mixed breed dogs at some of their events, and suggest they’ve become more transparent. Supporting pet store sales and therefore the mills isn’t going to be helpful for this organization with a waining public reputation.

I have such great respect for veterinarians, I am saddened that the Illinois Veterinary Medical Association has any role here. The good news is that I don’t believe their membership agrees with the organization’s position.

I have NEVER met a veterinarian or a veterinary technician (veterinary nurse) who has gone into the field for any other reason than to help animals.

“I don’t understand how in a country of animal lovers, puppy mills can be tolerated,” says Chicago veterinarian Dr. Scott Rovner. “Now, we’ve finally begun to speak up and do something about it; we need to.”

Rovner and a Chicago colleague, Dr. Jane Lohmar (with this reporter) founded a loosely-knit non-profit organization called Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills. A founding member is the organization representing veterinary technicians (National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America).

The political argument is that government shouldn’t tell small businesses what to do. If they want to sell dogs and cats, why not?. Well, the fact is that small businesses are already regulated in many ways (perhaps, too many – I get that), but dogs and cats have no way to speak up for themselves. These places that sell them contend they’re from non-profits or hobby breeders, unless that can be proven, it’s fraud. They contend a dog is a Maltese (or whatever breed or designer mix they promise) when it’s really not what they say, and that is also fraud. The new law suggests that only if the USDA has previously cited a facility they indeed can not sell to the pet store, the problem now is you can’t even tell that since the USDA is no any longer easily allowing public access; how would anyone know except for months or years later?

It’s one thing to place pets up for adoption from legitimate shelters and rescues (as PetSmart and Petco have done for years), or to adjust a business model. Dog Patch Pet and Feed in Naperville, IL once sold from suppliers, but questioned their own ethics, and today run a great adoption program. Other pet stores around the country have done the same.

The other argument is simply prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs and cats won’t do much good, and that puppy mills still sell online. First, those who say that are conceding the pet stores sell from mills. Sadly, though, they’re right as online sales from mills are booming. But you do what you can do. If there are a dozen accidents at two intersections, and I can – for whatever the reason – only put up a stop light at one of them, at least I save some lives. And it’s not only the lives of the animals being sold, some are even healthy, but it’s their mothers in the mills who live on wire mesh on their own filth in crowded cages their entire lives, who don’t interact with people or receive veterinary care (how can veterinarians support that?). We’ve all seen TV reports of puppy mills, yet they still exist.

None of this would matter if the American Kennel Club, Pet Industry and Joint Advisory Council and others would simply find a way to close the mills. Why aren’t their energies directed there? I’ve been told “We’re working on it.” Truly, that was an answer I was given when I began to write about companion animals over 20 years ago. And I get the same answer today. My patience has long run out.

After failing in the courts, legislation has proved a good strategy in Arizona and Ohio, as similar language as being suggested in Illinois has overturned hard fought grass roots efforts to ban pet store sales of dogs and cats because it was done swiftly with few taking notice. In Illinois, in this case happily, nothing happens fast…so we have the heads up. Now, it’s up to you (yes, your voice matters) to speak up!

Here are some things you can do; in fact we really need you to do.

  • If you live in Illinois, contact your state Senator and your rep in the House Representative, and express that you care about this issue.
  • Join the Facebook Page Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills, (whether you live in Illinois or not, no matter what you happen to do for a living).
  • If you are a veterinary professional in Illinois, DO clearly express your concerns to the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.
  • If you live in Illinois, contact your veterinary clinic (so they can tell their association that pet owners are speaking up and speaking out!)
  • If you live in Chicago, contact your Alderman to say you care, and also contact your Alderman if any pet store (and there are some) are ignoring the ban on sales of dogs and cats.