NO to Puppy Mills: YES to Ordinance Banning Pet Store Sales Dogs, Cats, Rabbits


Dogs, cats or rabbits will not longer be sold at pet stores, as the Chicago City Council Committee on Licensing and Consumer Protection unanimously approved the The Companion Animal and Consumer Protection ordinance,March 4, introduced by Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza and forwarded by the non-profit Puppy Mill Project.

Among those who testified FOR the proposed ordinance were Clerk Mendoza, Cari Meyers of the Puppy Mill project, Elizabeth Oreck of Best Friends Animal Society, and Lane Boron, owner of Pocket Puppies on Clark St. Mr. Boron was the only person who testified in opposition. I believe others came to testify in opposition but mysteriously departed. Boron said if this proposed ordinance passes, he goes out of business.

Katie Pottenger of  Parker’s Natural Dog & Cat Market spoke about how she never was in the business of selling live dogs, cats or rabbits, and her place in Hyde Park is doing just fine

Paul Feherenbache spoke about bout how he and his wife Emily were intentionally misled by Boron and Pocket Puppies; his heart breaking story brought me to tears, and others in the room as well.

Brown also suggested much of what the supporters have to say is opinion, not based on fact.

My ChicagoNow colleague Kathy Ammermann Mordini’s blog Reigning Cats and Dogs goes in far more detail than I do here.

I was honored to testify.  Included in my written testimony are citations for what I said. And here is what I said, all based on facts:

My name is Steve Dale. I am certified as a dog and cat behavior consultant, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. For 12 years I’ve hosted a pet show on WGN Radio, and 19 years as a pet columnist for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. I’m a contributing editor at USA Weekend, and speak about pets not only on TV, but also at veterinary and animal welfare conferences around the world…and co-edited the book “Decoding Your Dog,” – still, Chicago is home.

Pet stores that sell dogs, cats and rabbits – and to be clear I am not speaking of stores who adopt animals from shelters or other legit non-profits – maintain where they get their animals.

I am here to tell you that all I know is where they are not getting them. Any legitimate dog or cat breeder mandates meeting the family purchasing…. Breeders seek to match the animals they sell with the lifestyles of the new pet owners, wanting to insure if they rent that the landlord allows pets, etc. They don’t sell to anyone just because the person has a credit card. Responsible breeders want control of who they sell to – these are living breathing beings, not merely merchandise. So you know these caring breeders are not selling to pet stores1. Ever.

Puppy mill conditions are as bad as seen on TV. Animals cramped together in tight quarters; females are breeding machines; disease is rampant – and the result may be medical issues the buyers that even veterinarians can’t detect until months or years later, and certainly behavioral problems2. This is significant because behavior may be the most common cause of death for dogs – when the bond breaks as a result of bad behavior, the animal often lands at a shelter3.

Housetraining seems simple enough – but not for dogs who previously have been ‘trained’ to relieve themselves in their kennels. One reason we do so well with dogs is that they are hardwired to want to go to the bathroom away from where they live…but growing up, many of these puppies have had no option. Aside from being inhumane, as a result these dogs can be exceedingly difficult to house train4.

But it’s not only about what is right for dogs, cats and rabbits – still sold around Easter in some places – it’s what’s right for consumers. Today, we now realize through genetic testing that what people purchase may not be what they thought they were paying hundreds of dollars for. For example, that cute little dog called a MultiiPoo actually may have no Maltese and no Miniature Poodle in its immediate genetic background. The new owners fall in love – so lemon laws don’t matter….meanwhile, though, isn’t buying something under false pretenses fraud5?

And while people should know better than making an impulsive decision – obviously those cute pups appeal to all of us….Actually, we can’t help it; we’ve bred dogs for thousands of years on purpose with Neoteny tendencies – big round eyes, large foreheads – especially small breeds most popular at pet stores…Studies have demonstrated their similarities to human babies. And just as with human babies, we’re hard-wired to respond, the hormone oxytocin increases6. That’s why even tough truck drivers or big city Mayors feel fuzzy all over when we see a puppy. We can’t help that they are appealing…. but it’s not like purchasing a washing machine – it’s different, and ought to be treated differently.

Online puppies don’t just appear as they do as the family walks down the street and ambles into the pet store – you’ve been there, the kids lead the way and implore, “mommy, we need a dog.”

Last year, changes in the Animal Welfare Act mandated restrictions on selling animals online7. So, in truth it’s not as easy as it once was – similarly it ought not be so easy to purchase from pet stores.

People have lived intimately with dogs for thousands of years. Can you believe there’s DNA evidence demonstrating that around 10,000 years ago we were even buried along side our best friends8. …Today, we are only beginning to understand what dogs can do – from detecting diabetic crashes or spikes; it’s been confirmed dogs can detect cancers, and one day may actually be trained to do so; as they can predict epileptic seizures….the list is very long. Just living with a dog is healthful..

While I agree that we owe Chicago consumers . . . in my opinion, we owe dogs – and here is something we can do for our best friends that will matter.”


1 “How to find a responsible dog breeder,” Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), 2012;

2 “Facts About Puppy Mills,” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 2014;

3 Overall, K. VMD, PhD, DACVB, CAAB “Clinical Behavioral Medicine For Small Animals” (Mosby/Evesevier, New York, NY; 1997), pp.5-8.

4 Horwitz, D., DACVB, DVM; Ciribassi J., DACVB, DVM; Dale, S. CABC; “Decoding Your Dog,” by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, pp. 59-82; Cooper, L., DACVB, DVM (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY; 2014).

5 Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Class Action Suit Filed Against Barkworks Claims Pet Stores Deceived Consumers About Selling Dogs from Puppy Mills,” September 29, 2011;

6 McConnell, P., PhD, CAAB “For the Love of a Dog,” (Ballantine Books, New York, NY), 2006; pp. 243-247.

7 USDA Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service, “USDA Restores Important Check and Balance on Retail Pet Sales to Ensure Health, Humane Treatment,” September, 2013;

8  Lossey, L., PhD; “Canids as persons: Early Neolithic dog and wolf burials, Cis-Baikal, Siberia,” Journal of Anthropological Archeology,” Volume 30, Issue 2, June, 2011; pp. 174-189,