Vet School Students Speak Out to Support Limiting Pet Store Sales


No responsible breeder EVER sells to a pet store. So, if that’s the case where do pet stores get dogs or sometimes cats or even rabbits from? The answer is inarguable and increasingly understood by the public – mass producers, large scale breeding facilities. And most often, we’re talking puppy mills.

Those who oppose legislation to prevent pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits are obviously then supporting just another outlet for puppy mills. How can anyone support puppy mills? That’s a good question.

In 2015, Chicago overwhelmingly passed an ordinance banning sales of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores. However, a loophole in the wording of the ordinance has allowed sales of puppies at three pet stores to continue. Here’s what they have done. The stores suppliers’ of animals filled out paperwork shortly after the ordinance was passed, and creatively called themselves “non-profit rescues.”  The stores in question market their puppies as rescues, which Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd ward) and humane organizations have alleged. Aside from continuing to propagate puppy mills – which is bad enough – they are now defrauding the public (suggesting they are rescued dogs that continue to be sold for thousands when these are dogs from puppy mills). If you desire proof, it comes in many forms, including a Chicago Tribune investigative report and recently Chicago Animal Care and Control slapped one pet store with 13 violations.

HOWEVER, when Hopkins created wording to simply adjust wording to close the loophole in the existing ordinance, you’d think everyone would be on board (except obviously the pet stores involved).

Think again: the Illinois State and Chicago Veterinary Medical Associations oppose – which is something all people with pets in Chicago should be aware of and speak up against. Veterinarians supporting puppy mills is what this comes down to.

Also, Alderman Ray Lopez (15th ward) opposes, though I explain and so did a  Chicago Tribune story by Stacy St.Clair and Christy Gutowski. that his opposition may deal with more than philosophical differences. What’s more, Lopez calls himself the “animal alderman,” which all those who work in animal welfare are aware is a joke.

Those opposed to closing the loophole in the existing ordinance:

  • Are supporting pet store suppliers, AKA Puppy Mills. Does one have to even state the ethical issue here?
  • Are accepting that the pet stores have intentionally maneuvered around the spirit of what 49 aldermen and the Chicago public wanted and passed into law in 2015. So, it’s apparently acceptable to ignore and evade the law?
  • Each dog is sold for thousands per puppy; they are clearly not truly rescue dogs. Selling something under false pretenses is fraud.

Chicago alone won’t close down all puppy mills, no one city can. But consider the growing volume of nearly 400 cities across the country (and more in Canada) 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 it’s likely New Jersey and New York would have followed to limit pet store sales – and they will, as will other states.

While these veterinary associations outrageously support pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits – veterinary students know better (which doesn’t surprise me, having spoken at many vet schools across the nation). Here is a letter signed by 59 University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine students:

November 30, 2020

City of Chicago Alderman

City Hall

121 N. LaSalle Street

Chicago, Illinois 60602

RE: VETERINARY SUPPORT for Ordinance #02020-2827, prohibiting all sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits in Chicago pet stores

Dear Chicago Aldermen:

I am the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) second year student representative for the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. I am writing to discuss the reason I and many students in the veterinary medicine program are in support to close the loophole in the current pet store law. In 2014, Chicago Aldermen passed an ordinance mandating that pet stores limit retail sales of dogs, cats, and rabbit to those obtained from animal shelters and rescue organizations. The purpose of this ordinance was intended to reduce the number of facilities of inhumane commercial breeding known as puppy mills, thus lowering the demand for these animals.

However, further investigations show that a group of noncompliant pet stores exploited a loophole that allowed them to sell animals from ‘sham’ rescues. This permits them to operate discreetly as middlemen between the mills and the pet stores. Ordinance #02020-2827 will shut down the fraudulent rescues by eradicating their ability to make a profit from the exploitation of innocent animals. As future veterinary medicine professionals, we abide by the Veterinarian Oath to “benefit society through the protection of animal health and welfare; and the prevention and relief of animal suffering.” We strongly believe that closing this loophole would be a great victory for the state of Illinois.

We encourage your humane leadership in supporting this ordinance. If enacted, Ordinance #02020-2827 defends the health and welfare of homeless, adoptable companion pets sold to individuals and families in Chicago. It would also help protect these families from sustaining monetary and emotional damages as the result of these commonly inbred animals fraudulently being presented as healthy rescues.

This concerning loophole is horribly misleading, dishonest, and fraudulent for the consumers who believe they are purchasing a rescue animal. I lived in Chicago for over five years and have a special interest in seeing the city improve. As such, it has come to my attention that Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez of the 15th Ward has recently reversed his position on this anti-puppy mill ordinance out of concern that it would lead to an “underground market of bad breeders and internet dealers.” As a soon-to-be veterinary provider, I urge Ald. Lopez to reconsider his remarks and the ramifications that his and the city of Chicago’s inaction is likely to cause. Permitting these fraudulent business practices to continue stands to harm the confidence Chicagoans have in their altruistic efforts and compromises the credibility of Chicago’s pet-related economy.

If you agree the loophole must be closed so pet store sales of puppy mill products finally ends – and if you happen to live in the City of Chicago – contact your alderman and say so. Also, like the Facebook Page: Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills.