Well, that was fast! Starting soon, pet stores in Cook County will be prohibited from selling commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits. It’s only been about two weeks since Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey proposed that the county ban the selling of commercially bred animals in pet stores, but yesterday the measure passed the board 15–0. It will affect at least 13 suburban pet stores, in addition to the 16 city stores affected by Chicago’s ban. However, suburbs with home rule (typically those with more than 25,000 residents) can opt out of the ban. It does
Pet store owners will have until October 2014––five months earlier than required by Chicago’s anti-puppy mill ordinance, which was passed in March and was the inspiration behind the county’s bill––to switch to humane models, after which time they will be required to obtain their pets from shelters, government rescue agencies, and humane societies. CBS News reports that under the ordinance they are also allowed to sell animals from federally licensed breeders that have no more than five animals able to reproduce.
Despite the 15–0 ruling, the bill’s passing has not been entirely uncontested. In a statement, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association called the ordinance well meaning but misguided:
“The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association strongly believes that ongoing education of the public is a much more effective method to increase pet owner awareness and bring about the desired positive change necessary to address valid concerns regarding unethical, unscrupulous breeders who are the ultimate problem. Such breeders are likely to find a way to circumvent the letter of the law and still maintain their pet sales via other avenues.”
Fritchey’s rationale behind the bill is that it keeps puppy mills––large scale, inhumane commercial breeding operations––from being able to do business in the area. It is not meant to harm pet stores. “If I cannot regulate them directly because they are out of state, we’re going to try to cut off the demand for those dogs and cats here and, at the same time, reduce the number [that are euthanized at shelters]”, he said.
“What we’re talking about here is not closing stores, but changing to a humane model,” said Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project and a spearhead for both the county and city ordinances. It won’t necessarily be easy work for pet store owners, but it certainly can be done (read about Dog Patch Pet and Feed, a Naperville, Illinois pet store that successfully made the humane switch).