By Andrew Puccetti
When you first walk into Happiness is Pets in Arlington Heights, you are greeted with pictures on the walls of happy dogs running through big open fields. While not a remarkably strange image to encounter in a pet store, these appealing pictures mask a dark truth: The dogs being sold at Happiness is Pets come from puppy mills.
In 2014, Cook County and the city of Chicago both passed anti-puppy mill bills that prohibit pet stores from selling commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits. Due to ongoing pushbacks and legislation from local pet stores like Happiness is Pets—who make big bucks off the cruelty of mills—both bans have faced serious delays in enactment.
“Other cities across the country, with sales ban legislation in place have encountered similar pushback from pet stores,” says Ida McCarthy, Illinois Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), an organization that has been investigating puppy mills and pet stores across the nation since 1992. “The lawsuits were expected, as Happiness is Pets is the largest retailer of puppy mill puppies in this state.”
Happiness is Pets is currently the only store selling puppy mill dogs in Arlington Heights. CAPS has conducted undercover investigations into the breeders and brokers they obtain animals from, tracing the dogs they sell back to specific puppy mills.
Earlier this month, the Arlington Heights Village Board granted Happiness is Pets an exemption from the Cook County ordinance after the store’s owner, Ron Berning, argued the ordinance would put him out of business. They also voted unanimously to opt out of the Cook County anti-puppy mill bill. Mayor Tom Hayes stated that the board will address new rules for pet stores and look for a compromise between the business owner and animal activists, but many people fear that whatever the board comes up with will simply be an ineffective, watered down version of the county bill.
“It was disheartening to have them grant Happiness is Pets an exemption,” notes McCarthy. “It’s our hope that this leaves the door open for the Arlington Heights Board to create stronger legislation, or maybe even enact a sales ban. Orland Park also opted out and did write its own ordinance. But [the Orland Park] ordinance is not strong enough; it’s only based on ‘good faith’ and I have no faith in what pet store owners say or do.”
There is animal cruelty in our own backyard and now is the time to speak up. It’s up to passionate pet lovers to help educate friends and family about the way the puppies in the window were bred, where they came from, and what that means for their physical and mental well-being. In the meantime, we continue to hope Arlington Heights does the right thing and enforces a puppy mill ordinance that will end the sale of these tortured dogs.