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Chicago Moves to Prevent Sales of Dogs, Cats and Rabbits at Pet Stores Once and For All


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No wonder Chicago’s self-proclaimed “animal alderman” Raymond Lopez (15th ward) may have jumped to the defense of pet stores allegedly skirting the law to sell dogs in Chicago. One of the three pet stores still selling puppies is called Pocket Puppies, located at 2479 N. Clark Street in Chicago’s 43rd Ward.

According to Reform for Illinois, (a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization that empowers the public to participate in government, addresses the role of money in politics, and promotes integrity, accountability, and transparency in our political system),

Lane Boron, owner of Pocket Puppies donated $2,000 to Lopez and his 15th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, from 2018 through this past January.

At the July 6 Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations Zoom meeting, a topic of discussion was closing the loophole in the 2014 Chicago ordinance that banned the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores.

Three pet stores allegedly circumvented the law by setting up fake non-profits as front organizations posing as rescue groups. Substitute ordinance sponsor, Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd ward) only seeks to close the loophole, to allow the ordinance to do what it was intended in the first place when originally passed. One might think, “a no-brainer.”

I spoke as an expert witness, following Marc Ayers, Illinois Director of the Humane Society of the United States and Cari Meyers, founder of the Puppy Mill Project. Then, Ald. Lopez spoke for about five minutes straight, rambling about how this ordinance doesn’t prevent people from reckless backyard breeding (true but how can you do that? Maybe you can – but that’s not this ordinance), and how unfair it is that we’re not hearing from the pet stores in question for themselves. In fact, Lopez, pretty much denounced the proposed ordinance as “non-effective” to battle puppy mills (which is where dogs sold at pet stores, of course, are allegedly sourced).

It turned out “the other side” was in attendance, but due to technical issues on the Zoom meeting, Lane Boron’s wife Stephanie was unable to be heard. Committee Chair Roderick Sawyer (6th ward) not only allowed her time to speak once she was able to be heard, but then oddly Lane jumped in to comment as well. They both repeatedly denied circumventing the current Chicago ordinance.

But dogs are being sold and they’re not cheap. Co-sponsor of the substitute ordinance to close the loophole James Cappleman (46th ward) pointed out that rescued dogs typically sell for (or a better term may be adopted for) a few hundred dollars (mostly to reimburse for spay/neuter), far lower than the very much higher dollar amounts which the pet stores are selling dogs for.

Hopkins expressed concerns that the public believes these dogs sold at the pet stores are rescues because that is what pet stores say to customers and also because those customers may know that Chicago banned sales of pet store puppies, but welcomes rescues or adoptions from legit partners. Hopkins called it “consumer fraud.”

Ald. Lopez

Hopkins added that if people who buy dogs from stores could see the conditions the animals are raised in, “they would be horrified.” Of course, puppy mills are horrifying places and shouldn’t even exist.

Boron, according to Reform for Illinois, also gave $2,250 to Alderman Michele Smith (43rd ward), but she is after all the alderman where his store is pet store is located in Lincoln Park, which is nowhere near the location of the Lopez’s southwest side 15th ward. In 2014 Smith voted for the ban on pet store sales. Her legit concern includes informing the public about misinformation, and where to get dogs and where not to get them, certainly not supporting puppy mills, which was also brought up by Sawyer.

Lopez, who has even called himself an “expert” on animal welfare, has hardly been particularly helpful on the animal welfare scene in Chicago and has only caused divisiveness. He even strangely picketed for the dismissal of Susan Russell as executive director Chicago Animal Care and Control.  Lopez’s constant public haranguing eventually is acknowledged to have led Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s unfortunate firing of Russell, who many in animal welfare agreed was the best Director Chicago has seen. Also, Lopez wanted to mandate Chicago become a no-kill City via a proclamation, rather than to work together with many partners to achieve the goal.

No responsible breeder EVER sells to a pet store, ever.

Therefore, pet stores get those dogs (or cats or rabbits for sale) from irresponsible sources, most notably mills, like factories producing companion animals.

The idea of shutting down sales of dogs (and cats and rabbits) at pet stores prevents these reckless sources and their brokers from selling to pet stores.

If you are opposed to such an idea you are therefore Mr. Lopez supporting puppy mills.

In the end, the substitute ordinance passed committee, and is scheduled to be brought to City Council later this month.

Over 350 cities have placed limits on pet store sales, as have the entire states of California, Maryland and Maine.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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