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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Chicago Challenged Over Anti-Puppy Mill Law

CHICAGO (CN) - A ban on the sale of puppies from out-of-state breeders goes too far to regulate puppy mills, several businesses claim in Federal Court.

Park Pet Shop, Pocket Puppies Boutique, and Missouri breeder Cedar Woods Farm filed the federal complaint Tuesday against Chicago, city clerk Susana Mendoza and director of animal control Sandra Alfred.

The lawsuit challenges an ordinance scheduled to take effect on March 5 after the City Council passed it 49-1 last year.

Section 4-384-015 forbids Chicago pet shops from selling dogs, kittens and rabbits raised by breeders, limiting these businesses to selling animals purchased only from animal sheltera, nonprofit humane societies, or animal-rescue organizations.

The stores applaud homage to lawmakers' noble aim of shutting down so-called animal mills but say the ordinance "has the opposite effect."

"Instead of eliminating these substandard facilities, the ordinance actually favors their expansion, by eliminating the source of commercially bred puppies in the county that are regulated on multiple levels," the complaint states.

The stores say the ordinance prevents them from working with "loving, responsible breeders, who are devoted to raising animals the responsible and ethical way."

"For instance, even if a breeder is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), meets and exceeds all USDA requirements, and breeds and rears puppies in impeccable conditions, a pet shop still cannot sell a puppy purchased from that breeder," the complaint states.

Cook County, where Chicago is located, passed a similar law scheduled to take effect last year in October, but a federal judge stayed the law when pet stores filed suit alleging the ordinance violated commerce and equal protection laws.

The pet shops, which claim they purchase 90 percent of their puppies from out-of-state sources, say that the city ordinance will put them out of business, and push consumers who want a pure-bred puppy "straight to the exact 'bad actors' that the ordinance claims to abhor."

Cedar Woods Farm, a Missouri breeder among the plaintiff businesses, says it does a significant amount of business with Chicago pet stores.

It says it is devoted to breeding affordable, well-socialized pets, and does not keep its puppies in cages like the large-scale breeders that the ordinance targets. Yet the law will still ban it from selling puppies to Chicago stores.

"When a consumer makes a purchase from a pet shop, they are making a large financial commitment and therefore are more likely to be invested in their decision to keep an animal," the complaint claims.

Microchip tracking shows that only 3 percent of dogs at shelters were originally bought at a store, the pet stores say.

"While the ordinance is apparently designed to stop 'animal mills,' it is clear that the ordinance has the opposite effect," the plaintiffs say.

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association agrees.

In a February statement , the association said that the "elimination of consumer choice through prohibiting puppy and kitten sales in reputable pet stores can result in consumers and pets suffering from a lack of regulation when seeking alternative, unregulated sources outside city of Chicago limits and possibly outside the state of Illinois."

The association said it advocates ongoing consumer education to address the problem of unethical breeders, rather than a strict law that may have unintended consequences.

Park Pet Shop and the other plaintiffs seek an injunction against the ordinance, and an order declaring it unconstitutional.

They are represented by Sean Patrick with Gurney Patrick, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

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