Pet Stores Call Puppy Law Unconstitutional

     CHICAGO (CN) – Cook County enacted an illegal law that will exclude 96 percent of pet breeders from doing business there, pet stores and breeders claim in court.
     The Cook County Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance is slated to take effect on Oct. 1.
     Federal courts already have enjoined similar laws in Phoenix and El Paso, the pet stores claim.
     The law will prohibit people from buying puppies, kittens or rabbits from breeders with more than five mother animals, eliminating 96 percent of Midwest breeders, and ruining their businesses, the plaintiffs claim.
     Lead plaintiff Missouri Pet Breeders Association and three Chicagoland pet stores sued Cook County, County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle, and Director of the Department of Animal & Rabies Control Donna Alexander, on Monday in Federal Court.
     “The ordinance eliminates nearly all breeders in the United States, who are located outside of Illinois, from benefiting from Cook County’s marketplace. This will have a significant impact throughout the United States, including to the Missouri Pet Breeders Association’s members, because the state of Missouri has more breeders than any other state,” the complaint states.
     “The ordinance also bans the pet shops from selling puppies, kittens, and rabbits purchased from even loving, responsible breeders, who are devoted to raising animals the responsible and ethical way.
     “This ordinance will put the pet shops – which have collectively been in business more than 50 years without ever receiving a violation associated with selling puppies, kittens, or rabbits – out of business and cause financial ruin to them and their owners.”
     The ordinance bans the sale of pets from breeders with “more than five female dogs, cats or rabbits capable of reproduction in any 12-month period.”
     These large breeders, often called “puppy mills,” allegedly account for 962 of the 998 licensed breeders in states surrounding Illinois, or 96 percent of breeding facilities in the Midwest.
     Once it takes effect, Chicagoland pet stores may sell only dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from shelters, adoption centers, and small-scale breeders.
     “Each of the pet shops’ business is centered around the sale of pure and specialty breed puppies. Purebred puppies are almost nonexistent in animal control centers, humane societies, and rescue organizations. Thus, a customer who desires to purchase a pure or specialty breed puppy after the Ordinance becomes effective is more likely to go through unlicensed and irresponsible breeders than through a highly regulated pet shop,” the complaint states.
     “In prohibiting the purchase of animals from good breeders through reputable pet shops, the ordinance does not just put these reputable pet shops out of business; it also deprives consumers of a key ally in sifting good breeders from bad ones. Furthermore, it drives consumers looking for purebred puppies straight to the very bad actors the ordinance claims to abhor. It thereby ensures a market for purebred puppies operating without governmental oversight or accountability.”
     Plaintiff Petland Hoffman Estates claims it sells approximately 700 puppies per year, which it obtains from almost 400 breeders.
     “Even if 100 percent of the available breeders sold their dogs into Cook County, it would not come close to meeting even one of the pet shop’s needs,” Petland claims.
     The ordinance will not prohibit hundreds of unlicensed and unregulated breeders to continue to sell dogs in Cook County – it will simply stop them from doing it through pet stores, according to the complaint.
     The pet shops want enforcement of the law enjoined, and declaratory judgment that it is unconstitutional for interfering with interstate commerce and void for vagueness.
     They are represented by David Fish with the Fish Law Firm in Naperville, Ill.

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