Updated: March 5, 2014 7:04PM
The City Council moved Wednesday to cut off the pipeline of puppies purchased in Chicago that come from for-profit breeders condemned as puppy mills.
With downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) casting the only dissenting vote, aldermen approved a somewhat watered-down anti-cruelty ordinance championed by City Clerk Susana Mendoza.
It would limit the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at Chicago’s 16 pet stores to those animals that come from shelters and humane adoption centers.
The ordinance would take effect after a one-year transition that would allow pet stores to unload their inventory of animals and transfer to a “more humane” sales model or stop selling animals entirely in favor of selling pet food and supplies.
“As a person who grew up with three dogs, I think it’s the right thing to do. And I’m proud of the city and proud of the city clerk took a step forward to do that,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the vote.
Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st) acknowledged that the puppy mill ordinance begs the question about why animal welfare should command the City Council’s time and attention at a time when Chicago has other more pressing problems.
“There are some [who] would say there are other things we should be doing in this city—and there are. And we are handling those things in terms of what’s happening on our streets and in our schools. But we can’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening in our city and in our country when it comes to radical abuse of animals. It’s our responsibility as stewards of the earth,” Moreno said.
“This ordinance does that. This ordinance is hopefully a small way of preventing these terrible practices of having these animals abused day after day in small cages. Quite frankly, the female dogs being raped on a constant basis just so we can have a cute little thing running around our house. Most times these puppies have disease.”
License and Consumer Protection Committee Chairman Emma Mitts (37th) said she got an earful from “passionate” dog lovers at the three-hour hearing on the puppy mill ordinance.
“You can mess with a lot of things, but don’t mess with folks’ pets. Don’t mess with them dogs because you’re gonna be in trouble, I’m telling you,” she said.
Addressing the City Council after the vote, Mendoza argued that the ordinance she championed would firmly establish Chicago as a “national leader in humane and compassionate welfare laws” by cutting off “a pipeline of animals coming from the horrendous” puppy mill industry.
“Just last year, Animal Care and Control had over 20,000 dogs that came through our system and a cost to euthanize them of $300,000. Those statistics are horrible. We really need to put an end to them,” she said.
Reilly said his lone vote against the ordinance had nothing to do with the fact that he purchased dogs at Pocket Puppies Boutique, 2479 N. Clark, whose owner has warned that the ordinance would force him out of business.
“As the proud owner of two dogs myself, I applaud the clerk for targeting puppy mills. They’re atrocious, inhumane and should be put out of business. I support the intent of the ordinance, but not the approach,” Reilly said.
“When the City Council bans a business or product, it’s done as a statement of public policy. This is bad therefore, we’ll keep it out of Chicago. The reality is that most of these city bans don’t end the bad practice or eliminate the bad product. They simply push that business to the suburbs.”
Lane Boron, the owner of that pet store, has warned that his pet store and 15 others would be forced out of business based on “hearsay” evidence of inhumane conditions.
“I can open in the suburbs. My customers will follow me there. But what about my nine employees, blue-collar workers, your constituents? They can’t afford cars. They can’t follow me,” Boron told aldermen earlier this week, urging the City Council to “grandfather in” existing pet shops.
“This is not foie gras, aldermen, that you can throw in the garbage. These are 16 businesses with employees — workers with families, workers with children, workers whose livelihoods depend on these businesses. By voting for this ordinance in its present form, you will force people into the unemployment line with no reference facts.”