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Cook County Board could expand on recent Chicago puppy law

Updated: April 2, 2014 7:53PM

A recent Chicago law targeting for-profit animal breeders who operate so-called “puppy mills” could soon be expanded to encompass all of Cook County.

The newly proposed ordinance, which the Cook County Board is expected to take up at an April 9 meeting, would require pet stores in Cook County to procure all cats, dogs and rabbits from rescue organizations or animal shelters.

The proposal expands on similar legislation, approved last month by the Chicago City Council, targeting so-called "puppy mills" – which critics deride as breeding operations that prioritize profits over the health and wellbeing of animals. If approved, it would take effect in July.

Requiring pet stores to sell rescue or shelter animals would not only cut into the business of high-volume breeders. It would find homes for shelter animals that otherwise would be euthanized, the measure’s sponsor, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said on Wednesday. Over 20,000 dogs and cats were impounded in 2012 – one-third of which were later euthanized because they were not adopted, he said.

“I want to make sure less scrupulous pet shops simply don’t try to move to the suburbs,” Fritchey said, explaining why he hopes to extend the Chicago law to Cook County.

Dr. Robyn Barbiers, president Chicago’s Anti-Cruelty Society, said the measure would be a “step in the right direction.” Though she cautioned that consumers will have to manage their expectations.

“If you are looking for a puppy and you want a Labradoodle … it may be not be available” at a pet store, Barbiers said. “ You may have to go to a reputable breeder.”

Not everyone is happy with the proposal, which comes on the heels of a “puppy lemon law” backed by Gov. Pat Quinn. That law, which recently took effect, allows pet owners to recoup some costs or recieve a refund if a dog or cat has an undisclosed illness or condition at time of purchase.

Susan Nawrocki, who owns Hug-A-Pup pet store on the Northwest Side, said she vowed to move her business to the suburbs after Chicago passed the law last month.

When told about the latest proposed law on Wednesday, Nawrocki sounded resigned to moving to Indiana – a move she said is necessitated by the business climate in Illinois. What's more, Nawrocki said any reputable pet store would have refunded a customer who purchased an ill aninmal – with, or without, the governor's puppy lemon law.

“All you do is move, it’s just that easy,” Nawrocki said during a phone interview. "Indiana is right across the border. Everybody is getting smart and leaving Illinois.”

“It’s too much stress here,” she said. “I’m not going to be stressed about bull----.”

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