Six years ago, the City of Chicago passed a law restricting pet stores to only sourcing dogs from shelters and rescues. At the time, supporters claimed this was a guaranteed way to shut down bad breeders and save shelter dogs.
Fast forward to July 2020 – the same groups are back, this time pushing for more restrictions because the law isn’t working as well as they had hoped. It turns out that a tiny number of irresponsible breeders and sellers have been misrepresenting certain dogs as “rescues”, when they’re not, so they can be sold in pet shops. At a public hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee on July 11, several animal rights and rescues groups spoke in support of Proposed Ordinance O2020-2827, claiming this “simply closes a loophole” to stop this unscrupulous practice and ensure that pet sellers comply with the law.
Unfortunately, up to this point, there has been no opportunity for a full public hearing and discussion in which all stakeholders can discuss the issues and consider unintended consequences. The first measure was pushed through quickly and failed due to unintended consequences. This time, let’s avoid making the same mistake. A full and open hearing on this matter is crucial to avoid more harmful unintended consequences– and because this proposal includes much more than a simple fix.
In fact, if passed, this measure will be detrimental to dogs being raised, sold, and rescued in the city.
It’s true that the proposal tightens current city code regarding sourcing to pet stores. In fact, it tightens it so much that it will actually limit opportunities for the placement of true rescue dogs. If a rescue has a dog that came from any group associated with breeding, that dog can no longer be showcased at a pet store. This limits opportunities for that dog to be placed, and limits adoption events in conjunction with pet stores in the city.
Though well-intentioned, restricting rescues affiliated with breeders ignores the historic, vital, and important work of many local AKC dog clubs. Their responsible members are so dedicated to their breeds that they not only breed their own high-quality dogs, but also help rescue dogs bred by unknown individuals that need help. These breed enthusiasts donate significant resources to breed rescue activities including time, expertise, and housing. Years of experience with their chosen breeds place these breeders in a unique and important position to ensure that dogs in need of rescue get the breed-appropriate care and home the dog needs and deserves. If the restriction goes forward as currently written, many of our best breed experts will no longer be able to help with rescue if the dogs are showcased at pet store adoption events.
The proposal doesn’t stop there. It goes further to undermine small, local responsible breeders and people who wish to obtain a purpose-bred puppy from one of these breeders. It also requires anyone who breeds even a single litter to obtain an animal facility permit. This would require hobby breeders to comply with the same requirements as businesses such as doggie day cares and boarding kennels, including minimum staffing requirements.
In fact, it’s not even clear if someone in a residence even could get the permit because most breeders are in residential areas, and many of the requirements just aren’t possible for someone keeping dogs in their private home. And if a hobbyist doesn’t get that permit, they could be forced to surrender their dogs to a local shelter –removing those dogs from a responsible, caring environment where they have the best chance of success. This would also place a new burden on Chicago Animal Care and Control, which has already seen an increase in the intake of dogs over the past few years for a variety of reasons.
But we’re not done yet. A third provision of the proposal rescinds current law requiring pet stores to provide customers with basic background information about a dog prior to sale. Pet sellers would no longer be required to provide customers with information about a dog’s background, source, age, or any behavior or health issues before adoption/purchase. And there is no recourse or protection for customers in Chicago if they buy a sick puppy.
Chicago needs to keep the city’s pet sales consumer protection laws in place. These laws help potential customers make a well-informed decision before they bring a pet into their home. It helps prevent pets from a life of cycling in and out of shelters and rescues, and instead helps get them the home and care they need and deserve.
A broad coalition of animal groups including the American Kennel Club, the Illinois Veterinary Medical Association, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council agree – this proposal is bad for pets, bad for owners and bad for the City of Chicago.
We urge the Chicago City Council to table this proposal and work together with animal care experts to develop laws that can actually accomplish the goal of making sure dogs are placed in the best situations for long-term health and success. Chicago pet owners – and more importantly dogs – deserve no less.