On Tuesday night, Naperville city council heard commentary on potential regulation of retail pet sales from 21 speakers over the course of 2 hours, interspersed with pointed questions by board members. Previously, the board requested city staff research the issue and provide recommendations. While having received a good deal of information, the board decided additional due diligence was required prior to making any decisions.
Here in the Chicago area, there’s been much activity on the issue of whether or not to allow the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. There’s also been progress in raising awareness of the particular circumstances of both the stores that sell these pets and the large-scale breeders who supply them.
Amidst this current climate, the city of Naperville is grappling with the decision of whether to pursue an ordinance to ban or restrict such retail sales. This is a city council to watch carefully; their thoughtful and thorough considerations of all details involved demonstrates an intelligent approach to previously unchartered territory.
Presently there are two pet stores in Naperville that sell puppies – Petland and Happiness Is Pets. Petland is a privately-owned, nationwide corporation of franchise pet stores. Happiness Is Pets is a family-owned chain of pet stores in the Chicago suburbs. Both businesses have resisted all requests to consider offering dogs from shelters as opposed to selling puppies from large-scale breeders. Both businesses have been verified as purchasing their puppies from commercial breeders deemed as puppy mills. Both businesses have had a history of selling puppies from breeders with a multitude of inspection violations.
The city of Chicago and Cook County each passed ordinances this past Spring banning or limiting the retail sale of pets (Chicago’s ordinance stands, Cook County has since had an amendment which was then put on hold). Cook County’s home-rule village of Orland Park is currently considering a carefully-crafted plan of regulating these sales. While advocates for retail pet sale regulation would prefer outright bans, thoughtful regulations can work well to curb such sales and help to protect unsuspecting consumers.
The major concerns the Naperville council has expressed are the consideration of how such regulations would be enforced, and by whom; if additional personnel would need to be hired; how efficient regulations would be, when enacted, if surrounding areas were not also regulating; and whether the city could enact an ordinance that would not be ignored as pet retailers seem to be skirting laws already in effect. All very valid concerns, showing forethought and a desire to not only state an idea, but to follow through.
The report from city staff recommended waiting to see what the state (Illinois) decides to do. However, it doesn’t seem likely that the state will take action any time soon. Staff research also discovered that there are a few lawsuits currently against cities that have banned retail pet sales, which caused some justifiable hesitancy.
While much of the speakers’ content was of well-known concerns regarding consumer protection and pet welfare, a few were of particular note. There was much discussion of the legalities involved in Chicago’s ordinance and the proposals of Cook County and the state (*51:58 – 1:01:55). The concern expressed in the report from city staff is any possible vulnerability to lawsuits, since there are a few in various states where regulation was enacted.
Owners of the two pet stores spoke in their defense – Jonathan Berning of Happiness Is Pets (1:35:50), and Adam Stachowiak of Petland Naperville (1:41:15). Dianne Arp, Chicago Outreach Coordinator of Companion Animal Protection Society (1:49:45) pointed to a 500-puppy discrepancy between what Mr. Stachowiak claimed his store sold vs. the published number listed by the Department of Agriculture. Would this businessman actually consider it acceptable to lie to the city council?
The last to speak was Kurt Dorr, a Naperville resident who is against any potential regulation (2:17). He referred to his farm, comparing care of his livestock to the breeding of dogs. Council members’ repeated reminders to him that the discussion involved companion animals as opposed to livestock did not alter his line of argument. I found his comments interesting for one reason – I think his attitudes and priorities represent those of the commercial breeders from which the pet stores source their puppies. Not exactly a good sales pitch for them.
While nothing was decided upon during Tuesday’s meeting, several concerns were addressed and details emerged to assist in moving the discussion forward. The council determined more time was needed to investigate further into the issues of implementing and enforcing any new regulations, as well as whether there might be collaboration with surrounding towns for a greater impact.
It remains to be seen what Naperville will decide. One gets the impression that the council is in favor of reducing the animal cruelty that is condoned through retail sales of pets. That concern will hopefully carry the weight needed to determine the logistics in regulating or outright banning the sale of puppy mill pets within the city.
- 9/2/2014 Naperville City Council Meeting Video source: City of Naperville