Bill Aiming To Close ‘Puppy Mill Pipeline’ For Pet Sales Passes State Senate Despite Some Bipartisan Opposition

In the final hours of the General Assembly session, the state Senate passed a bill to limit where Illinois pet stores get their cats and dogs from. Proponents of the bill want to close a so-called puppy mill pipeline.

The bill would allow pet store owners to offer cats and dogs for sale “only if the dog or cat is from an animal control facility or shelter in or outside of the state,” which is in line with the new regulations.

“This bill is designed to target the commercial puppy factory and close that pipeline,” said Senator Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, the Senate sponsor of the bill.

Castro cited a similar measure passed in Chicago in 2014 as a rationale for the bill.

Senator Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said the way puppy mills work is not healthy for any animal. She said putting puppy mills out of business wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“If we don’t focus on the welfare of these animals, something is wrong with us,” said Holmes. “These are living things. These are not products where you just maximize quantity above everything else.”

Holmes said the intent was not to put “legitimate good breeders” out of business.

“These are not establishments that have literally hundreds of animals that they breed several times a year to maximize the number of puppies they get,” Holmes said.

Holmes said that animals in puppy factories generally don’t get a break from the cages “in which they spend their entire lives”.

“This is no life for any animal,” said Holmes. “It’s cruel. It’s inhuman. I can’t believe in today’s world that we think we should do that.”

Critics of the bill say lawmakers should aim to regulate breeders, not the pet stores that work with breeders.

Senator Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the bill would put business out of business across the state.

“In Illinois, we need to do more to attract our businesses, and unfortunately that will do just the opposite,” said Barickman.

Holmes protested against these concerns.

“Sorry, let’s talk to PetSmart,” said Holmes. “They don’t seem to have any problems with their business.”

Barickman said a serious solution to the puppy factory problem would be to regulate breeders rather than pet stores who work with breeders.

“It is more attuned to using a hammer on a problem than requiring a scalpel,” Barickman said. “It becomes a classic Springfield example of dramatic assault and a knee-jerk reaction to a legitimate problem that exists.”

Senator Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, reiterated Barickman’s reservations with the bill.

“There will be innocent pet shops closed because of this law,” Hastings said. “There is an alternative solution, and that alternative solution is to have an outside auditor step in and check where the animals come from and that the animals are being looked after.”

Hastings eventually voted “in attendance” for the measure.

The law passed the Illinois House in April with supporters and critics on both sides of the aisle. The Senate vote had similar results.

Bloomington Normal Area MPs Sen. Barickman and Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, both voted against the bill. When the House of Representatives voted in April, both Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decator supported the move.

In the Peoria area, Senator Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, voted for the bill, while Senator Win Stoller, R-Peoria, voted against. Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, voted “yes” to the bill in April, while Reps. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, and Mark Luft, R-Pekin, both voted against. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, was excused that day.

The bill is now going to Governor JB Pritzzer’s desk to receive his possible signature.

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