Illinois Senate approve ban on sale of ‘puppy mill’ dogs at retail pet stores

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) – Illinois could soon ban puppy factories and force pet stores to source their inventory from animal rescues and shelters instead.

A proposal passed in the House of Representatives last month approved the Senate late Monday night and would prohibit retail animal dealers from purchasing “puppy mill” dogs from vendors outside of the state. The measure is now going to Governor Pritzker’s desk for approval.

House MP Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport) said his wife brought a dog from a pet store and the animal went blind quickly.

“They sell very expensive dogs and then they have a lot of health problems because of the inhumane way they are bred,” Chesney said.

The measure went through the House in April with broad, non-partisan support.

Most of the state’s pet stores are located in and around the suburbs of Chicagoland.

Misty McCarty pulled out a credit card from Petland in 2016 to bring Lucy home.

“I just fell in love with her through the glass,” said McCarty.

The McCarty family bought Lucy, half an Anatolian Shepherd / Great Pyrenees mix, in Petland in 2016.

“I applied for a loan,” she says. “My husband was really pissed off. He left the shop when I was about to get her. He says I’m just in the parking lot. You cannot buy a dog from the pet store. And I think, ‘No, she’ll be fine. She looks healthy in the store. ‘”

The purchase was $ 1,400 plus interest payments and pet insurance. But that would just be the beginning of spending on the family budget.

“The moment we walked through the door with her to introduce her to our other dog, she started coughing,” McCarty said. “Your chest just sank in.”

The medical bills began to pile up quickly. Today, a folder full of old receipts, invoices, and estimates shows several offers or charges for several thousand dollars.

“Little did I know Petland didn’t cover anything for her,” McCarty said.

The Petland Insurance Network sent her to a veterinarian who was more than half an hour away from home. The clinic told them Lucy had contracted kennel cough and was recovering. When she didn’t, another vet diagnosed her with pneumonia. The health problems persisted for six months before the family took her back to the Petland-referred veterinarian.

“The first option was to return them and pick a new puppy,” she said. “This was after six months of being at our house and making sure she gave her all of these medications.”

McCarty says they were torn with the decision when she got the chance to euthanize her, but when her little daughter asked if she would “euthanize” her if she got sick too, they decided to leave Lucy at home to keep them and try to find a way to keep them happy and healthy.

Five years later, Lucy is a loving member of the McCarty family, who quietly strolls the living room while her long nails clatter on the wooden floor. She often sits on the doorstep. Their owners imagine that they are guarding their post on the doormat, either to protect them from outsiders or perhaps to prevent them on their way to the exit. But now she is blind, her fur has lost its brown color, and she has occasional seizures.

Lucy lost the pigment in her face and the color in her fur. Her family says they will not accept dog barbers and animal boarding houses.

“We can’t travel, we have nowhere to go. We cannot climb it. We can’t even take them with us, ”said McCarty. “I feel like we’re watching it deteriorate right in front of us.”

The family bought them from a Petland store in Bolingbrook. State records list Janet Star as one of the owners of the store.

“Lucy is one of those who stay with me,” Star said on a phone call last month. “Lucy isn’t one of those perfect pets. We worked really hard to go beyond the guarantee to help Lucy’s mother as best we could. “

McCarty received a full refund for the initial purchase, but McCarty says the health issues came with a variety of other costs beyond visiting veterinarians on the network.

“It’s not the puppy she thought she was getting, and I understand that,” said Star. “They think we are heartless, but we are not. We wouldn’t get involved if we weren’t animal lovers. “

Star was one of several other pet store owners who opposed the new proposal, which they believed was misguided.

“We want puppy mills to go away too,” Star claimed, adding that she has called for stricter pet protection regulations in the industry.

“The USDA regulations are very minimal,” she said. “Each of the breeders we get pets from exceeds these regulations. People will still want pets, and I would call us experts in finding good breeders. “

The nationwide push to regulate pet store retail began at the local level. When McCarty noticed Lucy’s health problems, she organized a lobbying action to ban so-called “puppy mills” in her hometown of Naperville. Another Petland location in their hometown decided to move to neighboring Aurora via a freeway.

Carl Swanson, the owner of the Aurora Petland store, argued that the term “puppy mill” was too vague and open to interpretation.

“Some animals have congenital defects that were unpredictable and only show up at a certain age or time,” Swanson said in an email. “Pet shops, just like animal shelters, emergency services, breeders, farmers, or anyone who works with animals, understand that they are living, breathing creatures subject to medical needs.”

He claimed that dogs were in high demand and in short supply, and if the state required him to buy his pet stock from rescues and animal shelters, many of these animals would likely come from overseas or from dog auctions.

“If this law were passed, it would close every pet store in the state, including mine,” he said.

Swanson’s name appears on a federal code of law with other pet store owners, drug manufacturers, and some veterinary clinics who have appealed the house law to regulate their inventory process.

“It’s about profit. It all boils down to money, “said Mark Ayers of the Humane Society of the United States, who called the lobbying against the measure” downright shameful. ”

“It’s really bizarre that the State Veterinary Medical Association is opposing a law that will help shut down puppy factories,” Ayers said. “It’s disappointing for the vets to see that. If you ask your local vet if they support puppy mills, it’s a “heck no.” Nobody supports this type of operation. “

“There are many industry groups that make big bucks by keeping these dogs in the conditions they are in and selling them at the prices they are sold at,” Ayers said.

House Bill 1711 stalled in the Senate for six weeks after vacating the other chamber. The Senate’s main sponsor eventually called the measure after observers discovered that someone in the Senate had “put a brick on it.”

“We have seen too many cases where a family brings a new puppy home from the pet store only to have the pup suffer from lifelong birth defects or even die shortly after purchase,” said Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). a speaker. “By stopping the sale of these commercial and inhuman bread puppies, we can hopefully promote responsible breeding while giving animals in need of rescuing more opportunities to be adopted.”

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