The battle over Cook County's Puppy Mill ordinance is just beginning. On Wednesday, a judge will lay out a timeline for what could be a yearlong fight between animal rights activists and a string of pet stores. Petland, Happiness Is Pets and the largest commercial breeder’s organization in Missouri filed the lawsuit that has put a temporary hold on the ordinance. The measure, which was supposed to go into effect October 1st, limits the places from where pet stores can purchase animals. They would only be able to purchase from facilities breeding no more than five animals at a time.
WGN Investigates found that the problems go beyond what the ordinance can address.
Although pet stores are required to provide pet buyers with the names of breeders and tracking numbers, the system isn't always effective. In some cases, numbers are missing or don't match and finding the information online can often lead nowhere.
Cari Meyers with the Puppy Mill Project says, "This is a very difficult paper trail. No the numbers don't match." She adds, "…and then you have three or four of the (puppy) millers using the same PO Box. It's a very tricky thing to navigate that world. And they like it that way. And nobody is minding the store."
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture have the task of watching over the breeders and pet stores but even they admit they don't have the manpower or the resources. The USDA conducts unannounced checks on average once a year.
WGN tracked one pet to a commercial breeder in Indiana. That facility has now cancelled their license after a list of violations that included dogs with "tarter buildup to the point of being in a solid row or where the teeth were unable to be seen at all." Another report points to excessively long nails, pus in the eye, hair loss and tooth decay.
WGN asked the attorney representing the pet stores about the citations. David Fish said, "They won't purchase dogs from facilities that have had the problems." Fish says as far as the county ordinance, "The problems with the smaller breeders, they're not USDA licensed. The USDA only licenses breeders if they have five or more dogs. So, the ordinance allows you to buy animals from unlicensed breeders. Those are not the ones that should be the focus of the county."
Will the county puppy mill ordinance lead to the USDA to making some licensing changes? It's just too early to tell. However, as the court battle gets underway, whichever way the court decides, it will without a doubt have an impact on the puppy you buy.
If you bought your pet from a pet store and would like to trace it, click this link at the USDA websiteThen follow these steps
- Under the “Basic Search” tab, enter the USDA number associated with your pet (ex: 32-A-0247) (note: you may have two USDA numbers depending whether a breeder or broker’s license number is on your paperwork; you might have both)
- Click on the tab that reads “Inspection Information”
- It might take a few minutes for the search engine to pull up reports. Once reports load, click on the word “Details” to the left of each entry to read each inspection report.