Puppy Mill battle continues in Cook County; What a new ordinance could mean

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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

  1.  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)
  2. Click on the tab that reads “Inspection Information”
  3. 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.


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  • gwh1947

    Excellent story on Puppy Mills. The AKC can link anyone interested in purchasing a puppy to qualified member breeders. We found our Bichon Frises just outside South Bend, one was shown while the other should have been shown, but was too large for the breeders desire to show. Their mother was constantly one of the top ten show dogs in her breed while being shown. The female would have been a champion, but was retired due to allergies. The male was a puppy whose grandfather is the infamous JR who was best in show at the AKC show in Madison Square Garden, making him the number one dog in the nation. Anyone looking for a puppy should look to the AKC, or a breed rescue group, and not venture in to puppy stores. Stores that buy from puppy mills should be charged with contributing to the inhumane treatment of dogs.

      • SJL54

        Where do you think all the “leftover” puppies in pet shops go to when they aren’t purchased? They get to old and they aren’t cute enough anymore. The puppy mill doesn’t take them back, the middle man, the Hunt Corporation won’t take them back.

      • Dee Santucci

        What about the Mother of your puppy Dick Benninya. They are classified as livestock and by law the cage they spend their life in with no bed, no toys, no proper Vet care and no affection or play has to be 6inches bigger than they are. How would you like YOUR puppy to live like his Mother? When they can no longer produce a litter or their breed falls out of favor, they are “disposed of.” never knowing what it’s like to be a dog. Just because you can’t see their suffering doesn’t mean they suffer less. In 2010, the Inspector General issued a scathing report on the inability of APHIS to enforce even the inadequate standards for livestock that these commercial breeding dogs fall under. The report is 69 pages long but it only takes a minute to scroll down and see the horrendous conditions these prisoners of greed must endure. If you can look at these breeding dogs in inspected and approved “USDA Licensed facilities”, and still say there’s nothing wrong with this? then you don’t deserve to own a dog.

    • jennifer stevens

      the AKC is not all you think it is. I live in Raleigh, NC where the AKC is headquartered. the AKC only cares about how much money they make from registrations of dogs. they could care less about the conditions these dogs are kept in or the quality of the dogs being bred or even if they are related to each other and being bred. they spend millions of dollars each year lobbying to defeat ALL dog regulations that any state or federal agency comes up with. we have been trying for 5 years to get puppy mill laws passed in NC to protect animals. the AKC has gotten the laws defeated or tabled every time.

  • John Zolis

    Anyone who buys a dog from a breeder or puppy mill has zero ethics ! millions of animals die each year in shelters, the fact that GWH19 is advertising with regards to breeders is shameful. 25%of all dogs killed in shelters are pure bred dogs… there are dedicated rescues who pride themselves to saving specific breeds if you want a breed get in contact with a rescue that specializes in saving them…. Have some ethics save a life

  • John Zolis

    To attorney David Fish not only do you lack a moral compass but your claim that it would destroy these businesses is utterly preposterous considering that Americans spend estimated $58.51 billion on our pets a year…

  • SJL54

    The real issue here is where these puppies come from. They speak about how bad the tartar was on a puppies teeth. That is nothing compared to the horrors the parents of these puppies go through. They are treated like livestock, or worse. They are bred over and over and over again, without a break until their bodies give out. Then they are taken out back and shot, (cheapest way). Their nails grow until they are growing back into the pads of their feet. Dogs that need regular grooming end up matted and unrecognizable or they are sheered once or twice a year like a sheep. They live in wire cages, and if lucky enough have a “hamster wheel” for exercise. They don’t know what grass is or what its like to run. Puppies taken from their mother and litter mates at 4 weeks of age so when they get to the pet shop they are at the peak of their cuteness. Unfortunately this can lead to behavioral problems later on which usually means the dog ends up in a shelter because the people don’t want to deal with it. Then is the taxpayers that foot the bill where the dog is kept until it may get adopted, but most likely it is euthanized. Yes, many puppies sold in pet shops are ok, but there are many that are not but again, its the parents that suffer the most. In this age of Google, Facebook, etc I am amazed at the number of people ignorant of these puppy mills. Go on line, look up puppy mills, look up the Hunt Corporation. They are the ones who buy and transport these puppies to the pet shops.

    • Dick Beninya

      Have you seen a feral dog? You know a real dog that lives on its own outside….programmed to screw like wild dogs until they over run their food supply, then begin to die of malnutrition and disease until only the strongest survive ……

      • Dee Santucci

        Feral dogs??? Really? What does that have to do with responsible pet ownership and puppy mills? You are getting desperate DICK. Are you the same guy who said there are no more strays? You sound so familiar. I guess when you’ve listened to the defensive rantings and lies of one Pet Profiteer, you’ve heard them all. No problem. I appreciate the opportunity to address the BS and through some facts out there, so thank you:)

  • irescue71

    I am currently fostering a 9-year old male who was rescued from a puppy mill. He was used as a breeding dog. He has no teeth – he only had 4 when I got him and they were bad – and is painfully shy, due to the lack of human contact. Years ago, I fostered a young male puppy who was going to be used as a breeding dog. Even though he was less than a year old, his teeth were so bad I had to have them cleaned. Some puppy mills will mix sawdust in with the food to save money. While I applaud the law preventing the sale of puppy mill puppies, I’m concerned about what’s next.

    Recently, I was contacted by a woman who wanted to turn a 5-year old male into rescue. The dog was purchased at a pet shop. After she paid $350 for him, she was given paperwork showing that the dog was turned over to local animal control because of a history of biting. Guess what he did in his new home – bit people. I recommended that the woman euthanize the dog, which she did. My concern is that the next issue will be animal control and/or shelters giving unadoptable dogs to pet shops to resell. Who will oversee that?

  • disparateinterests

    We have such a long way to go, No ethical hobby breeder who loves their dogs sells for resale, They all want to meet the buyers if they care about the dogs they breed. Why is that never mentioned in any of the stories?

  • Kane

    I volunteer with a no-kill shelter in IL. I’m all about adopt, don’t shop. Much of the problem is that many folks are not. People are going to buy puppies, whether they do it from reputable breeders, pet stores or people who post signs on the street advertising puppies. Sadly, not everyone wants a rescue dog. If you take away the pet stores, those who do use reputable and humane breeders, these people will turn to other outlets — places that are perhaps actual puppy mills. These stores have stated that they do not buy from puppy mills and the news report noted that that was the case. Until everyone gets on board with limiting the pet population and adopting from shelters, we should not close businesses that offer puppies from reputable breeders.

  • Howard Houston

    All of these people who are against pet shops have an agenda and it isn’t animal welfare. Radical animal rights cults are springing up who want to deny you the right to have a companion animal, a seeing eye dog, a therapy dog, breed your own dogs for you and your children forever. They push mandatory spay and neuter knowing that eventually you can make the species become extinct by doing so. Banning purebred dogs from being sold in pet shops and guilting you to buy diseased feral dogs or dogs from another country is intended to get you to no longer want a dog. 47% of all shelter dogs are returned due to health issues to expensive to maintain or bad behavior that cannot be corrected. Families who bought from shelters have been bitten, attacked, caught diseases that have blinded their children, or made them sick. Families have had to take rabies shots when sato dogs where brought in and adopted without any quarantine. Those dogs that were brought back to the US during the Olympics some of them had rabies. 12 million people seek to replace our buy a new pet each year. There are less than 4 million animals in shelters and only 1.2 million are adoptable dogs. Pretending that adopting homeless feral animals is a moral duty while importing half a million disease feral dogs into this country to sell in pet shops is immoral and dangerous to this country and its people. We now have the bot fly which lays its eggs under the skin of a person or animal and eats you alive is in this country not its native country due entirely to the importation of the SATO dog from Puerto Rico. Canine rabies is back when it had been eradicated from our cities years ago. Parasites from other countries have entered our country due entirely to the negligence of the USDA. These animal rights cults who ship in feral dogs from other countries are dangerous and put all of our food at risk and our children. This needs to stop now.

    • Kathy Shannon

      In reading all these comments I have learned you can’t fix stupid. I have been involved in rescue and have fostered many dogs who have gone on to loving homes. All dogs that go through the rescue process are fully vetted and up to date on all shots and vaccinations. If they are injured the rescue pays for all medical care until they are well and adoptable. Again, I suggest that you google puppy mills and look at the deplorable conditions that the parent dogs live in. As far as medical conditions of these dogs the mill owners do not regularly use a vet but self administer shots. These dogs are inbred and constantly bred with the only idea being making the almighty dollar. Who in their right mind would pay $2,000 for a dog?? There are rescue groups that specialize in every purebred breed there is. These mill dogs are not properly cared for at all. Forced to live in cramped cages and never seeing the light of day. This is how we treat man’s best friend? Come on people. The only problem with rescue dogs is the treatment they are given by prior owners. Dogs learn what they are taught. I again ask that you take the time to educate yourself and there are two wonderful facebook pages out there that will help. Bailing Our Benji deals with the puppy mill issue and is full of info. A Place to Bark is a wonderful rescue that works with the shelters and takes in the strays and again fully vets them and makes sure they are social and adoptable. From there they go to a local pet store in Naperville for adoption. They also work with West Suburban and Paws in Chicago. No one is looking to kill off the different breeds of dogs. I would say that the chances of getting a healthy dog are far better from a rescue that a pet store.

    • Linda Cairo

      Are you even a real person? I can’t believe you are since your comments are so off the wall that I can’t even believe a human being would think what you do. You really think banning breeding is going to make certain breeds extinct? PLEASE! “Radical” animal rights people? That’s what you think of those who want to close down inhumane breeders and pet stores who support that? I’ve worked with animals shelters for 20 years and at no time were we attempting to adopt out feral dogs to anybody. Your statements are preposterous. I really hope the average person is smarter than you because you are frighteningly ignorant. Your last comments “This needs to stop now” is only appropriate if it is referring to your narrow minded, uninformed and uneducated rant. Please, stop.

  • Joe Chicago

    It should not take this long to resolve it. Sadly, the legal system in this country has very little to do with justice or protecting those who suffer.

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