On March 4, 2014, in a huge victory for animal rights, Chicago's city council voted 49-1 to ban the sale of pets that come from mills in Chicago pet stores. According to a March 5 article on NBC Chicago, Chicago will now be "a national leader in humane laws for pets."
NBC Chicago quoted Susan Mendoza, city clerk of Chicago, as saying, "It cuts off a pipeline of the animals coming from the horrendous puppy mill industry and instead moves us towards a retail pet sales model that focuses on adopting out the many, many homeless animals in need of loving homes in this city."
The Puppy Mill Project is an animal rights non-profit that has been working in Chicagoland to convince pet stores to stop selling pets from puppy and kitten mills. Their previous successes were at pet stores in Naperville, Evanston, and the city of Chicago. The Project's president and founder, Cari Meyers, was also instrumental in getting Illinois to pass the Pet Store Disclosure Act in 2010. The Pet Store Disclosure Act gives owners a full refund of their purchase fee if the pet dies within 3 weeks of purchase.
Puppy and kitten mills usually sell their babies to pet stores before they're old enough for all of their vaccinations. That makes them more susceptible to contagious illnesses such as distemper and feline leukemia. These kittens and puppies are so young they're also more sensitive to stress, and can get sick just from that. The Humane Society reports that Illinois consumers complained many, many times about buying a sick kitten or puppy, only to find out after the fact that their new fur-friend came from a mill.
According to Meyers, at least 70% of the population doesn't even know what these mills are. That means most of the population doesn't know how inhumane puppy and kitten mills are. Part of The Puppy Mill Project's goal is education and outreach, so more people know just how awful these mills are.
The "Arizona Daily Star" reported on March 4 that Tucson is working on a similar proposal. If it passes the city council, it will prohibit all pet stores within the city limits from buying their pets from mills. Instead, they'll have to partner with local shelters and rescues, and provide adoptions instead of sales.
Phoenix has also passed such an ordinance, and according to the "Daily Star," more than 40 other cities and towns around the country have passed similar ordinances. They are all part of a growing movement to not only end the needless suffering of the animals from these mills, but also to help ease the burden on shelters. That could mean fewer pets get euthanized each year.
The Chicago ordinance will ban the sale of any type of animal from a mill. These mills churn out more than puppies and kittens, according to the Humane Society. Ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and even birds are often churned out from these mills in the same horrible conditions. The breeding animals are put down or discarded when they're either too sick or too old to breed anymore. The babies are raised in tiny, often dirty and barren, cages, alongside crowds of other animals. Some of them are sold to pet stores, some become breeding animals themselves, and some are destroyed or discarded along with the old and sick.
The lone vote against Chicago's new ordinance came from Alderman Brendan Reilly, who supports the measure but thinks it needs to be a statewide law. He's worried that the ban will simply push the mills to work harder with pet stores in the suburbs and not solve the problem. He's right, but Chicago's ordinance is a huge step in the right direction. The suburbs, with groups like the Puppy Mill Project working on them, may soon follow suit.