Report: Elected official reverses course on puppy mills after campaign contributions by pet store

Dogs used for breeding in commercial breeding enterprises tend to have significant health problems, are more likely to suffer from aggression, and many of them are psychologically and emotionally shut down, compulsively staring at nothing.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that,

A Chicago alderman who long championed the city’s anti-puppy mill ordinance has reversed his position and wants to lift a key restriction on pet shops, a move that comes after he received donations from a Lincoln Park store owner whose business sells primarily purebred and designer dogs…

“Chicago was among the first major cities in the country to pass a law that permitted pet shops to sell dogs only if they were obtained from government pounds, humane societies or rescue shelters:”

The Chicago law, like others around the country, is designed not only to increase the number of dogs adopted, rather than killed, in pounds, but to reduce systematic neglect and abuse toward animals in mills, which cause severe emotional scars on the victims. The former breeding dogs living with those scars are a testament to that fact. Not only do one in four have significant health problems, they are more likely to suffer from aggression, and many of them are psychologically and emotionally shut down, compulsively staring at nothing.

And they work. “Nebraska Department of Agriculture records show that half of the state’s commercial dog and cat breeders have left the business,” with an admission that “Midwest breeders were hurt by a California law that banned pet stores from selling commercially bred puppies, kittens and rabbits.”

In Chicago, “The city ban affected about 13 stores: Most closed, relocated or changed their mission” by partnering with rescue groups to adopt out dogs.

But a consortium of out-of-state commercial breeders that incorporated as not-for-profit organizations in order to circumvent the law allowed a small number of those Chicago pet stores to keep selling milled dogs. Eventually, Iowa’s Attorney General closed down the operation, calling it “a national ‘puppy laundering’ ring that sells puppy-mill dogs under the ruse of adopting rescue animals.” According to the lawsuit he filed, puppy mills and unscrupulous pet stores conspired to violate the ban on selling commercially bred animals in pet stores in places like Chicago and California. The puppy mill brokers form “non-profit” organizations and pretend to be rescue groups. The source of the puppies doesn’t change, the amount charged for the puppies doesn’t change, the profit to be made doesn’t change, and most important of all, the neglect and abuse of the mothers in those mills doesn’t change.

After initially proposing to close the loophole that allowed this to continue, the Tribune reports that the Alderman received his first campaign contribution from a pet store owner whose business sells commercially-bred dogs. Thereafter, the Alderman spoke out against closing the loophole and proposed jettisoning the whole ban by allowing pet stores to sell commercially-bred dogs from mills that are federally licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Federal licensure, however, does not mean humane. The Office of the Inspector General found that the USDA fails in its mission to protect dogs in puppy mills by choosing to “cooperate” and “educate” puppy millers, rather than protect dogs by punishing abusers. As a result, “the agency chose to take little or no enforcement actions against violators” including repeat violators. In one case, USDA inspectors found “dead dogs and starving dogs that resorted to cannibalism, dogs that were entirely covered in ticks, kennels overrun with feces and urine, and food infested with cockroaches. At the facility in which the starving dogs were found, the [USDA] inspector did not remove the surviving dogs, and as a result twenty-two more dogs died.” (75 Alb. L. Rev. 379.)

After being contacted by Tribune reporters, the Alderman says he returned the campaign contributions.

The report and investigation by the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago alderman who got contributions from pet store owner flips on anti-puppy mill law,” is here.


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