February 10, 2009
Citizen Advocates Converge on Illinois Capitol, Urge Lawmakers to Protect Animals
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Citizens from across Illinois will assemble at the state capitol today to meet with lawmakers to urge them to pass bills cracking down on puppy mills and strengthening laws against animal fighting. The first Humane Lobby Day to be held in Illinois is sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States.
"Lawmakers in Illinois have an opportunity to address animal fighting and puppy mills in this session," said Jordan Matyas, Illinois state director for The HSUS. "They are two of the most insidious and hidden forms of large-scale animal cruelty, and our supporters are eager to make their case to their elected officials on Humane Lobby Day."
Rep. John A. Fritchey (D-Chicago) and Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Mt. Prospect) introduced H.B. 198/S.B. 53, "Chloe's Bill," to crack down on puppy mills in Illinois by setting humane standards and limiting the number of dogs maintained for breeding at one time. The bill would also require pet stores and breeders to provide information to consumers about the dogs available for sale.
Puppy mills are factory style breeding facilities that mass produce puppies for sale in pet stores, over the Internet and directly to consumers. Puppy mills operators commonly house animals in overcrowded, filthy and inhumane conditions, such as wire cages stacked on top of each other, where dogs receive no exercise, socialization or human interaction. The puppies who survive these conditions are taken from their mothers for sale at approximately eight weeks of age, when they are highly susceptible to contagious diseases and very sensitive to behavioral stress.
Current Illinois law is ineffective in providing humane care for dogs and fails to provide information for consumers who purchase puppies from pet stores and breeding facilities. Chloe, the namesake of the new legislation, was rescued from a puppy mill in central Illinois. She was found covered in fleas, her toes caked with urine and feces. She was later diagnosed with coccidia and conjunctivitis, dual ear infections and roundworms and whipworms.
The citizen advocates will also press for passage of legislation to strengthen animal fighting laws. State Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago) is the sponsor of H.B. 69 which would make it a felony to attend an animal fight. This legislation is also supported by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Spectators at animal fights are there primarily to bet on the outcomes. They are knowing participants who often pay admission fees to attend, making animal fights lucrative for the organizers.
Weak penalties for animal fighting spectators make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to effectively prosecute animal fighters. Typically, organized animal fights occur with several matches held one after the other. When police raid an animal fight, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between spectators and participants who were going to fight their dog or bird in the next match, allowing many animal fighters to avoid prosecution.
H.B. 69 will also increase the penalties on specific animal fighting crimes to ensure that animal fighters are not receiving a minimal sentence for an action such as bringing a minor to a cockfight. At cockfights, children are exposed to horrifically bloody events, and often to drugs, alcohol and gang activity. This legislation also cracks down on animal fighting by increasing the penalties for professional animal fighters who manufacture or utilize animal fighting equipment.
Last year, state legislatures across the country passed 93 new laws for animals. The HSUS works with animal advocates and state legislators across the country to enact laws protecting animals from cruelty, combating animal fighting, halting wildlife abuse, and more.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.