For some years now, we have been keeping a close eye on three Chicago pet stores that have been finding their way around a city ordinance that prohibits the sales of commercially raised dogs and cats in pet stores to fight the problem of puppy mills. Instead of following the law and doing the right thing by the animals, these stores -- Pet Luv Pet Center, Pocket Puppies and Park Pet Shop -- have continued to sell eight-week-old designer breed puppies for thousands of dollars, using an elaborate scheme that skirts the law and misleads consumers.
The pet stores claim these dogs are “rescues,” but, in fact, they are getting the puppies from middlemen brokers who source the animals from puppy mills—mass breeding operations that treat the animals in their care inhumanely.
Nearly two years ago, using information we provided, the Chicago Tribune uncovered this sham. Earlier this year, the Iowa attorney general filed a successful lawsuit that dismantled one of the fake rescues working with the Chicago stores. The lawsuit also named two of the Chicago pet stores for their role in the “national puppy laundering ring.” Despite all this, the stores have continued to sell puppies.
Now, we have unearthed new evidence that one of these stores, Pocket Puppies, did not even attempt to maintain the ruse. Last week, based on a complaint we filed with Chicago Animal Care and Control, the city cited the store for 13 alleged violations of the law based on documents we provided that show the store sourced several bulldog puppies directly from an Oklahoma breeder. We are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this case.
We are also supporting an ordinance introduced by Alderman Brian Hopkins of the Chicago City Council that would close the loophole in the current law and stop the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail pet stores, regardless of where the animals were sourced from. Stores can still partner with shelters and rescues to host adoption events---something we strongly support—but they cannot profit from the events. We urge the council to swiftly enact this important ordinance.
Chicago was one of the first cities in the nation to enact an ordinance prohibiting the sale of commercially-raised puppies in pet stores in 2014. Today, more than 370 localities across 26 states have similar ordinances. Three states, California, Maryland and Maine, have also enacted similar policies statewide, and other states are considering them. These laws strike a crippling blow to puppy mills, which rely on pet stores to sell animals while hiding the true conditions these animals are raised in. Meanwhile, pet lovers in these states can still obtain a dog or cat directly from responsible breeders or rescues and shelters.
We are making tremendous progress in ending the problem of puppy mills. But we also need to be constantly vigilant against those who are quick to flout the law, or find ways around it, to profit off animal suffering.
In California, for instance, we learned of a similar scam in which some stores were selling fake rescue puppies to get around the state’s pet store law. In September, Gov. Gavin Newson signed a new, stricter pet store law backed by the HSUS and other animal welfare groups and those sales will end as of January 1, 2021.
Ohio’s attorney general is also taking notice of a sham rescue operating in the state, which was exposed by the group Bailing Out Benji. Media reports earlier this month said the attorney general's office received complaints regarding Little Puppies Online, a questionable dealer that has appeared twice in our Horrible Hundred report and has recently started a suspicious “rescue” arm. Ohio has been a pioneer in the fight against puppy mills, passing one of the strongest laws against this scourge in 2018, and we urge the attorney general to investigate this sham rescue and close it down at the earliest.
We will also continue to press for more local and state laws cutting off the puppy mill to pet store pipeline, and we will never take our eyes off Chicago or anywhere else where puppy sellers brazenly or stealthily attempt to flout laws.
You, the consumers, can be our most valuable allies in the fight against puppy mills. If you are in the market for a pet, do not buy a puppy from a pet store or online. Instead look for your new pet in your local shelter or rescue, and if you do buy, please seek a responsible breeder whom you meet in person. This is especially important during the holidays, when puppy sales surge. The soft eyes of a puppy or kitten staring at you from the glass cage of a well-appointed pet store can easily steal your heart. But it is important to remember that these animals most likely came from mother dogs and cats who never received a kind human touch, probably never had enough to eat, and never left, even for a few minutes, their cramped, filthy cages inside a puppy mill.