Chesney Guest Column: Demanding an end to puppy mills “a moral imperative for Illinoisans”

Only a few issues get under my skin more than animal misuse, abuse and neglect. I believe our Northwest Illinois values recognize it is a moral imperative for Illinoisans to demand an end to puppy mills in favor of driving the pet market to more humane sources like shelters, and RESPONSIBLE breeders.

I am the Chief Sponsor and fighting to pass House Bill 1711 in the Illinois House to end the market for puppy mills by ending the sale of commercially bred puppies in retail outlets. Many retailers responsibly partner with shelters rather than puppy mills to offer pet adoption events, which can continue should my legislation become law. Consumers would still be able to purchase puppies from responsible breeders. However, the direct sale of puppies in retail pet stores would end in Illinois and so would much of the abuse towards our companion animals.

Unfortunately, there is a scourge in our country of inhumane commercial breeding facilities which disregard the well-being of pets for profits. To be clear, one of the best ways to stop the prevalence of these “puppy mills” is to significantly reduce the demand by ending transfer of pets through retail sales outlets.

Retailers (pet stores) have put themselves in this position due to current and past, irresponsible practices of misleading potential pet owners with baseless guarantees that pets are healthy, socialized and bred responsibly. Nothing has or could be further from the truth. To meet the demands of providing a constant supply of eight-week-old puppies, most retail pet stores rely on unregulated puppy mills which rear the pets in terribly unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Many of these pets arrive to their forever homes only to tragically, and quickly, die from health conditions acquired in these sickening mills.

Responsible breeders and shelters vet prospective pet owners to ensure they are financially and otherwise prepared to deal with the responsibility that accompanies pet ownership. Many retailers, unfortunately, simply want to make the sale, with insufficient regard to the health of the pet or the safety of its new home.

Existing pet store laws are exceedingly weak and provide insufficient protections to consumers as well as insufficient safety protocols for the pets involved. Many Illinois communities have, correctly, enacted humane pet store laws including over 375 communities nationwide, including the City of Freeport. It is past time we end puppy mills in Illinois and take this next step in drying up the market for the animals they neglect, abuse and shift the burden of care to unsuspecting Illinoisans.

I would be remiss to not remind everyone to consider adopting their next pet from their favorite local shelter or humane society. Before COVID, I hosted a fantastic pet adoption event at the Friends Forever Humane Society in Freeport. I hope to revive this event as the COVID threat passes, but until then, adoptions continue, and April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. Please consider adopting your next pet from a shelter or humane society.

You can sign a petition to support my call to End Puppy Mills in Illinois and support House Bill 1711 here.