As many on this blog know, I am a fanatical dog lover and I love virtually everything about my hometown of Chicago (particularly a certain football team). However, I have some serious legal qualms over a new law passed by the Chicago City Council. The City Council has a worthy goal of combating “puppy mills” where dogs are bred in crowded and cruel conditions. The city also wants to increase the adoption of dogs over commercially bred or pure breed dogs. As a result, it has now banned by a vote of 49-1 the sale of commercially bred dogs. (If nothing else, it gives me a chance to run another photo of my dog, Luna.)
Beginning next March, all stores in the city will have to start getting their pets from government pounds, humane societies or animal rescue groups rather than for-profit operations. The law was drafted by The Puppy Mill Project and supported by the Office of the Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Animal Care & Control and the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and PAWS Chicago and other groups. Other cities that have such laws include San Diego, Los Angeles, Toronto, Austin, and Albuquerque. (For full disclosure, I bought my dog from a breeder to guarantee a hypoallergenic dog and to buy the same breed as our previous dog who died in an accident. We insisted on visiting the breeder to see the conditions to guarantee that it was humane and not a mill. I have had both adopted and bred dogs and loved them all. The smartest dog I ever had was my mutt, Trinity, that I found on living on the street in the 1970s. I have now had five dogs and each was considered a member of my family).
The law (available here) lists many of the important issues facing animal welfare from such mill operations which extend to cats, rabbits, and other animals. There are some excellent sites detailing the harm from these mills, like this site at ASPCA.
However, the law seems ripe for challenge even with these findings. First, it effectively treats all commercial pet operations as the same as mills, which is clearly not the case. Second, rather than regulate the conditions of such operations for breeding, it limits both the right to sell and right to buy such animals. (I realize that many operations are outside of the state, but the city could require certification of the sources for such animals). Third, it clearly disfavors the purchase of pure bred animals as a general rule unless obtained from pounds etc. Finally, the law only applies to retailers defined as “any person licensed or required to be licensed under this chapter who offers for sale any dog, cat or rabbit in the City.” That would still allow the purchase from breeders or stores outside of the city, even just across the city limit. Presumably, someone could also “purchase” an animal over the internet or phone and have the animal delivered to their home from an enterprising store outside of city limits.
The law seems arbitrary even under a rational basis test in my view. The preference given adoptions also intrudes on the choices of consumers as to the animal that they want to add to their families. It seems like the animal rights version of a “Big Gulp” ban on the issue of choice. There are breeders who raise animals in humane settings. They tend to be more expensive than mills and these breeders tend to resent the mills as much if not more than others.
One of the things I love about Chicago is that it is a dog town. When I take my dog to visit the family, we have a ball in the dog parks — particularly one large park on the Northside along the beach. This is not a question of the ends but the means. I do not favor legislating tastes and I have a serious problem with legislation that is based on such sweeping generalities.
I would prefer a law that required certification by an independent group on the conditions of breeding operations for the importation of animals. Of course, this would not achieve the desire to force people to buy animals from pounds etc.
The sole dissenting vote was from Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, who bought dogs from a business that would now be barred under the law and subject to potential criminal charges.
The heart of the law states the following:
4-384-015 Retail Sale of Dogs, Cats and Rabbits
(a) Definitions. As used in this section:
“Offer(s) for sale” means to display, sell, deliver, offer for sale or adoption, advertise for the sale of, barter, auction, give away or otherwise dispose of a dog, cat or rabbit.
“Retailer” means any person licensed or required to be licensed under this chapter who offers for sale any dog, cat or rabbit in the City.
“Rescue organization” means any not-for-profit organization that has tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code, whose mission and practice is, in whole or in significant part, the rescue and placement of dogs, cats or rabbits.
(b) Restrictions on the retail sale of animals. A retailer may offer for sale only those dogs, cats or rabbits that the retailer has obtained from:
(1) an animal control center, animal care facility, kennel, pound or training facility operated by any subdivision of local, state or federal government; or
(2) a humane society or rescue organization.
(c) Exemptions. The restrictions on retailers set forth in subsection (b) of this section shall not apply to any entity listed in paragraphs (1) or (2) of subsection (b) of this section, or to any veterinary hospital or clinic licensed pursuant to the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act of 2004, codified at 225 ILCS 115.
(d) Disclosures required. Any retailer who offers for sale a dog, cat or rabbit shall make the following disclosures to the customer about such animal:
(1) for each dog or cat: a written disclosure meeting all of the requirements set forth in Sections 3.5 or 3.15, as applicable, of the!Animal Welfare Act, codified at 225 ILCS 605; and,
(2) for each rabbit: (i) the breed, approximate age, sex and color of the animal; (ii) the date and description of any inoculation or medical treatment that the animal received while under the possession of the retailer; (iii) the name and address of the location where the animal was born, rescued, relinquished or impounded; and
(iv) if the animal was returned by a customer, the date of and reason for the return.
The disclosures required under this subsection (d) shall be provided by the retailer to the
customer in written form and shall be signed by both the retailer and customer at the time of sale.
The retailer shall retain the original copy of such disclosure and acknowledgement for a period
of 2 years from the date of sale. Upon request by an authorized city official, the original copy of
such disclosure and acknowledgement shall be made immediately available for inspection by
such authorized city official.
The retailer shall post, in writing, in a conspicuous place on or near the cage of any dog, cat
or rabbit offered for sale all of the information about a dog, cat or rabbit required under this
subsection and other applicable law.
SECTION 3. Following due passage and publication, this ordinance shall take full force
and effect on March 5, 2015.