JOLIET – A Joliet city councilman wants pet stores to sell dogs from local pounds, shelters and breeders instead of "puppy mills."
Councilman Jim McFarland argues that Joliet should take action to protect dogs from inhumane breeding conditions and consumers from unhealthy pets.
"I think our federal and state laws are not tight enough," he said. "That's why I think we need to act locally in Joliet and protect our consumers."
McFarland said his proposal, now under review by the city attorney, would require Joliet pet stores to sell dogs that come from animal control centers, humane societies, rescue organizations, or small, local breeders.
The proposal also covers cats.
But Furry Babies, one of the stores affected by the ordinance, does not sell cats.
The other store, Petland, only takes in kittens from local people who can not find homes for them, said part-owner Belinda Newland.
Newland contested McFarland's claim that the process by which the store gets dogs – through brokers who buy them from breeders – does not protect consumers from buying unhealthy dogs.
"I'm required to get a health certificate from my broker that the puppy has been veterinary checked and is healthy," Newland said. "As soon as they come into my store, they get a full check-up from my veterinarian as well."
Newland also said Petland does not contribute to the homeless pet problem and actually helps out by finding homes for kittens. She said the store takes back dogs and pets of any kind if a customer is no longer able to take care of them.
"I actually have two [dogs] here right now," she said. "We don't care what the reason is. We just care for our pets."
McFarland, however, said 2,070 dogs were euthanized by Joliet Township Animal Control in 2012 and 2013, and that is 37 percent more than the number of dogs sold at the two pet stores in those years.
He said other local governments have enacted similar ordinances on retail pet sales, including Chicago, Lombard and Villa Park.
Furry Babies could not do business under such an ordinance, owner Ana Soskik said.
She said customers at Furry Babies want purebred or designer puppies
"Switching our entire business is just not feasible to meet the demands of our customers," she said. "We believe the customers should have the right to choose where they want to get their puppies from – a breeder, shelter or a pet store."
McFarland said the process by which the stores acquire dogs makes it impossible for consumers to identify the breeders. Owners at both stores said they provide information to customers about the breeders and are required to do so by state law.