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Local News

Joliet pet store law put on hold

City concerned about lawsuits

JOLIET – A proposal to limit the sales of cats and dogs at Joliet pet stores has been put on hold out of concerns over potential lawsuits.

The Joliet City Council Land Use and Legislative Committee tabled the proposed ordinance Thursday until lawsuits are resolved on similar laws in Chicago and Cook County.

The vote came after the committee heard from pet store owners and animal advocates arguing for and against the ordinance.

The law, aimed at puppy mills, would ban the sale of dogs and cats from large commercial breeders. Pet stores would be required to get their animals from animal control centers, shelters, humane societies or rescue organizations.

Ana Soskic, owner of Furry Babies, which sells puppies at the Louis Joliet Mall, said advocates of such laws ultimately seek to eliminate pet ownership.

"By supporting this ordinance, you'll be part of taking away pet ownership from families in years to come," Soskic told the committee.

Dianne Arp, with the Companion Animal Protection Society, which has picketed on Saturdays outside the Petland store in Joliet, said local ordinances are needed because federal regulators are not doing their job in monitoring puppy mills.

"The reason we need to pass legislation at the city level is that the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] does not regulate commercial breeders as they should," Arp said.

She called the proposed Joliet law "a strong sales ban ordinance."

Committee members voiced support for local control of pet stores, but said they did not want to get the city mired in costly lawsuits.

"I don't want to see this die," said Councilman Jim McFarland, who proposed the ordinance. But, he added, "I think we all agree we don't want to open up the city to litigation."

City Attorney Martin Shanahan said he could not recommend the ordinance that he wrote.

"It's opening up the city to probably litigation if it is passed," Shanahan said. "I don't think I could have written one that would not have some sort of legal challenge."

Committee members agreed to take up the ordinance again once they see the results of lawsuits involving the Chicago and Cook County ordinances.

Pet store owners contend such ordinances limit people's choices in buying dogs and cats.

"There is more oversight of breeders that sell puppies to pet stores than any other breeder, rescue or shelter," Brian Winslow, director of animal education for Petland, told the committee.

Matt Robinson of Joliet argued that pet ownership would continue without breeders and pet stores.

"We can shut down every breeding operation in the country today, and we'd have plenty of animals to adopt," Robinson said. "We don't need pet stores. We don't need animal breeders. We need people who are responsible pet owners and responsible caretakers of their animals."

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