More good news from the federal courts – this time on our crusade to crack down on the exploitation of dogs by the puppy mill industry. Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a legal challenge to Cook County’s ordinance that restricts the sale of puppies from large-scale commercial dog breeders. Adopted at the urging of The HSUS and a host of other animal welfare groups, the anti-puppy mill ordinance allows Cook County pet stores to source puppies only from small hobby breeders, or from shelters and rescues. The plaintiffs seeking to knock down the ordinance – which include not only Cook County pet stores, but also the puppy mill industry group Missouri Pet Breeders Association – bundled every Constitutional argument they could muster into their pleadings, and the court rejected each and every one of them.
This decision comes on the heels of the recent ruling in Rhode Island, which upheld a similar local ordinance in East Providence. Both rulings not only provide important legal precedent in our national fight to crack down on abusive mills by restricting their retail outlets, but also represent a victory in our efforts to restrict the sales of any products that rely on animal suffering for their production. We intend to invoke these rulings to support our efforts to reduce suffering across animal industries.
In today’s decision, the judge found that the Cook County ordinance was justified by, among other things, the county’s goal to “ensure that pet stores bought animals from small breeders as opposed to inhumane mass-breeding facilities.” We will continue to urge other local governments to replicate this action, as we urge would-be pet parents to consider adoption of homeless animals from shelters and rescue groups. So far, more than 70 other local governments have restricted the retail sale of puppy mill dogs, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Chicago. We should continue to see that number grow as advocates are encouraged by the court ruling and take action in their communities, helping to drive the market toward pet adoption and responsible dog breeders. What’s more, we’ll be working collaboratively with more pet stores to adopt animal-friendly policies, by using their stores to promote adoption rather than to funnel dogs to the public from mills. A number of pet stores have recently converted to that new humane business model with the help of our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores initiative, resulting in more than 3,100 shelter pets saved.
With two federal court rulings under our belt to ground our effort to restrict puppy mill dog sales in locales, our work at the state level to establish more humane breeding standards (which has, in one state alone, probably reduced the number of mills in Missouri from 3,000 to 1,500), and our public education efforts against puppy mills and Internet sellers (watch our new video short on puppy mill drones with has more than three million views), and our broad efforts to promote adoption of shelter and rescue dogs and to work with responsible breeders, we are making extraordinary gains and building culture-changing awareness. It’s no time to relent, but rather to step on the gas and shrink the puppy mill industry and the euthanasia lists in shelters.