In a major win in the fight against cruel puppy mills, Illinois’ Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed the Humane Pet Store Bill (HB 1711) into law. The state’s 21 puppy-selling pet stores have 180 days from August 27, the date the bill was signed, to stop selling commercially raised puppies and kittens. This effectively closes out a profitable sales channel for puppy mills and will drive the Illinois pet market towards more humane sources like shelters, rescues and responsible breeders.
Illinois pet stores sell thousands of puppies each year from large-scale commercial breeders and brokers who treat mother dogs as little more than breeding machines and puppies as mere products to be shipped to pet stores and sold. Many of these operations have terrible animal welfare records, impacting the health of the puppies. When families acquire ill puppies, this can lead to high veterinary bills and the puppies can even die within weeks of purchase, leaving families heartbroken. The new law sends a clear message: The days when pet stores can showcase the cute puppy or kitten in the window while puppy and kitten mills hide their horrors are coming to an end. Despite the vast resources the pet stores put into fighting this legislation, it passed both the state House and Senate by strong bipartisan majorities. And Gov. Pritzker did not cave to the veto campaign that followed its passage. Instead, lawmakers, led by Republican Rep. Andrew Chesney and Democratic Sen. Cristina Castro, sided with the people of Illinois who called and emailed by the thousands to urge support for this important law.
Illinois now joins California, Maryland, Maine, Washington and nearly 400 localities across 30 states in prohibiting the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores. The writing is on the wall for puppy-selling pet stores: It’s time to cut ties with puppy mills and, rather than add to the pet overpopulation crisis that is currently gripping large parts of the nation, pet stores should look to join with shelters and rescues to increase adoptions of animals who would otherwise be left homeless.
Petland, the largest retailer of puppy mill puppies and a company we’ve criticized for mistreating animals, selling sick animals and sourcing from some of the worst breeders in the nation, will be affected by the Illinois law. Eight Petland stores in the state will have to stop selling puppies in the coming months, and the recent passage of pet store ordinances in Florida counties adds four more elsewhere in the country. As a dominant force in the industry, Petland should take a good look at where things are moving and shift all its stores away from selling puppies.
The strong stand by Illinois lawmakers against puppy mill cruelty this session did not stop with the pet store bill. The state also became the first in the nation to prohibit the financing of dog and cat purchases with the enactment of HB 572. Because puppy mill puppies are often sold for thousands of dollars to those who may not be able to afford them outright, some stores offer financing as an incentive to close the sale. Pet stores and large internet brokers often promise low-interest financing through third-party lenders that end up charging exorbitantly high-interest rates and hidden fees. Petland customers have complained of interest rates as high as 188%, and in some cases, customers must make payments for years after their pets died. HB 572 passed unanimously in both chambers, showing zero tolerance for these predatory practices.
With the momentum of public opinion and bipartisan lawmakers on our side, we will continue full steam ahead until puppy mills no longer exist. New York, with more than 60 puppy-selling stores, is in the middle of a two-year legislative session in which a humane pet store bill has already passed the state Senate. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts also have active bills, and there are several key local ordinance votes coming up. We are campaigning for the passage of these laws in communities around the country that are affected by the impacts of puppy mills, leading the charge for a more humane future for puppies and kittens.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.