Law requires pet shops, shelters to give histories
By Kathy Millen firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2010 7:08PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Not all dogs and cats are created equal.
Some are bred by disreputable people in unlicensed facilities where they often live in squalor and receive substandard care.
These animals, many of them inbred, seriously ill and even near death, are later sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Naperville animal lovers hope a new state law will help bring these practices to an end in Illinois. Beginning Saturday, pet stores and animal shelters will be required to post the history of a dog or cat, disclosing the name and address of the animal’s breeder; a record of all medical conditions, veterinary treatments and vaccinations; any known congenital or hereditary defects of the animals’ parents and the animal’s date of birth, breed and other details.
Documentation of the animal’s history must be signed by the customer and a representative of the pet shop or shelter before the sale or adoption can be finalized.
Previously, stores were required to disclose such information only upon request. In some cases, it wasn’t provided until the sale was final.
Under the new law, pet stores that sell dogs and cats from so-called puppy or kitten mills, or from brokers supplied by them, will no longer be able to hide this information.
The legislation, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August, was designed to protect consumers from unknowingly buying or adopting pets that came from these facilities as well as to hold breeders accountable for the health and quality of their animals.
While the law strengthens disclosure requirements in Illinois, one Naperville pet store owner is concerned it won’t do much to put puppy and kitten mill operators out of business.
“I don’t think there’s enough teeth in this to get anybody unscrupulous to stop doing what they are doing,” said Greg Gordon, owner of Dog Patch Pet & Feed. “...There are always going to be people who find their way around this.”
That includes the “Basement Pirates,” people who have made a business of selling dogs out of their basements or at highway stops. Falsely representing themselves as reputable breeders, they have no qualms about lying about the origin of an animal, Gordon said.
“If you pick up the classifieds you will find 10 of these,” he said. “Those guys aren’t going to be affected by (the law.)”
He said changing the rules for breeders, such as limiting the number of animals a breeder can have at a given time, would have a bigger impact on the health and well-being of the animals and protect consumers.
Gordon had been closely following the passage of this bill in Springfield this past year. In anticipation of it becoming law, he said his store has been posting the histories of its dogs for the last six months. Previously, that information was given only to the person buying the dog.
He said the breeders he uses also are comfortable making that information public, hoping it will help root out some of the “bad guys.”
However, just because a breeder’s name is posted doesn’t mean people don’t have to do their homework when buying a dog or a cat, Gordon said. It’s still up to the prospective buyer to research whether or not that breeder is reputable.
The new law makes allowances for animal shelters and animal control facilities that often don’t know an animal’s history. Michelle Lenz, of the Naperville Area Humane Society, said because many of its animals are strays, it is impossible to provide a full history to potential adopters.
However, what they do know about an animal, including health diagnoses and treatments while under the humane society’s care, has been disclosed to adopters, she said.
Rich Glessner, director of operations at Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment in Naperville, said the new law won’t significantly alter how that shelter does business.
“In a shelter environment I don’t see it changing a great deal of the philosophy or operating aspects of the adoption process or how people go about adopting an animal,” he said “The bigger impact will be on pet stores.”
Currently, the ADOPT contract already includes most of the information the new law requires be given to the adopter. Now those same pet histories also will be posted on cards on the cages for anyone to see. The cards on cages of adopted animals that have been returned to the shelter will include the reasons why.
Glessner said he favors the new law and said it will help people make more informed decisions when purchasing a dog or a cat.
Despite his reservations, Gordon, too, said he is glad state legislators are doing something to help address the problems in the industry.
“I think it’s a good first step,” he said.