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updated: 4/21/2014 9:26 AM

Puppy mill protesters picket in Batavia

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  • Members of The Puppy Mill Project held their first protest Saturday in Kane County on Randall Road outside the Petland in Batavia. Organizers said they sought to raise awareness about the dangers of mass breeding and to educate consumers about adoption alternatives.

       Members of The Puppy Mill Project held their first protest Saturday in Kane County on Randall Road outside the Petland in Batavia. Organizers said they sought to raise awareness about the dangers of mass breeding and to educate consumers about adoption alternatives.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 
 

Bolstered by recent "puppy mill" bans in Chicago and suburban Cook County, protesters from The Puppy Mill Project picketed along Randall Road in Batavia Saturday.

Organizers said the effort was to help raise awareness for consumers about places like Petland and other stores that get their animals from U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed breeders, which they consider to be puppy mills.

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The Batavia Petland owner said she gets some puppies from USDA-licensed breeders, but mostly she gets them from hobbyists.

She tries to visit each breeder personally to check on the care each puppy receives.

"We don't get ours from puppy mills," said Janet Star, Batavia Petland owner. "We may use some large-scale breeders, but for me it's about the quality of care."

The protest, which drew about a dozen people to the corner of Randall Road and Mill Street in Batavia from noon to 2 p.m., was organized by Sam Clark, an Aurora resident who worked at the Batavia Petland four years ago.

"My goal is education," she said. "Not a lot of people know what a puppy mill is. Maybe people driving by will Google it."

Dee Santucci, co-chair of The Puppy Mill Project's education committee, pointed to recent puppy mill bans in the city of Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Santucci said the group considers all USDA-certified breeders as puppy mills.

She said the puppies aren't tested for genetic diseases, are poorly socialized, often sick, and females are bred until they die.

The result is consumers can get puppies that are sick or more susceptible to diseases, she said.

Santucci said instead people should consider adoption, finding a breed-specific rescue group on the Internet or visiting pupquest.org, a site developed by a veterinarian.

"We care about animal welfare, and we also care about consumer fraud," Santucci said. "We're taking our message to the suburbs. This is our first protest (in Kane County), but not our last."

Janie Jenkins, the group's vice president, said she was encouraged by the reaction to the protest.

"This is a great day. Everybody's honking as the go by," she said. "It's a good turnout; a lot of people came."

Star, who has owned the Petland with her husband for the last seven years, pointed to a 30-day viral illness warranty offered on puppies, as well as a 3-year warranty against hereditary and congenital diseases.

She noted that her store's warranties already exceeded the new standards imposed by a pet "lemon" law that took effect Jan. 1.

"With that kind of warranty, we wouldn't stay in business if we sold puppies that were sick," Star said. "I understand their concerns. We hate puppy mills, too. I appreciate them bringing awareness to the puppy mill issue."

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