Judge delays Cook County puppy mill ban to allow suit to go forward

A federal judge issued an order Thursday preventing Cook County from enforcing its new puppy mill ban while a lawsuit filed this week by three suburban pet store owners works its way through the court system.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly comes just days after the plaintiffs, including the owners of Petland in Hoffman Estates and Happiness is Pets in Arlington Heights, filed suit in Chicago alleging that the ban violates commerce and equal protection laws.

The Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1, requires pet stores sell dogs, cats and rabbits obtained only from shelters, humane adoption centers and small-scale breeders.

Kennelly's order, which was agreed to by the county and plaintiffs, states that the county “shall stay implementation and enforcement of the April 8, 2014 amendment to the Cook County Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance during the pendency of this case in the United States District Court.”

“We are elated that our clients will continue to remain in business while this case proceeds and they look forward to a full trial to demonstrate that they are devoted to raising animals the responsible and ethical way, and also to show that Cook County's ordinance is unconstitutional,” David Fish, an attorney for the pet store owners, said Thursday.

Fish said the agreement to postpone implementation applies to all pet stores in the suburban parts of the county, not just his clients. Chicago has its own puppy mill ordinance and is not subject to the county measure.

Pet shop owners in the suit say adhering to the ordinance is not feasible because of the consumer demand for purebred or specialty dogs that often cannot be found at shelters. The suit also claims the ordinance is too vague, violates the plaintiffs' right to equal protection under the law, and does not clearly define what constitutes a puppy mill.

The stores argue that the ordinance, if allowed, will put pet shops “out of business and cause financial ruin to them and their owners.”

Animal rights activists, including Dianne Arp of the Companion Animal Protection Society, have said pet stores get dogs from puppy mills with poor conditions and several violations of laws created to protect animals.

The next status hearing on the case will take place at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 22

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