Editorial: Comprehensive approach needed to protect animals from unscrupulous sellers

The Lake County Board this week decided to go back to the drawing board on a proposal to support legislation that would give them more control over pet shops and commercial breeders in an effort to reduce animal abuse.

We wish them well. But their dilemma points up a greater need for the state legislature to take up an issue that is roiling communities and counties across the state, creating a patchwork of local ordinances and confusing buyers and sellers alike.

Numerous suburban communities have passed ordinances related to the retail sale of household pets, including Buffalo Grove, Warrenville, Downers Grove and Vernon Hills. Others, like Naperville and Arlington Heights, have struggled to find ways to assure humane treatment of pets through regulation or outright bans of retail businesses.

The goal is admirable. No reasonable person wants a system that encourages or allows mistreatment of animals. The challenge is separating caring and responsible pet shops and breeders from those whose only interest is to produce as many puppies, kittens or other young animals as possible without regard for the health, comfort or safety of both parents and their offspring.

That challenge can be met, but it will best be met with a comprehensive approach at the state level. That may require some study and time, and as more and more local agencies look for ways to appropriately regulate pet sales, lawmakers should not delay working to provide the help they need. That can start with legislation that encourages and incentivizes pet retailers to sell animals from shelters, rescue agencies and animal care facilities.

In the meantime, the only avenue available to animal lovers is to continue to press for local organizations and regulations like those Lake County is trying to develop. Faced last year with circumstances similar to Lake County's, DuPage County hosted a workshop to help residents navigate challenges in local communities, and the Naperville City Council is set to take up the topic again on Tuesday.

In voting to take another look at their proposals, Lake County Board members insisted they weren't withdrawing from the fight but were striving to find an approach that is right and that will work.

"We want them gone," Dick Barr, a Round Lake Beach Republican, said of unscrupulous stores and breeders. "This is coming back so we can come at it even stronger with better language that actually addresses the root core of the problem."

It took the tragic deaths of 29 dogs in a fire last year at a kennel near Carol Stream to spur a state law protecting boarded animals. Tragedies are occurring every day through disregard for animal health and safety by unscrupulous breeders and stores.

The state should act to help end them.

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