Arlington Heights pet store gets reprieve from puppy mill ban
An Arlington Heights pet store will be allowed to stay open for now -- in spite of a Cook County ordinance banning the sale of dogs from puppy mills -- but village officials may impose new regulations soon.
The decision was made at Monday's village board meeting to allow Happiness is Pets, 15 W. Golf Road, an exemption from the puppy mill ban that owner Ronald Berning said would put him out of business when it goes into effect Oct. 1.
However, trustees approved the exemption on a temporary basis with the understanding that staff members will propose different regulations for the business within 60 days.
The decision came after Berning and an animal-rights activist presented two opposing views about the pets that come to Happiness is Pets, the only pet store in the village subject to the new puppy mill ban.
Berning said his breeders offer high-quality puppies with a two-year warranty and a guarantee to pay veterinary costs for 30 days after purchase. He said those assurances are not given to people who buy pets from online organizations that are not subject to the federal regulations pet stores must follow.
"I'm asking you to opt out and let me stay in business," Berning said. "There's nothing wrong with my breeders."
Meanwhile, Dianne Arp, Chicago outreach coordinator for the Companion Animal Protection Society, said Berning's stores get dogs from puppy mills and gave several examples of poor conditions the dogs experience. Arp said her organization has been protesting Berning's stores around the suburbs, including one that closed in Warrenville, for seven years.
"You can read with your own eyes about the violations he just told you they don't have," she said.
The county ordinance, adopted April 9, prohibits suburban Cook County pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits unless they are acquired from animal shelters or small breeders who meet county standards. The ordinance includes an "opt-out" clause allowing municipalities to craft their own regulations that could be less restrictive than the county's.
Trustee Thomas Glasgow also said he was unhappy with the ordinance because it doesn't define exactly what a puppy mill is. Berning said his largest breeder has 100 dogs, while many of them have about 20 dogs. Berning said no dogs in his stores are ever destroyed, and that 60 days is the longest they stay in a store.
Mayor Tom Hayes said he got nearly 20 emails in the half-hour just before the meeting.
"I don't want to pass anything or take any action without a full opportunity for public commentary," said Trustee Joe Farwell.
Hayes said the village will look at an ordinance being considered in Orland Park also dealing with one of Berning's stores.
"We've clearly heard there is passion on both sides of this issue," Hayes said. "I'd like to see if there is some middle ground where we can find a win."
Hayes said the board will likely take up the issue again sometime in the next month or two.