Naperville could add 4-year warranty to pet protection ordinance

For five years, animal welfare activists have been pushing Naperville to ban the sale of pets from so-called puppy mills.

For just as long, the city has resisted.

The city council has waited for legal challenges against similar restrictions to be settled and for the state to consider a proposal that would prohibit pet stores in DuPage and Will counties from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from commercial breeders.

Now three members have asked the council to consider an updated version of a strengthened animal control ordinance during a discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.

This version would require pet stores to offer a four-year "hereditary and congenital warranty" on all dogs and cats they sell and would allow local enforcement of the 2017 state law that forbids sales of dogs or cats from commercial breeders who have been issued citations or violations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The ordinance also would add protections against pets barking incessantly or being left outside during dangerous weather; require pet stores to promote microchipping; and increase fines for breaking these rules.

Council member John Krummen said he is advocating for the changes because the warranty helps find a compromise between the wishes of pet store operators and animal welfare activists - whom he says debate in black-and-white terms.

"The activists want the pet store owners to only sell rescue dogs. And the pet store owners want to be able to sell, for a lack of a better word, retail dogs," Krummen said. "It's hard to validate what side is right and which side is wrong."

Some of the same activists who criticized the city's last attempt at an ordinance update in the fall say this version still doesn't go far enough to prevent poorly treated animals from being sold.

"The whole goal here is to get puppy-mill dogs out of our community," said Sherri Oslick, a Naperville resident and attorney who has advocated for anti-puppy mill regulations since 2014. "The proposal with a more extended warranty will not accomplish that."

Animal advocates say extending a warranty sounds like a protection against unhealthy animals. But what pet owner, they ask, would want to return Fido or Fluffy for a refund if he gets sick a few years after joining the family?

"The problem is, puppies aren't products," Naperville resident Kerin Smith said. "The ordinance would expect a family, who has made an emotional decision to buy a puppy, to care for that chronically ill puppy for four years and then go to the pet store for their money back."

That's unlikely, she said. But Krummen said having to offer the warranty could make businesses do more to ensure the pets they sell are healthy.

"If they are selling poorly bred dogs," he said, "they'll lose a lot of money."

Members of the board of the ADOPT Pet Shelter, which stands for Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment, sent a letter to the council saying the warranty "does not do enough to ensure the responsible and humane sourcing of animals within Naperville."

"Our organization supports a humane pet ordinance, one that would prohibit pet stores from selling animals bred in commercial breeding facilities, (also known as) puppy mills," the ADOPT letter says.

Although Krummen sees the warranty element of the proposed ordinance as a middle ground, advocates say there is no such gray area.

"If a compromise existed, we would be all for it," Oslick said. "But it's just not out there."

The city council is scheduled to conduct preliminary discussions about the potential animal control ordinance update, but a vote is not expected Tuesday night.

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