Naperville rejects 'puppy mill' ban, 4-year warranty for pets

Naperville has rejected a proposal that would have required pet stores to offer a four-year warranty on the health of dogs and cats and allowed the city to begin local enforcement of a state law about the sourcing of animals for sale.

The city council early Wednesday voted instead to approve a new animal control ordinance that adds protections against pets barking incessantly or being left outside during dangerous weather, requires pet stores to promote microchipping, and increases fines for breaking these rules as a deterrent against mistreating animals.

Despite the wishes of animal lovers who spoke to the council, the ordinance does not mirror one approved in Chicago that prohibits pet stores from selling dogs from commercial breeders.

Some shelter volunteers and opponents of so-called puppy mills have been urging the council to take stronger action on the issue for four years.

The council's approval of an ordinance without the sourcing and warranty regulations means Happiness is Pets and Petland will not be required to change their business approach to what advocates call a "humane model" of adopting out animals from rescues and shelters. Store owners said that model wouldn't work.

"A Chicago ordinance is a business-killer," said Carl Swanson, owner of Petland Naperville.

Chicago isn't the only city in the region to take action in recent years to regulate pet sales. In 2016, Arlington Heights and Hoffman Estates set their own rules to supersede a Cook County ordinance, and Mundelein created its own regulations.

In Arlington Heights, pet shops are required to post disclosure statements that list each animal's medical treatments, the breeder's name and location, whether the breeder is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whether the breeder has fewer than five female dogs or cats, the breeder's average animal population in the past six months and a link to the USDA website.

Hoffman Estates, meanwhile, requires similar disclosures, including that pet stores post each animal's medical history, transfer of ownership, lineage, breeder's name and address, and whether the breeder has fewer than five female dogs or cats.

In Mundelein, pet store operators must get special village licenses and publicly display breeding information, including each dog or cat's breed, approximate age and color, lineage, medical treatments and breeder identification.

As Naperville debated potential regulations, some leaders, including council member Paul Hinterlong, said they opposed the requirement of a warranty because they didn't want the city to get caught up in a transaction between a business and a consumer.

Others, such as council members Patty Gustin and Benjamin White, said the warranty didn't go far enough to reimburse pet owners for the cost of medical expenses for sick animals because it would have stopped at refunding the purchase price of the pet.

"I really did want to see something with a little more value to the consumer," Gustin said.

To adopt the new rule at the end of a five-hour meeting, the council dropped two provisions. Those portions would have required pet stores to offer a four-year "hereditary and congenital warranty" on all dogs and cats; to make breeder inspection records available to animal control officers; and to allow local enforcement of a 2017 state law that forbids sales of dogs or cats from commercial breeders who have been issued citations or violations from the USDA.

"It doesn't stop the commercial sale of dogs, but it does open up the door to control over this activity," council member Kevin Coyne said about the measures before they were cut. "It's a first step to overseeing animal sales and protecting them in Naperville."

Without the warranty and sourcing regulations, the council approved the updated animal control ordinance by a unanimous 8-0 vote, with council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski recusing herself.

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