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Bill Aiming To Close 'Puppy Mill Pipeline' For Pet Sales Passes State Senate Despite Some Bipartisan Opposition

Jason Barickman on Senate floor
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, speaks against legislation to limit where pet stores can source cats and dogs from. Barickman was one of 12 senators to vote against legislation, while a further 4 voted "present."

A bill to limit where Illinois pet stores source their cats and dogs from passed the State Senate in the final hours of the General Assembly's session. Supporters of the bill want to close what they call a puppy mill pipeline.

The bill would allow pet store owners to offer cats and dogs for sale "only if the dog or cat is obtained from an animal control facility or animal shelter, located in-state or out-of-state," that is in compliance with new regulations also set out in the bill.

"This bill is really to address the commercial puppy mill and to close that pipeline," said Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

Castro pointed to a similar measure passed in Chicago in 2014 as justification for the bill.

Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said the way puppy mills operate isn't healthy for any animal. She said it wouldn't be a bad thing to put puppy mills out of business.

"If we don't put the welfare of these animals top of mind, there's something wrong with us," said Holmes. "These are living beings. These are not products where you're just going to maximize quantity over anything else."

Holmes said the intention is not to put "legitimate good breeders" out of business.

"Those are not facilities that literally have hundreds of animals that they breed numerous times a year to get to maximize the number of puppies they get," said Holmes.

Holmes said animals in puppy mills generally do not get a break from the cages "where they're living their entire lives."

"That is not a life for any animal," said Holmes. "That is cruel. That is inhumane. I cannot believe in this day and age that we think that's something we should be doing."

Detractors of the bill say the legislature should aim to regulate breeders rather than the pet stores that work with breeders.

Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the bill would put stores across the state out of business.

"In Illinois, we need to do more to attract our businesses, and this, unfortunately, is going to do just the opposite," said Barickman.

Holmes pushed back against those concerns.

"Excuse me, let's talk to PetSmart," said Holmes. "They don't seem to be having any problems with their business."

Barickman said a serious solution to the problem of puppy mills would regulate breeders rather than the pet stores that work with breeders.

""It's more attuned to taking a mallet to a problem, rather that requires a scalpel," said Barickman. "It becomes a classic Springfield example of dramatically overreaching and providing a knee jerk reaction to a legitimate problem that exists."

Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, echoed Barickman's reservations with the bill.

"There will be innocent pet stores that will be closed down because of this bill," said Hastings. "There is an alternative solution, and that alternative solution is for a third-party auditor to come in and to verify where the animals are sourced from and that the animals that are sourced are taken care of."

Hastings ultimately voted "present" on the measure.

The bill passed the Illinois House in April with supporters and detractors on both sides of the aisle. The Senate vote had similar results.

Bloomington-Normal area legislators Sen. Barickman and Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, both voted against the bill. In the April House vote, Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decator, both supported the measure.

In the Peoria area, Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, voted in favor of the bill, while Sen. Win Stoller, R-Peoria, voted against it. Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, voted "yes" on the bill in April, while Reps. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, and Mark Luft, R-Pekin, both voted against it. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, was excused that day.

The bill now heads to Gov. JB Pritkzer's desk for his potential signature.

Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.
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