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Protesters raise awareness for animal rights

Dozens of Black Friday protesters took to the picket lines along Plainfield Road in Joliet, working to block Louis Joliet Mall shoppers from visiting the Furry Babies Store and demanding greater awareness for animal welfare and rights, a move coming after advocates spoke out in support of a proposed city ordinance to protect pets, consumers and taxpayers that encourages more humane models for the pet breeding industry.

The protest started at 10 a.m. Nov. 25 along Plainfield Road between Mall Loop Drive and Tonti Drive. More than 40 people indicated through social media that they were going to protest.

The demonstration in part is aimed at denouncing city ordinances that appear to support the large-scale commercial pet breeding industry, instead of a version preferred by protesters.

Demonstrators stood in solidarity and held up signs asking shoppers to exercise good judgment when making Black Friday purchases. The protest had been peaceful with some vehicles honking at those on the picket lines.

Morgan Drdak, an animal welfare advocate, was leading the demonstration located near Louis Joliet Mall. She said supporting the cause is important to her.

“We’re all animal lovers, and a lot of us in rescue have seen firsthand what puppy mills do to the dogs,” Drdak said. “It’s pretty graphic. I think it hurts a lot of our hearts to know what’s done and where these puppies come from. You don’t see it in the puppy, because the puppy is cute and wrapped up in a bow. But when you look at where they came from, that’s where the real tragedy is.”

Drdak and other animal rights supporters formed an advocacy group, Safe Pets for Joliet.

“The reason we were formed was to help the city of Joliet move forward with an ordinance that would stop pet stores from selling dogs that are acquired from commercial breeders and instead transition to a human model, where they would obtain their animals from places, like rescues and shelters and animal control, to try to reduce the homeless population of pets without bringing in more pets that were un-spayed, un-neutered, being sold at exorbitant prices,” she said.

Safe Pets for Joliet has been working with city to adopt an ordinance to address inhumane business practices for about two years.

“They’ve tabled it because there are a couple of other municipalities that have done it, that have been sued,” Drdak said. “So, the city wants to wait until those lawsuits are settled. They’ve already been ruled in federal court in favor of the municipalities. Right now Chicago and Cook County are under appeal, so they’re waiting until those appeals go through.”

Drdak said in the meantime, she and other animal welfare advocates are looking to educate the public and make them more aware of their consumer responsibility.

Some protesters say they are pleased by changes seen to this point.

The Puppy in the Window store that replaced Petland at 1480 N. Larkin Ave. has closed.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that there’s an alternative to purchasing dogs in retail pet stores,” said Peggy Grandahl, another animal welfare advocate. “Pet shop dogs 99 percent of the time come from inhumane breeders and often large-scale breeding operations. I’d like to let people know that there’s always a choice that there are pure breed dogs—if someone wants a pure bred dog—they’re available at rescues and shelters.”

Why not give the large-scale commercial breeding industry a chance? Grandahl explained that sadly, litters of puppies are euthanized at shelters every day of the week in every part of the country.

“There’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars on a dog (and) finance them (through a retail pet store) when you can get a dog at a shelter 300, 400 dollars for a puppy,” she said.

“People don’t realize that it’s not a very humane nation we have right now, but seeing this (turnout) renews your faith.”