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Joliet could move forward with new pet laws

Members of the Joliet Land Use and Legislative Committee recently met to review regulations and restrictions on the sale of cats and dogs.

The discussion of puppy mills and city ordinances proposed to protect animal rights dates back to 2015.

Interim City Manager Marty Shanahan recommended that Joliet move forward with a puppy mill ordinance placing restrictions on the sale of pets similar to that introduced by the City of Chicago, which was challenged in the court for the level at which it seeks to regulate commercial pet stores and the breeders they obtain their animals from.

Another model presented by Corporation Counsel Chris Regis outlined a template that follows the state statute, which he described as less restrictive.

“I adopted the federal [court’s] definition of puppy mill into the city’s ordinance, and I simply banned the operation or participation in the operation of puppy mills within the City of Joliet, which is something that is under our control,” Regis said. “I also defined an unlicensed breeder as someone who is not in compliance with the state statute, and I understand there was some discussion on that, and that is open to change, as well.”

Under this template, the ordinance requires commercial pet stores to acquire animals from someone who is compliant with the state statute and goes on to stipulate that puppies and kittens are not to be separated from their litter for a period of at least 14 weeks.

Joliet resident Morgan Drdak acknowledged the committee's move to devise a less restrictive ordinance and wanted it to be clear that the proposed law does not do much justice.

“We heard that there was still concern over the long-awaited Chicago ruling, but that’s baseless,” she said, referencing an email sent by attorney for the Puppy Mill Project to Joliet officials upholding the court’s decision on the City of Chicago’s ordinance. “On Sept. 21, 2017, the seventh circuit upheld the Chicago Companion Animal Protection Ordinance, which the Chicago model, here, replicates, and that was affirming the federal district court’s dismissal of the case. It’s a definitive and final ruling.”

Drdak—who serves an animal welfare advocate for Safe Pets for Joliet—has been approaching the City of Joliet regarding puppy mill legislation since 2015.

“I know you’ve received at least 110 emails just through our website from residents asking you to support our ordinance,” she said. “Our petition now has more 2,200 signatures. The people are speaking, and we just wish that you would listen.”

Alex Rodriguez, of Joliet, said he thinks the city has a chance to really make an impact on this issue.

“I think Joliet does have a tremendous opportunity to be a leader, here, in the Chicago-land area for animal rights,” he said.

Rodriguez wanted to thank the committee, the Joliet City Council and the public for keeping the conversation going.

“My personal opinion, as a citizen of Joliet and as a cat owner, I feel that the ordinance that [was] proposed as a compromise while [it does] good, and I think that [it] should move forward, as you guys voted on, I don’t feel that they address the core issue enough,” he said. “I’d like to see that the committee continue that conversation about the original ordinance that was written in 2015. I think that’s the key here.”

Furry Babies owner Ana Soskic took a moment to address the committee, as well, acknowledging that sub-standard breeders do exist and said she has a likeness for pet stores, like hers, that support humane practices.

“We provide our customers with everything they need to make sure that they understand where their dog is coming from,” she said.

A separate rule presented to the committee deals with public sale, giveaway and open-air transport of pets. The City of Joliet is eying this proposal to address such violations.

In a series of 3-0 votes, the committee came to a consensus to recommend approval of the ordinance regulating the public sale, giveaway and transportation of pets and moved the new puppy mill law to the Joliet City Council for consideration at its Nov. 21 meeting.