Chicago and Cook County: Unraveling the Ordinance Confusion


There seems to be much confusion surrounding the Chicago and Cook County, Ill. ordinances which passed last year. We hope to clear up that confusion.

The city of Chicago passed a sales ban ordinance last year which was to take effect in 2015.  A sales ban means pet stores cannot sell puppies from commercial breeders. This ordinance, written by Chicago City Clerk Susan Mendoza, was challenged by puppy mill lobbyists and pet store owners and is currently on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Cook County, Ill. wrote an ordinance allowing commercial breeders to sell puppies to pet shops if they have five or less breeding females, which means puppy mill puppies can be sold in Cook County.

This ordinance may be referred to as “watered down” because it’s not a sales ban. There are some who refer to these types of ordinances as “having no teeth,” which is not only inaccurate, but shows a lack of comprehension. It is always better to have something in place as opposed to having nothing because pet stores follow other pet stores. If “Joe Schmoe Puppies” wants to open a pet store in Arlington Heights, for example, he will see there is already another store selling puppy mill puppies and he’ll assume they’re okay with animal cruelty and set up shop. A restriction ordinance or disclosure ordinance can be strong or weak. The stronger the ordinance, the better. It can act as a deterrent to a degree. Now, it’s always better to have a sales ban, but animal advocates only have so much control. The Cook County ordinance is a perfect example of that. Having an “all or nothing” mindset is not helpful in the process.


In September 2014, Ron Berning, owner of the Happiness Is Pets (HIP) chain, approached the Arlington Heights Board requesting an exemption from the Cook County ordinance. The pet store chain has two stores in Cook County. The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) supplied the board with information documenting our undercover investigation of HIP, documenting animal abuse at the store and providing proof of their use of puppy mills for their product. CAPS Chicago Outreach Coordinator Dianne Arp spoke at that board meeting. As a result of the pending litigation (at that time) of the Cook County ordinance, the board elected to wait until a ruling was made before moving forward with Berning’s request or with CAPS’s request.

In July 2015, a judge dismissed the challenge to the Cook County ordinance. As a result, Arlington Heights had two options: abide by the Cook County ordinance or opt out. They decided to opt out, which is their prerogative as a home rule community because they didn’t feel the Cook County ordinance was well-written.

CAPS wrote a sales ban ordinance for Arlington Heights and submitted it to the board in July 2015. The ordinance is similar to the one we wrote for the city of Joliet, Ill. (which is also currently on hold pending the outcome of the Chicago lawsuit). As a home rule community, Arlington Heights has the power to enact a sales ban. That’s our hope. They also could end up with a restrictive ordinance, a disclosure ordinance, or a combination of the two. Whatever they write, it’s critical that it’s strong. It’s the board’s decision on what they ultimately pass, regardless of how hard we work to educate them.

Dianne Arp also spoke at the August 17, 2015 board meeting in Arlington Heights, encouraging them to pass a sales ban ordinance prohibiting the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores, or at the very least, a strong sales restriction/disclosure ordinance. You can view the meeting here.

CAPS is the only organization protesting all HIP locations in the Chicagoland area every weekend, weather permitting. We’ve worked on this campaign for almost eight years. In that time, HIP has closed one store and sales have dropped significantly. Most recently, we’ve been peacefully protesting their store in Arlington Heights. During our demonstrations, we reach out to potential customers in an effort to educate them about the risks of buying a puppy mill puppy. As a result, many would-be clients wind up going to a shelter or rescue for their furry family member. We’ve received tremendous support from Arlington Heights residents. Horns honk virtually non-stop and many stop by to thank us. Some even bring us snacks to thank us for the work we’re doing. It’s important to note that HIP is the largest seller of puppy mill puppies in the state of Illinois. There is much at stake for them!


We would like to send a special thank you to each and every one of the people who have joined us over the years. We could not do this without all of the compassionate protestors who give up their time to educate the public on the pet shop / puppy mill connection. If you’re interested in joining us at our protests, please visit our Facebook group Companion Animal Protection Society – Illinois or send me an email at Also, if anyone has been sold a sick or dying dog from this chain, please visit our website and fill out a pet shop complaint form.

Article by CAPS Illinois Director Ida McCarthy

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