For more than 13 years, CAPS has been protesting pet shops in Illinois, including various locations of the three pet shop chains in the state. The three chain stores are Happiness is Pets, Furry Babies, and Petland. These pet shops and others will no longer be able to sell dogs and cats. The state senate passed retail ban legislation on May 31, 2021, joining the house, which passed their bill on April 14.
State Rep. Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport) and Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) sponsored bills HB1711 and SB1709 to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats.
A state law is greatly needed in a key pet shop state like Illinois. It is even more critical because Illinois has home rule. This means that only states and counties with home rule can pass retail ban legislation. Non-home rule municipalities can only regulate pet shops. CAPS’ general counsel provided extensive legal assistance to the Cook County Attorney’s Office, which was sued by pet shop chains and the Missouri Breeders’ Association over the county’s retail ban ordinance. Cook County – the only home rule county in the state – succeeded in getting the lawsuit dismissed on appeal in 2015.
CAPS approached towns that had a pet shop asking them to opt into the Cook County ordinance, and they all declined: Orland Park, Arlington Heights, Lombard (non-home rule), Downers Grove, Naperville and Joliet.
Since then, Downers Grove and Naperville passed retail ban ordinances, but the pet shops just moved to Aurora. Aurora is currently considering an ordinance. Thus, another key reason a state law is necessary is because pet shops move to another town after a retail ban ordinance is passed.
Chicago passed a retail ban ordinance in 2014, which after being legally challenged, finally went into effect in 2017. Pet shops and fraudulent rescues have been able to circumvent this ordinance. Read more here.
Protests are arduous and sometime dangerous. CAPS was successful in getting the horrendous Puppy Parlor in Lisle, IL to close by protesting for one year, including 150 consecutive days in all kinds of weather. Store owner Tammy Coglianese obtained puppies from Dennis Van Wyk in Iowa, whom we have investigated three times. CAPS’ footage was used in our Dateline story in 2000. Coglianese had difficulty selling puppies, so she put them in a back room, which had one point had more than 100 adult dogs. The Illinois Department of Agriculture did nothing.
During a recent protest at Noah’s Puppies in Lombard, the owner intimidated CAPS Illinois Outreach Coordinator Maya Domiano. He had a guard with a gun in front of the store. This store finally closed at the end of February, but the owner, Leo Tatro, is now trying to open a pet shop in Indiana.
All of the Illinois pet shops claim their puppies don’t come from mills. Our research and investigations prove that they do.
Happiness is Pets
Happiness is Pets has four locations (down from eight), which sold 3,572 puppies in 2019, the highest number in Illinois. “All my dogs come from Amish breeders in Indiana,” owner Ronald Berning told the Arlington Heights Village Board in 2014. “There’s nothing wrong with my breeders.”
CAPS has received numerous complaints on our online form from Happiness is Pets customers who have purchased sick and dying puppies, all of whom were bred by Amish breeders in Indiana. Recent complaints include the following: a six-week-old Shih Tzu who died five days after purchase from hypoglycemia and possible pneumonia; a Lhasa Apso who was hospitalized for two weeks with vomiting, diarrhea and digestion issues, incurring $4,000 in veterinary bills; an English Bulldog with demodectic mange, urethral prolapse, severe allergies, immune disorders, behavioral issues, and more, incurring, to date, $9,000 in veterinary bills; and a Rottweiler who died a few months after purchase of an unknown cause. All of the puppies were bred by Amish breeders in Indiana.
After Happiness is Pets had a distemper outbreak at their stores and sold puppies with distemper in 2011-12, CAPS began receiving a large number of complaints. We had enough complainants for a class action lawsuit, which unfortunately settled for too little. The puppy of the lead plaintiff in the Happiness is Pets lawsuit was bred by Wendy and Doug Dettbarn in Iowa.
CAPS provided a list to USDA of every breeder connected to the distemper puppies, requesting that they investigate. Happiness is Pets has its own trucks that pick up puppies in the Midwest. We believe that the distemper traced back to two Amish breeders in Missouri who shared a post office box. CAPS tried to investigate one of the Amish breeders, who showed up in a horse and buggy with a puppy to show our investigator.
The billboard across the street from the Happiness is Pets in Lombard featured our Models Against Pet Shops and Pet Shops outreach ad campaign. The CAPS Chicago Team protested on the sidewalk in front of the store while two different ads were displayed in consecutive months.
Furry Babies has three locations, which sold 989 puppies in 2019.
Roger Trolinger, the owner of Furry Babies, used to own a Petland Franchise in Columbus, Ohio where a CAPS investigator worked undercover in 2005. Breeders who have sold to Furry Babies include Melanie Moore in Missouri and Tammy Lansdown in Missouri.
Petland, an international chain of pet shops based in Ohio, has eight franchise locations in Illinois, which sold 1,985 puppies in 2019.
Recent Petland complaints include a Siberian Husky who died of distemper. Despite the puppy having a week of diarrhea, the veterinarian, recommended and used by the Petland in Bolingbrook, never tested her for distemper or parvovirus. After two weeks in an emergency clinic, which confirmed a distemper diagnosis, the Husky passed away.
One of the main brokers to Petland is Blue Ribbon Kennel in Odon, Indiana, which is owned by Levi Graber. In 2007, CAPS investigated Indiana breeders who sold to Graber for a two-part report by NBC in Indianapolis. Since that time, it has been challenging for CAPS investigators to access breeders who supply puppies to Graber, but we have investigated several, including Darrell Graber and Richard Wagler.
Beach for Puppies
CAPS was also responsible for the closing of Beach for Puppies, owned by Steve and Zachary Holland, in Lombard. We protested Beach for Puppies, which claimed that some its puppies were rescues, although they came from J.A.K.’s Puppies, the large broker in Iowa. We provided evidence to the Illinois Attorney General Charity Trusts division. J.A.K.’s owner Jolyn Noethe was behind Hobo K-9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa, which we shut down with the Iowa Attorney General in March 2020. She was selling to pet shops in California and Illinois using the fake rescues to circumvent retail ban laws.
Recent Beach for Puppies complaints include a Mini Australian Shepherd/Scottish Terrier who survived parvovirus but incurred $13,000 in veterinary bills and a Anatolian Shepherd who died from pneumonia four days after purchase.
How you can help:
If you purchased a sick puppy from an Illinois pet shop, please fill out the CAPS pet shop complaint form.
See the Facebook page recently created by CAPS Illinois Director Ida McCarthy.
Ida also created a Facebook page dedicated to the Happiness is Pets class action lawsuit, which still gets attention despite the lawsuit having settled.