MOUNT GREENWOOD — Jim Sparks Jr. doesn't want to buy a pet from a puppy mill.
That being said, Sparks, owner of Park Pet Shop Inc. in Mount Greenwood, is in the business of reselling the puppies he buys for upward of $1,500 each.
The sale of puppies accounts for roughly 60 percent of business at the small pet store at 10429 S. Kedzie Ave. on the far Southwest Side. And now, Sparks fears for the future of the business his father opened in 1959.
On March 5, a ban on the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits goes into effect throughout the city. Violators of the ordinance that was approved last year will receive daily fines of $1,000. Repeat offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Sparks believes he's been unfairly vilified by the new law. He said his dogs come from reputable breeders. His small business routinely complies with existing licensing and inspection requirements. And the new law will only push customers to the suburbs or online where there's often no regulation, he said.
Sparks tells Howard Ludwig he will have to lay off workers:
"You don't have to like what we do," said Sparks, who estimated selling about 12 puppies per month.
He's posted a sign near the cages of the few remaining puppies calling out Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) for what believes is a lack of support.
"Be sure to thank Ald. Matt O'Shea for NOT helping us keep our puppy, kitten & bunny business," says the sign posted on a dry erase board.
Sparks said he and his father have reached out to the alderman's office for help regarding the ban but feel their concerns have been ignored.
O'Shea said he's a customer of Park Pet Store and talked to the local business at the time of the vote.
But when it came time to cast his ballot, he sided with the majority. The ordinance passed on a 49-1 vote.
O'Shea said that he could have offered up dissenting vote as a symbolic nod to the local business. But he said his office was flooded with calls from constituents urging him to vote in favor of the ban.
"The city of Chicago euthanizes tens of thousands of dogs," said O'Shea, adding that he believes the ordinance will lead to increased adoption of animals from shelters.
Indeed, Sparks said he'll likely fill the kennels at his shop with shelter dogs once the ban goes into place. But a shelter animal only brings in about $300 to the store — about a third of the price of the puppies he currently sells.
The drop in revenue will likely result in fewer employees at the pet shop. Seven people, mostly Mount Greenwood residents, work in the store. Sparks predicts that will drop to three employees once the ban goes into effect.
Sparks also reached out to an attorney who agreed to take his case pro bono. He hopes a judge puts the brakes on the new law. If not, he worries about the fate of his family business.
"I sell mice and the occasional puppy," Sparks said. "We are trying to stay open."
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