MOUNT GREENWOOD — The Kinmont Restaurant in River North has canceled a fundraiser for a pair of pet stores raising money to fight the city's puppy mill ban.
The restaurant at 419 Superior St. referred questions to Heidi Hageman of H2 Public Relations. The firm represents the Kinmont as well as its pop-up kitchen Ampersand, which was set to host the fundraiser on Wednesday.
"We were recently approached about what we thought was the chance to help a fellow small business by offering our space to host a fundraiser," said Hageman in a written statement.
"As soon as the full purpose of the event was brought to light, we immediately canceled it and ceased any involvement with those companies or their fundraising efforts," the statement read.
In fact, the Lincoln Park-based Puppy Mill Project championed the ordinance that banned the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits throughout the city on March 5.
The proceeds of the canceled fundraiser were to be directed toward Loop-based Gurney Patrick LLP. The firm filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago on Feb. 16, about a month before the ban went into effect.
Gurney Patrick LLP is working on behalf of both Park Pet Shop in Mount Greenwood and Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park. The lawsuit allowed Park Pet Shop to resume selling puppies after a monthlong layoff, Park Pet Shop owner Jim Sparks Sr. said.
It took another month to rebuild the inventory, and bad publicity from the fallout with the city has also hurt the bottom line, said Sparks, who opened the store on the far Southwest Side in 1959.
"We are plugging along. Business has not been the best," he said Wednesday.
Sparks and his son Jim Jr. of Park Pet Shop at 10429 S. Kedzie Ave. in Mount Greenwood believe they have been unfairly vilified by the ordinance.
The "Puppy Mill Ban" was intended to discourage the sale of dogs who are bred in large quantities and under inhumane conditions. Aldermen, including Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), also hoped the ban would lead to an increase in the adoption of animals from shelters.
But in the Sparks' eyes, the new law merely pushes customers to the suburbs or online where there's typically no regulation at all, while Park Pet Shop and other city pet stores must adhere to existing licensing and inspection requirements.
"I'm not on a popular position here, but that doesn't mean that my position is wrong," Jim Sparks Jr. said.
Jim Sparks Jr. said he was "disappointed" but not surprised by the failed fundraiser. He painted himself as David in the fight against the Goliath animal-rights campaign.
"I am a tiny pet store against one of the largest demographics on the planet," he said.
He said drawing out the expensive court proceedings is merely a way to force his store to adhere to the unfair mandate. Meanwhile, Jim Sparks Jr. said he didn't know the fundraiser was even canceled until he was contacted by DNAinfo Chicago.
"If [activists] can bleed you, they will," he said.
Despite the financial setback, Patrick vowed to continue to fight against the "overly-broad, ridiculous" ordinance. He said the canceled event won't hinder his firm's opposition to the ordinance and vowed to take the case "to the Supreme Court" if need be.
"What [activists] are trying to do is not even have a debate," Patrick said. "I'm confident we will be able to prevail here."
Heather Owen, co-founder of the rescue group One Tail at a Time, stood by the ban. She said overwhelming evidence supports the law, as well as the idea that pet stores are bad news.
"It's funny that [Park Pet Shop] keeps saying they get dogs from reputable breeders — they don't," Owen said.
She added that she was shocked when she learned of the fundraiser as the restaurant group associated with the event has previously hosted similar benefits for rescue groups and animal activists that pushed for the ban.
Owen also expressed confidence in the puppy mill ban being upheld and scoffed at the idea of a fundraiser in support of a private business such as Park Pet Shop.
"My opinion is that it's irresponsible to collect money from the public for something that is sure to fail anyway," Owen said.
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