CITY HALL — A 1½-year-old ordinance banning the sale of pets from puppy mills will finally take effect after a suit opposing it was tossed out by a federal judge Thursday.
"For the puppy mill industry, Chicago is officially off limits,” said Clerk Susana Mendoza, who sponsored the original ordinance and helped push it through the City Council.
"This is a victory today for people who believe animals should be treated with compassion. Profiteering from systematic animal abuse is unacceptable in any form. The people of Chicago, along with our mayor and aldermen, had our back from day the ordinance was introduced and we are grateful for their support."
The original ordinance was approved by the City Council in March 2014 and was slated to take effect a year later, to allow pet shops time to adjust.
Yet owners such as Lane Boron of Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park insisted there was no way for them to stay in business with a law that allowed only pets from "shelters and other humane adoption centers," such as rescue operations, to be sold within the city limits. It also banned pet shops from serving as go-betweens for breeders, with fines for violations ranging from $100-$1,000, along with the potential loss of business licenses.
Boron and Jim Sparks Sr. and Jr., owners of the Park Pet Shop in Mount Greenwood, joined forces and filed suit in February, before the law was to take effect. The city voluntarily agreed to wait for a ruling before enforcing it.
U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso dismissed the suit Thursday with prejudice, meaning it can't be amended and refiled. That cleared the way for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to begin enforcing the ordinance.
The department will stage an informational campaign before any crackdown, according to spokeswoman Mika Stambaugh. She said the department "works with businesses to ensure they are aware and informed of new local laws and policies. As a result, the department will be reaching out to provide these businesses information on the ordinance."
Stambaugh added that "as with any new ordinance, we will allow impacted businesses time to become compliant."
Jim Sparks Jr. declined to discuss the ruling Friday except to say, "There's an appeals process" and to refer questions to his lawyer, Sean Patrick, who did not respond to a request for comment.
The law was intended to cut off all sales from so-called puppy mills dealing in mass breeding — oftentimes with unhealthy pets and their offspring.
Cari Meyers, executive director and founder of the Puppy Mill Project, lobbied fiercely for its adoption and cheered Thursday's court ruling, calling Mendoza "a tireless advocate for our cause."
Meyers labeled the new law "the strongest ordinance in the country" and "a win for the mill dogs and the consumers of Chicago."
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