LINCOLN PARK — A pet shop continues to sell puppies in spite of a city ordinance limiting sales to rescue dogs that was supposed to take effect more than a year and a half ago.
Pocket Puppies Boutique, 2479 N. Clark St., specializes in toy and "teacup" breeds. After a reported break-in on Sunday, puppies that didn't appear to be rescue dogs were found on sale at the store. The store's website offers "available dogs" including purebred Maltese, teacup and toy Yorkshire terriers, French bulldogs and various small poodle hybrids.
"He's operating illegally in plain sight," said Cari Meyers, president of the Chicago-based Puppy Mill Project, on Thursday. "That's the bottom line."
It's not without consequences, however.
"The city has conducted past inspections where Pocket Puppies was found in violation, and we issued warnings for failure to post proper disclosure information," said Angel Hawthorne, spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs, which is in charge of enforcing the ordinance.
Hawthorne said that the business faces up to $10,000 in fines and the possible loss of its business license.
"It's the first violation we've had in 11 years, and there were extenuating circumstances," said Pocket Puppies owner Lane Boron. "They came in the day after we were robbed. We had three signs that weren't on cages because we had dogs that just came in and had fired some employees because of the robbery. We had issues."
Boron insisted they were cited for the lack of signs, not for illegal dogs.
The ordinance, intended to limit sales from puppy mills by requiring that dogs come from "shelters and other humane adoption centers," passed the City Council in March 2014 and was originally intended to take effect a year later. It survived a court challenge and took effect a year ago. It did not apply to shelters like the Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS whichalready deal exclusively with rescue animals.
"We use rescues that source small breeds for us," Boron said. "We're allowed to get puppies. We're allowed to get purebred dogs. And we have older dogs, too. We have 6-year-old rescue dogs as well."
Boron was one of two parties to file the initial suit against the ordinance. He testified before a City Council committee when the ordinance was originally under consideration that "I can't sell shelter dogs."
The new law would put him out of business, Boron said.
Jim Sparks Jr., owner of the Park Pet Shop, 10429 S. Kedzie Ave. in Mount Greenwood, also was party to that lawsuit, but he said Thursday his store has found ways to work within the law.
"There's compliance, and the city's already been out to inspect," Sparks said. "We have the documents that will show that as well.
"We do our best to cross our T's and dot our I's, have our inspections in place and conform legally," he added.
Sparks said he has found ways to obtain dogs and puppies from legitimate shelters and adoption centers.
"It makes it a lot more difficult," he said. "Technically, it makes it a lot more costly."
Customers have been appreciative, Sparks added, saying, "For the most part, once folks understand what has happened and what is happening, they respond well to the truth."
The website of available dogs at Park Pet Shop does not include the exotic breeds found at Pocket Puppies.
"Certainly, the city is well aware of what Mr. Boron is doing," Meyers said. "He should not be open. Obviously, he's operating against the law.
"It's his livelihood," she added. "He's certainly going to keep going as long as he can."
That may not be long, according to Hawthorne, depending on how Pocket Puppies responds to the latest violations.
"During a recent inspection at the business the city issued citations for failing to provide proper disclosures," Hawthorne said. "These citations will be heard in an administrative hearing next month, and the store faces fines of up to $10,000, which is the maximum for these violations.
"If the store continues to fail inspections," Hawthorne added, "BACP will file a license-discipline case before the Mayor’s License Discipline Commission, which has the authority to fine, suspend and revoke a business license."
Boron, however, said he fully expects to prevail in next month's hearing.
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