It has come to my attention that a pet shop planning to sell “designer breed” puppies is applying for a zoning variance for the old camera store space at 1053 Lake. [A puppy problem brewing in Oak Park, Web extra, June 10] This variance would allow for the sale of live animals on their premises.
As an animal lover and pet owner, I am opposed to this proposed zoning variance. While I understand that the proprietors have stated their good intentions to work with private, reputable breeders, this is actually almost impossible for a retail pet store to do. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics, which entails that breeders not sell their dogs to pet dealers or other commercial venues. In other words, if the breeders were truly responsible, they would only work directly with potential buyers so that they can be assured of a good home for their dogs. Conversely, responsible dog owners who have decided on a purebred animal and wish to go through a breeder rather than a rescue organization will do just that: work directly with a breeder so that they can be assured of the humane conditions and practices of that breeder.
The Humane Society of the United States strongly discourages people from buying puppies from pet shops, no matter what their claims. The breeding industry is poorly regulated, and there are really no assurances that you are buying from a humane breeder unless you inspect the premises yourself. Pet shops, likewise, are known to frequently make claims about the sources of their animals, but there is little legal incentive to be truthful in those claims.
Efforts to educate the public on this issue have succeeded in eliminating some of the retail sales of cats and dogs in this country. This is why most pet store chains like Petco and PetSmart now lend or rent out space to nonprofit animal shelters for adoptions of dogs and cats, rather than selling them. Many municipalities around the country have actually banned the retail sale of dogs and cats, including a ban passed in West Hollywood, Calif., earlier this year.
When Albuquerque, NM, banned sales of dogs and cats in 2006, animal adoptions increased 23 percent, and euthanasia at the city shelter decreased by 35 percent. One can only assume what the unfortunate corollary would be if Oak Park were to allow a puppy store within its limits.
Rachel Weaver is an Oak Park resident and co-owner of The Book Table, which is located a few doors from the proposed pet store.