Legislation that aims to ban puppy mill breeders from selling pets through retail pet stores has passed the House and Senate and is currently awaiting signature from Gov. JB Pritzker.

The legislation, HB1171, would only allow Illinois pet shops to sell cats and dogs if they are obtained from animal control facilities or shelters that comply with regulations set out in the bill.

If the measure becomes law, an animal control facility or animal shelter that supplies dogs or cats to pet shop operators to be offered for sale could not be a dog breeder or a cat breeder or obtain dogs or cats from a dog breeder, a cat breeder, a person who resells dogs or cats from a breeder, or a person who sells dogs or cats at auction in exchange for payment or compensation. The bill also defines the term “offer for sale” and modifies the definitions of “pet shop operator” and “animal shelter.”

Kankakee County Humane Foundation Director Jordan Chapman said it typically surprises people to learn how many large puppy mills there are in operation — as well as the horrible conditions in which the bred animals live. She said there are more than 2 million puppies bred in mills every year.

Puppy mills are defined as locations where a dog’s sole purpose is to breed, often in inhumane conditions. Commonly, mills breed popular “designer” dogs that are then sold through some pet stores.

Some say the bill may force the closures of standalone pet stores that sell animals. However, it could lead to benefits for those stores.

“I think the bill is more geared toward high-kill shelters and, in my interpretation, that’s where it’s going to make the bigger difference if the pet stores actually step up and go with where they’re being pushed to go,” Chapman said.

She added that, in her experience, most animal control shelters will only partner with people who have the best of intentions. This bill would help weed-out pet stores who may not have an animal’s best interests in mind.

“I hope that a lot of pet stores just embrace that it’s the way that their business has to run and they start deciding to go to animal control or shelters and making that partnership,” Chapman said.

“Then they will be held to a different standard because the Department of Agriculture will oversee that, and they’ll be required to provide veterinary care and vaccines.”

A major issue with puppy mills is that the dogs that are bred often have health issues that don’t reveal themselves until later in life. This leaves owners who paid a large sum for the dog the decision to relinquish to a shelter or pay heavy veterinary fees.

KCHF often encounters pet owners who were not anticipating anything but a healthy pet.

Chapman shared a story of an individual who purchased a German shepherd from a pet store, and the dog wound up having allergies that the owner didn’t allocate expenses for. The owner planned to have the dog euthanized, but was eventually convinced by the vet to relinquish the dog to KCHF.

The shepherd was taken in, taken care of and is now happily and healthily living with new owners.

Chapman said that the bill could change the statistics for euthanasia in pets, as animals in kill shelters or with animal control, who would be otherwise euthanized, may instead be brought to a pet store for sale.

“I’m hopeful that it makes a bigger difference in the overall welfare of all of the animals in general.”