7th Circuit affirms Chicago ‘puppy mill’ ordinance

A Chicago “puppy mill” ordinance limiting the sources of animals that pet stores could use to sell animals was upheld Thursday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, though a dissenting Indiana judge on the panel would have sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

Chicago in 2014 enacted an ordinance regulating where animals sold at pet stores could be sourced from, in response to concerns about large commercial puppy mills notorious for deplorable conditions for dogs. The ordinance allowed pet shops to sell only dogs, cats or rabbits obtained from an animal control or care center, a government-operated kennel or “a humane society or rescue organization.”

The majority affirmed a district court decision upholding the ordinance and dismissing a lawsuit for failure to state a claim filed by pet stores and a Missouri dog breeder in Park Pet Shop, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 15-3711.

“The Illinois Constitution permits home-rule units like Chicago to regulate animal control and welfare concurrently with the state. And the puppy-mill ordinance doesn’t discriminate against interstate commerce, even in mild practical effect, so it requires no special cost-benefit justification under the Commerce Clause. Rational-basis review is the default standard, and the ordinance easily passes that test,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the majority.

Dissenting Judge David Hamilton would have reversed the trial court, writing that the majority misapplied precedent relating to balancing tests of a state or local law’s impact on interstate commerce. He wrote that it’s at least plausible that plaintiffs’ arguments that consumers would be deprived of purebred puppies and the ordinance would be counter-productive and harmful to accountable breeders. He noted the Chicago city clerk portrayed the ordinance as “aligning Chicagoans against the interests of an out-of-state industry with its 'powerbase in Iowa, Missouri and Indiana.’”

Hamilton wrote that the plaintiffs should get their day in court “now that the ordinance has taken effect and evidence of actual effects should be available.”

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