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Fido’s file now an open book

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Starting Saturday, pet buyers will potentially receive much more information about their puppy’s origins than those who bought a dog in 2010.

Animal advocates are hoping that a new state law will help diminish the number of puppy mills and unlicensed breeding facilities in Illinois, where animals can potentially live in substandard conditions that cause serious illness.

Beginning Jan. 1, pet stores and animal shelters are required to post the history of a dog or cat, disclose the name and address of the animal’s breeders, keep a record of medical conditions, vet treatments and vaccinations and any known congenital or hereditary defect of the animal. The animal’s parents, date of brith and breed also must be disclosed.

The animal’s history must be signed by the customer and a pet shop representative before the sale or adoption can be finalized and the pet is taken home.

Previously, stores were required to disclose this information only when requested by the buyer. In some cases, the information wasn’t provided until the sale was final.

The legislation, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August, is designed to protect consumers from unknowingly buying or adopting pets that come from substandard facilities as well as to hold breeders accountable for the health and quality of their animals.

In a letter to Illinois pet shelters, state veterinarian Mark Ernst of the Illinois Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare, wrote that the new records will be reviewed during routine inspections.

While the law strengthens disclosure requirements, Linda Nass, manager of the Aurora Animal Control shelter, said she isn’t sure the new regulations will protect pet buyers.

“(The store) has got to show where it’s coming from, but that doesn’t ensure anything,” she said.

Nass said she adopted a dog from the Aurora shelter and knew of the pet shop and breeder it came from, but when she researched the breeder, “I couldn’t find anything,” she said.

Mary Lawrie, administrator at the Kane County Animal Control shelter in Geneva, said she thinks the information that the state is now mandating will help people, but she’s not sure how much.

“The requested information will help people, and if they understand what they need to look for, that will be a good (change),” Lawrie said.

But Greg Gordon, owner of Naperville’s Dog Patch Pet & Feed, said he doesn’t think the new rules will work.

“I don’t think there’s enough teeth in this to get anybody unscrupulous to stop doing what they are doing,” Gordon said. “... There are always going to be people who find their way around this.”

That includes the “Basement Pirates,” people who have made a business of selling dogs out of their basements or at highway stops. Falsely representing themselves as reputable breeders, they have no qualms about lying about the origin of an animal, Gordon said.

“If you pick up the classifieds, you will find 10 of these,” he said. “Those guys aren’t going to be affected by (the law.)”

Gordon closely followed the passage of this bill in Springfield this year. In anticipation of it becoming law, he said his store has been posting the histories of its dogs for the past six months. Previously, that information was given only to the person buying the dog.

The new rules won’t change business practices at the Aurora and Kane County shelters, which already were in compliance.

Nass said the Aurora shelter started using kennel cards with all of the same information when they changed software systems a few years ago.

“When they go to adopt, they get everything,” she said.

Lawrie said the Kane County shelter already has been 99 percent compliant with the new law.

“We’re an open-book facility,” Lawrie said. “We already provide that information in one place.”

With any pet purchase or adoption, Nass said it is the best decision to get the animal checked out by a family vet. If the vet certifies the animal has a health problem, the Aurora shelter will allow an exchange of the animal.

With any purchase, it’s all about doing your research, Nass said.

“If someone goes to a breeder or a pet store, they really need to do research on that animal,” Nass said.

Sun Times Media contributed to this report.

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