Official: ‘Puppy mills’ not a big problem in Winnebago County

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:28 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s been a year since a bill that prohibits Illinois pet stores from selling puppies and kittens from breeders was signed into law.

Introduced as Illinois House Bill 1171, the proposal was signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2021 and went into effect in February 2022. The law aims to stop the inflow of animals bred at large commercial breeding facilities; operations commonly known as puppy mills.

Local officials say although puppy mills in every state, they aren’t a major concern in the stateline. While the occasional pet-store purchased dog comes through the door at the Winnebago Animal Shelter, most of the area’s stray and surrendered animals are born right here.

“I don’t know that we personally see a lot of puppy mill action here in Winnebago County,” said Amber Pinnon, adoption and volunteer coordinator for Winnebago County Animal Services. “There’s lots of backyard breeding. There’s maybe lots of slow-scale puppy mills.”

Pinnon said even though locals are responsible for overpopulating the county with dogs and cats, the law can prevent what the state considers puppy-mill pets from ending up in shelters because it cuts off the supply of animals that may have been bred in inhumane conditions.

“That means the demand is going to go down, which is what we want,” she said. “We want an end to animal homelessness.”

According to Pinnon, pet adoptions have slowed nationally, which correlates with the 70-some dogs that are currently at the shelter.

“That’s why we encourage people to rescue a dog versus buying one, she said.”

Pinnon added that there is nothing wrong with buying animals from breeders. Plenty of shelter visitors do it. But she said they also understand the importance of pet rescue.

“I prefer the rescue animals,” said Rockford resident Noah Barr. “Some are mistreated. Generally, they’re cheaper, too.”