State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), pictured here earlier this month, pushed a bill through the House Monday to provide protections for consumers who purchase an ill or diseased pet. The legislation passed the Senate Tuesday and now awaits action by Gov. Pat Quinn. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois Senate Tuesday approved a plan to give pet-owners more protections when they purchase diseased dogs or cats from pet stores, with opponents having dubbed the idea no more than a "warm, fuzzy bill."
Known in Springfield as the "puppy lemon law," the proposal passed the Senate by a 44-13 roll call, with one member voting present. The House voted Monday by a 67-49 margin to pass the plan, which now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the idea.
"What we're trying to do is promote some good consumer practices within the pet shop industry," said Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), the bill's chief House sponsor.
"I think what we've found is that we can ensure that outbreaks in diseases among dogs - and to a large degree cats - is what we need to be concerned about when we're dealing with consumer transactions at a pet store," Zalewski argued. "So that's the pressing policy need."
The measure's backers include the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the Puppy Mill Project and Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, but several kennel clubs across the state oppose the idea.
Under the plan - which would not apply to breeders or shelters - consumers who purchase an ill or diseased cat or dog from a pet store would have three options: get a new pet, get a full refund or have the store pay for veterinarian treatment.
A licensed veterinarian would have to deem the pet unfit for purchase within 21 days of the sale date, and only pets with certain conditions, not including hereditary or congenital diseases, would qualify. Zalewski said 17 other states have similar laws.
"Pet stores have come forth and said that this is actually a good best-practices act, and we're certain that after this bill is enacted most of the pet store ownership is going to abide by the law and do what we're asking them to do in the bill," Zalewski said.
Illinois now requires pet stores to provide information about a pet's health history but gives consumers no remedy if they unknowingly buy an ill animal.
Opponents argued current law provides enough protection and that the bill is simply a "feel-good" measure.
"I think this bill goes too far," Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said. "I know it's hard to vote against a warm and fuzzy puppy bill, but this is not, I think, something that's begging for public policy."
Zalewski denied his bill was merely a way for legislators to feel good about a vote, but had little to say in the way of defending the bill's necessity.
One Republican lawmaker downplayed the bill's importance and even called out Quinn for supporting it.
"We have bills of great importance," Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) said. "Now, I want to let you know how important this is. The office of the governor has come in as a proponent for this. [Quinn] can't stand up for any other thing we're doing around here, but the puppy lemon law. You talk about somebody riding issues to the hilt. That's ridiculous."