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Animal Rights Advocates Celebrate ‘A Banner Year’ In Illinois

Best Friends Animal Society
One bill that passed the Illinois legislature would help keep pets with their families.

In previous years, Illinois has held the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s No. 1 ranking among states for protecting animals. In the latest ranking from 2020, the state dropped to second, but four bills that await Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature may catapult the state back to the top spot. Missouri comes in at No. 35.

Evie Hemphill
St. Louis Public Radio
Ledy VanKavage is a senior legislative attorney with Best Friends Animal Society.

“The animals got their day,” said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney with Best Friends Animal Society. That’s due in part, she said, to former House Speaker Mike Madigan no longer wielding power and the effects of the pandemic that resulted in few proposals passing in the Illinois legislature last year.

“It was all stored up, and the dam broke,” VanKavage said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

One of the bills lawmakers approved would make Illinois the fifth state to prohibit pet stores from selling cats and dogs. VanKavage said that’s key to ending inhumane breeding mills that supply the majority of animals to retail stores.

“There was a lot of pushback from the pet store industry,” she said. “Kennel clubs do not allow their members to sell to pet stores. So, reputable breeders don't sell to pet stores, [and] this just impacts puppy mills.”

Another bill would allow tenants who live in state-financed housing to have at least two cats or one dog that weighs fewer than 50 pounds. Currently, some pet owners are told their pets are not welcome based on breed and weight restrictions.

Illinois Is An Overall Friendlier State To Animals Than Missouri

The other bills under Pritzker’s consideration deal with insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage based on dog breed and the nonsurgical sterilization of shelter dogs and cats.

The conversation also touched on animal welfare legislation in Missouri.

“Missouri is a really hard state,” VanKavage said, but she noted that while a proposal to get rid of breed discrimination in cities didn’t make it to the finish line, a bill awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s signature would allow pets to be in orders of protection. That bill — something that’s long been law in Illinois — would allow victims of abuse to include their pets in an order of protection.

“So there is some good news in Missouri this year because, for pets, it's usually pretty bleak,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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