FREEPORT, Ill. — Local pet store owners say they feel attacked by a new Illinois legislation they say could put hundreds of employees out of work.

Austin, a manager at the Furry Babies pet store in the CherryVale Mall in Rockford, says he, along with other pet shop employees from across the region, are protesting a new House bill which would ban the direct sale of puppies in retail stores.

“House Bill 1711 not only strips this job from me but also from [Furry Babies owner Ana Soskic], and that’s all she’s known,” Austin said. “One of the biggest takeaways, first hand, is how many lives we impact daily in a positive way.”

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The group stood outside Rep. Andrew Chesney’s (R-89th) office, holding signs of protest. Chesney sponsored the bill to try and stop stores from selling puppy mill pets.

“We are not opposed to creating solutions for this problem, but taking away people’s livelihoods is not the answer. Creating opportunities for online scammers and small scale puppy mills is not the answer,” Austin said.

“We are here to ask him to reconsider, because he’s going to put over 300 people out of work and he will not close one puppy mill with this legislation,” said Soskic.

Soskic says she gets her dogs from a breeder, not a puppy mill. She said she feels as if her voice is not being heard, and says she’s worried the bill’s passage could mean the end of her business.

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“We have reached out to him, consistently, and it has been a very poor response back,” she said.

Chesney spoke with Eyewitness News on Thursday, saying, “We’ve met multiple times, certainly more than once. We’ve heard hours of debate on the issue, and we just see the issue differently. They want to profit off hurting animals, and that’s wrong.

“This bill does not put her out of business. This bill just simply asked her, and now, frankly, puts in law for her to buy from humane breeding sources,” Chesney said.

“At the end of the day, this doesn’t help the animals,” Soskic said. “So, to put people out of business and not achieve a goal, makes no sense.”

House Bill 1711 only has to be signed by Gov. JB Pritzker to become law.