Animal-rights activists are calling for Naperville to ban the sale of dogs from large-scale breeders they consider puppy mills.

Residents in favor of such a ban made their case before the Naperville City Council Tuesday night saying dogs from such breeders are kept in cruel conditions and suffer from health problems.

Dee Santucci, who lives just outside Naperville and is on the board of The Puppy Mill Project, accused commercial breeders of keeping animals in small cages and unsanitary conditions and not giving them enough exercise.

"They are not going to cut into their profits in order to give these animals a better life," she said. "It's just livestock to them. They're there to make money."

Anna Payton, executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, said there also is an issue of too many unwanted dogs.

"If you create an establishment like this which will increase the saturation of dogs, that will lead to an increased number of stray dogs … and an increase in owners surrendering their dogs," she said.

Officials in Chicago and Cook County recently approved bans on selling pets from large-scale breeders.

However, several Naperville pet store owners spoke out Tuesday saying their stores sell from licensed breeders and not all commercial breeders should be lumped together as puppy mills.

"As pet store owners we believe that puppy mills are breeders that are operating outside of the law set forth by the Department of Agriculture or have violations that directly affect the health of the dogs in their care," said Mike Isaac, owner of Petland.

From a business standpoint, it wouldn't be prudent for stores to sell unhealthy dogs since they would be on the hook to refund customers, he said.

Jonathan Berning, whose family owns Happiness is Pets, agreed and said customers at Illinois pet stores "have the best chance of success" due to the regulations in place.

"They have so many protections it is nearly impossible for them to fail," he said. "However, customers that purchase from rescues, shelters, over the Internet, flea markets or from private breeders have none of these protections at all."

City councilmen said they would need more research before deciding whether to move forward with the proposed ban.

"We've got to look at both sides of this and certainly we don't want to hurt a business owner if they are doing a good practice and have a legitimate breeder that supplies them with dogs," Councilman Paul Hinterlong said.

The city's animal control staff will bring information back to the council in August.

mjenco@tribune.com

Twitter@melissajenco