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Owner’s son faces assault charge after pet shop protest in Orland Park

Updated: March 1, 2012 9:46AM



A Lemont man whose father owns a chain of pet shops was charged with assault Sunday after he confronted a woman in a group that was picketing near the Orland Park location, police said Monday.

Jonathan Berning, 31, of 1 Cedar Court, was charged after police saw him approach a 49-year-old Naperville woman “in a threatening and aggressive manner,” Orland Park Police Cmdr. John Keating said.

The group that was protesting claims that Happiness Is Pets, owned by Ronald Berning, also of Lemont, sells puppies that come from “puppy mills,” or kennels where dogs are bred in unhealthy conditions. About 10 members of the Companion Animal Protection Society began picketing outside the Orland Park store, 15647 S. 94th Ave., at 1 p.m. Sunday. Two dogs from the chain’s other locations died of distemper in recent weeks, according to protestor Dianne Arp.

Arp is the woman whom Jonathan Berning is accused of assaulting.

“He was waving his finger inches from her face and yelling and screaming at her,” Keating said. “He ran at her in a threatening manner.”

Arp told police she feared being hit by Berning, Keating said. Berning could be reached for comment.

Arp said Berning had been watching the protestors from a pickup truck. She did not know at the time that he was the owner’s son.

“They were filming us with camera phones. We didn’t pay them too much attention,” Arp said. “The guy in the passenger seat (Berning) went into the store. The other guy started disrupting us by blasting on his horn. Then the first guy came out and was filming us. Then, for whatever reason, he charged up the hill at me, raised his hand and stopped inches from my face. It scared me. He was screaming, and the look in his eyes was frightening.”

He was telling her, “You’d better make sure to back up what you’re saying,” Arp said.

The picketers were abiding by the law and on the public way, Keating said.

“Unfortunately, this individual confronted them in that manner,” he said.

Berning is due in court at the Bridgeview courthouse Feb. 15, Keating said.

Ronald Berning could not be reached for comment Monday. Last week, he said the dogs’ illnesses was “an extremely isolated incident” and said he doesn’t think the outbreak originated in his stores or with the breeders that supply them.

“We could not confirm the origin of the virus, however, we believe the likely source was a potential customer’s own dog,” he wrote in an email last week.

The CAPS group plans to protest outside Happiness Is Pets again at a date yet to be determined, Arp said.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media



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