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Maryland Pet Stores Sue To Overturn Law Banning Retail Sale Of Cats And Dogs

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Jack, a good dog. Photo by Jamie Rowley.

By Jamie Rowley, Elisabeth Desmond

SILVER SPRING, Md.– A group of local Maryland pet stores are suing to overturn a 2018 law banning the retail sale of cats and dogs, claiming it violates the commerce clause.

Local pet stores such as Just Puppies, Charm City Puppies and Today’s Pet Inc claim the ban will disrupt business and “interrupt this typical stream of interstate commerce for the sale of pets in Maryland through retail pet stores.”

The pet stores also say that banning the retail sale of animals will force pet buyers to get their animals from “unregulated local hobby breeders,” or turn to online (and often untrustworthy) alternatives.

While pet stores lament the potential loss of business, many activists and politicians are happy with the ban. 

“When you ban the sale of puppies in pet stores, it’s the first big step you can take to close down the market,” says Karen Lange, a senior writer at The Humane Society, not speaking on their behalf.

Lange observed a puppy mill raid in 2012. 

“If you had pulled up to the front… it just looked like a normal house and a yard,” she said. “It was only going into the house and then the backyard that you actually saw that this was not a normal situation.”

Dogs were kept in chicken coops, most with matted fur, infections and fleas. 

Supporters of the puppy mill ban believe that this law will help improve the conditions of puppy mills, which they say abuse and neglect their animals. 

As to the redirection of consumers to unregulated breeders, Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker, who supported a 2009 bill to regulate breeders, isn’t convinced. 

“They have said the same thing every time a tax is raised,” Hucker says.“It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a regulation because they’re evading it.” 

Similar laws have come into effect in California with the hope of cutting down on the prevalence of puppy mills and high euthanasia rates in shelter animals. 

Unfortunately, some puppy stores in California have found loopholes in the new laws and are still able to bring in puppies by identifying them as “rescues.”

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