On Friday, a federal judge upheld Maryland’s statewide retail pet sales ban after four pet stores and a Missouri-based breeder and broker challenged the law.
Maryland is the second state to protect animals and consumers by barring pet stores from selling dogs and cats. This past August, pet stores tried to prevent the law from going into effect; they sued partly based on the grounds that animal welfare organizations had made unfounded claims that pet stores fuel the growth of puppy mills.
We do know that puppies get to pet stores through a pipeline of commercial breeders and middlemen who ship them from out-of-state puppy mills. Puppy mills are horrible places for dogs—characterized by tiny, cramped cages, filthy conditions and little to no vet care. These conditions, combined with long trips across state lines to pet stores, can result in people purchasing puppies who have serious health or behavioral issues.
The federal judge presiding over this legal challenge threw out the pet industry suit and said she found clear evidence that Maryland lawmakers had a “rational basis” for enacting the pet sales ban: “Protecting consumers, reducing financial support for mill breeders, and encouraging pet adoption are indisputably legitimate state interests,” she wrote.
The pet industry has similarly challenged laws that ban or limit the retail sale of commercially bred dogs in other states. In every case, the laws have been upheld in court.
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