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Puppy shops sue Maryland Attorney General, says new laws are 'unconstitutional,' prevent competition from out-of-state breeders

Puppy shops say Maryland's anti-puppy mill law violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Credit: WUSA
Dogs rescued from a Virginia puppy mill are starting a new life.

WASHINGTON — Several puppy shops in Maryland, including a dog breeder and commercial broker, sued the state's attorney general in federal court last week.

The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 23, 2019 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, alleges that the "No More Puppy-Mill Pups Act" is unconstitutional, because it "discriminates against interstate commerce" from out-of-state breeders.

Under Article I Section VIII of the U.S. Constitution, known as the Commerce Clause, Congress has the power to "regulate commerce ... among several states." 

The lawsuit alleges that the 2018 Maryland law, which is supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, violates the federal Commerce Clause.

The No More Puppy-Mill Pups Act, or puppy mill law, further strengthens previous regulations in Maryland, and bars Maryland puppy shops from purchasing pooches from out-of-state breeders. It was signed by Governor Larry Hogan on April 24, 2018.

Credit: Office of Governor Larry Hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan kisses pooches outside the State House in Annapolis, Md, following signing the No More Puppy-Mill Pups Act on April 24, 2018.

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RELATED: Montgomery Co. bill would ban stores from selling puppy mill dogs

Credit: Office of Governor Larry Hogan
Governor Larry Hogan plays with puppies after signing a law designed to protect dogs from animal cruelty and inhumane breeding practices.

Pet stores must source puppies from Maryland breeders, animal control agencies, shelters or rescue groups.

The hope behind the 2018 law was to help raise animals more humanely, and cut down on large-scale puppy mills, but pet stores say, the lack of out-of-state competition would force some stores to shutter their doors.

"The Maryland Pet Store Ban’s purpose is to remove Maryland from the nationwide market of pet sales in stores in hopes of eradicating the so-called puppy mill industry," the lawsuit said. "However, a State may not achieve a local economic goal by isolating itself from the national economy. (City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 624 (1978). Therefore, the Maryland Pet Store Ban discriminates against out-of-state breeders and brokers in its purpose."

They also lament the fact that this law does nothing to bar individuals from purchasing dogs directly from breeders or online, according to the lawsuit.

"The new ban on the sale of pets will effectively shift the sale of puppies from regulated retail pet stores to unregulated marketplaces, such as throughout the internet," the lawsuit alleged.

Just Puppies Inc., Charm City Puppies, LLC, Today's Pets Inc., puppy broker Sobrad, LLC, and breeder Jodie Hancock are all plaintiffs in the case. 

Racquel Coombs, a spokesperson for Attorney General Frosh, declined to comment on ongoing or existing legislation. 

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