ROCKVILLE, Md. - The Attorney General’s office on Thursday announced that it has filed charges against a Maryland pet store chain accused of violating a ban on selling dogs and cats.
The ban – which was ushered in under the No More Puppy-Mills Act – was passed in 2018 after officials determined that existing laws barring puppy-mill sales weren’t enough.
The law went into effect 15 months ago, but FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts has found that several pet stores across the state have continued to sell dogs.
The two shops charged are ‘Just Puppies’ located in Rockville and Towson.
Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office is accusing Just Puppies not only of breaking the law by selling puppies, but also deceiving customers by telling them they have a direct relationship with breeders.
Court documents say "in some instances Respondents have purchased dogs from online pet exchanges from breeders with whom they have no direct or longstanding relationship."
"We’re enforcing Maryland law," Frosh said Thursday evening.
But there have been criticisms that his office hasn’t taken action sooner, including from state Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery Co.) who sponsored the puppy mill law.
Frosh said the case would’ve moved sooner if not for the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We’ve been in the middle of an international pandemic. The courts have been closed off and on throughout this year and a half," said Frosh. "Our office got more than 40,000 calls from Marylanders."
The city of Rockville pulled the license for the Just Puppies puppies location there, but has not taken action to close the business.
The case has got the attention of Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
"I’m very passionate about the puppy mills act," said McCarthy.
He said he’s been talking to Rockville officials and the attorney general.
"One of the sellers of puppy mill puppies in the state unfortunately is right up the street from where we are," said McCarthy. "I’m very proud of the attorney general and his office today bringing criminal charges so that we can shut down these two operations."
Attorneys for the pet stores haven’t responded to our requests for comment in the last two months.
The same firm is also representing Charm City Puppies in Columbia. Which is also selling dogs, but not facing charges.
"If anybody else is selling dogs in a retail situation then, yes, we will pursue them as well," said Frosh.
For now, the shops continue to operate. The first hearing in the case is in September and Frosh said he’ll seek an injunction to close the stores then.
The attorney general’s office says the shops could be fined up to $10,000 per dog sold and could be forced to disgorge all money and property received in connection with unfair and deceptive trade practices.