ROCKVILLE, Md. - A year and a half after Maryland banned pet stores from selling dogs and cats, FOX 5 has discovered no one is enforcing the law.
At least three shops, Charm City Puppies in Columbia and Just Puppies in Rockville and Towson, are still selling dogs, leaving animal advocates outraged.
The law was signed in 2018 by Gov. Larry Hogan who made headlines because he was surrounded by animal advocates and their pups.
No one could have known at the time the law would be all bark and no bite.
"The governor celebrated this with a photo op of him kissing puppies," said John Goodwin with The Humane Society of the United States. "I don’t know how he feels, but I certainly can say that we’re losing our patience because it’s been a year and a half since this law went into effect and they’re blatantly selling these puppy mill puppies in the public eye."
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has acknowledged what the shops are doing is illegal and that they launched an investigation months ago. Court documents show the state has attempted to subpoena records, but no action has been taken to shut down the shops.
FOX 5 spoke to two women who purchased a puppy at Charm City Puppies on Tuesday. They said they didn’t know the shop wasn’t supposed to be selling a dogs.
A woman at the store who identified herself as an assistant manager said she had no comment and to contact the store’s attorneys.
FOX 5 has tried to reach attorney for the three stores for a month, but gotten no response.
Attorney Travis Martz has said in the past that the stores believe the law allows them to sell dogs by appointment. The attorney general’s office disputes that. The stores challenged the law in court and lost.
"I have been very disappointed that although the Attorney General has stated (the stores) are in violation of Maryland state law, the Attorney General has not stopped them," said Maryland State Senator Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery Co.)
Kramer sponsored the law and just helped pass a new law removing any doubt that pet stores can still sell by appointment and also outlawing puppy sales online.
With the governor’s signature, it takes effect in July.
But it’s unclear what impact it will have. It’s not just the state, but local governments refusing to act.
In September, Rockville’s police chief sent a letter to Just Puppies saying the store’s city license is void and to cease and desist selling dogs. FOX 5 has continued to ask why the store is still able to operate.
Rockville spokeswoman Marylou Berg said no one from the city would conduct an interview.
"As you know, the Attorney General's office is conducting an investigation into this matter," Berg said in an email. "The City of Rockville is in close contact with the AG's office, and we have full confidence in their team. Unfortunately, the city is unable to offer any additional information at this time."
"It sends a message to every other business owner that the law means nothing," said Goodwin.
Even people trying to do their due diligence would have a hard time knowing there’s anything amiss at the three businesses. All of their licenses show they are in good standing with the state.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said she can’t comment on ongoing cases and "if a consumer finds a shop offering puppies for sale, that is a violation of MD law. They should file a complaint with our office."