New for 2020: Maryland pet shops no longer allowed to sell cats and dogs

Among several laws taking effect in 2020 is a new Maryland law that bans pet shops from selling dogs and cats.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed what was called the “No More Puppy and Kitten Mills” act into law in April 2018. The law began on Wednesday and allows pet shops to host adoption events with rescues and shelters, but they can no longer sell puppies or cats.

The owners of a Rockville pet shop called “Just Puppies” is among a group of businesses fighting the measure. “Just Puppies” in Rockville, “Charm City Puppies, LLC” in Columbia, “Today’s Pet Inc.” in Elkridge and at least one breeder and broker in Missouri sued Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and a couple of Maryland committees in an attempt to suspend the law while the case plays out.

Travis Martz, the attorney representing the Rockville pet shop’s owners, tells FOX 5 “Just Puppies” is abiding by the new law in the meantime.

Elsewhere in the state, animal advocates tell FOX 5 they have responded to puppy mill situations in recent years.  In 2019, police rescued 50 dogs and several other animals in Howard County. The Humane Society says they paid for several German Shepherds to be transferred out of a Somerset County puppy mill and also reported the rescue of several Pomeranians on the Eastern Shore in 2018.

John Goodwin is the Senior Director of the “Stop Puppy Mills Campaign” at the Humane Society of the United States.  He argues that pet shops are a major reason why puppy mills exist.

“Pet stores rely on high-volume, mass production facilities called puppy mills to fill all of these glass display cases filled with a large number of puppies,” said Goodwin, who also added, “Under USDA regulations, a mother dog may never put-set a paw on a blade of grass and she may be killed once she’s been bred every heat cycle and her body is worn out. Those are atrocious standards and that’s why states are taking action. You can’t count on the Federal government.”

The Human Society is working with the state and filed legal documentation to defend the law.

Opponents claim the law is unconstitutional. Pet shop owners are arguing that they have been following laws and that this puppy mill law came out “negative stereotypes” and “misleading half-truths,” according to the lawsuit.

While standing outside “Just Puppies,” one woman told FOX 5 she often comes to see the dogs because she feels bad for them. The business is closed to customers as it undergoes construction, a sign on the front door read.

“We feel kind of bad for the puppies because they’re always in such bad conditions … so many small cages and they don’t really clean them out so much. They’re very dirty,” said Madeline Saeed. Despite saying this, Saeed was still disappointed she could not go inside. Within a few minutes some 6-8 people tried to enter the business. Others have defended it online.

A hearing to hear the pet shop owners’ arguments is scheduled for January 9th.  Goodwin says six of the seven Maryland pet shops affected state-wide are cooperating.

The new law does not impact Maryland’s private breeders.