After California banned the retail sale of commercially-bred dogs and cats (and rabbits) in pet stores, Maryland passed a similar ban. It is set to go into effect on January 1. But pet stores and out of state commercial breeders have filed a lawsuit in a bid to stop the Maryland law from taking effect.

They claim the ban is unfair (and violates the Commerce Clause), but such a claim will almost certainly fail. Federal Courts have upheld similar laws passed by cities in other states after rejecting similar arguments. These laws were passed based on concerns about the treatment of animals in breeding mills and in order to increase the number of rescued animals in need of homes who find them. It also strikes to the heart of so much animal suffering: their commodification. Puppy and kitten (and rabbit) mills fuel inbreeding, provide minimal to no veterinary care, lack of adequate food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages, and cause neglect, abuse, and the killing of animals when they are no longer profitable. When there is profit to be made on the backs of animals, history shows that those backs are often strained and broken.

In the two states and the hundreds of cities which have banned their sale, pet stores who want animals available for placement are required to partner with shelters or animal rescue organizations. Combined with better education and increasing concern for animals, the latest pet industry report notes that while both the number of animals in homes and spending on those animals increased, the amount spent to purchase animals declined by 4.3% last year and is “the smallest area of total pet industry spend.” Not surprisingly, as fewer people are buying animals, overall adoption rates are increasing with shelter deaths falling to below two million across the U.S. for the first time (and as low as 1.5 million by some estimates).

Ironically, the plaintiffss also claim in their lawsuit that banning retail pet store sales will lead to more internet sales of dogs and cats and that “Internet pet sales have a notoriously high incidence of fraud and scams which will only increase against Maryland residents once the ban takes effect.” The answer to that argument, however, is not to allow pet stores to continue fueling the puppy/kitten mill trade, thus continuing to harm animals. The answer is to ban the internet sale of commercially-bred animals, too. After all, as long as animals are dying in pounds, regardless of why they are dying, rescue and adoption are ethical imperatives.

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