Categories: Animal laws

Maryland, USA: pet stores complain unsuccessfully about ban on selling cats and dogs

New law Maryland to encourage adoption of rescue companion animals

MARYLAND, USA – OPINION AND NEWS: There is a sensible trend in the USA which might snowball. State legislatures have decided that it is time to stop unethical cat and dog breeders (unlicensed puppy and kitten mills) supplying pet stores and to encourage the adoption of rescued animals instead. The objective could not be more laudable as the creation of more cats and dogs cannot be morally justified when there are too many unwanted companion animals at shelters. Californians have a statute which prohibits the sale of cats, rabbits and dogs unless they come from a rescue organisation.

Maryland have their version of this law. It is called the “Business Regulation – Retail Pet Stores – Internet Sales of Domestic Animals (No More Puppy and Kitten Mills Act of 2020)”

That is pretty explicit if a little cumbersome. The objective is to stop puppy mills supplying stores and encourage the showcasing or rescue animals at those stores. It does not ban local breeders supplying the stores as I understand it. It came into force on the 1 Feb 2020. The text I have seen is very short. I can’t find the full text.

Four Maryland pet stores, a dog broker and a dog breeder challenged the law in court. They failed because the new law is rational, said the judge. It clearly is. But the pet stores are desperate because they have relied on a cheap supply of kittens and puppies from unlicensed, unethical breeders who don’t focus sufficiently on animal welfare and health. The new law stops this supply chain and in doing so the stores say they will go bust. I think that is an exaggeration. It’ll just take some adjustment. They have relied on cheap suppliers for too long. They are cheap because their standards are low.

They argued that the law was unconstitutional and that it would encourage the informal, ad hoc sale of cats and dogs online and on social media where fraud can take place. There may be some truth in that but it does not make this law unconditional, irrational or unworkable. More states will follow suit I am sure. The change in attitude is actually too slow. Puppy mills should never have existed. They are a consequence of human greed, immorality and a lack of proper law enforcement to raise and maintain standards of human behaviour.

Laws which improve standards of animal welfare will inevitably cause pain among businesses who trade in animals because they negatively impact profits. Personally, I’d go a lot further. I’d ban the breeding of cats and dogs totally across the board and the sale of these companion animals. I am with PETA on this. They don’t believe in the ‘institution’ of pet keeping. PETA does not believe in the breeding of cats and dogs to be kept as pets. It is a strong and some would say extreme stance to take. But I agree with them. The whole concept of ‘pets’ including the word ‘pet’ is wrong. This is a philosophical issue and we are not going to unravel 10,000 years of cat domestication but this law is a step in the right direction.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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