U.S. District Court affirms Maryland law banning sale of cats, dogs in pet shops

People watch puppies playing in a cage at a pet store in Columbia on Aug. 26, 2019.

A law banning the sale of cats and dogs at pet shops in Maryland was upheld as a federal judge ruled the No More Puppy- and Kitten-Mills Act passed by the General Assembly last year does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

In a ruling filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Judge Ellen Hollander wrote that the law “does not constitute an exclusive right to sell cats and dog[s] in Maryland.”


Hollander wrote that while the law prohibits certain pet sales, “consumers still have a plethora of choices when seeking to obtain a pet, including rescue shelters, animal control units, USDA licensed breeders and brokers, and unregulated hobby breeders.”

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, prohibits retail stores from selling dogs or cats, requiring them to advertise pets only available through animal welfare organizations or animal control units.


Several businesses, including Just Puppies and Charm City Puppies, sued the state over the law, saying it violates the Constitution’s commerce and equal protection clauses and conflicts with a federal animal welfare law.

In an opinion filed Friday, Judge Hollander dismissed the lawsuit and a motion by the plaintiffs to block enforcement of the law.

The law “is intended to further the public’s interested in preventing animal cruelty, increasing adoptions, and protecting consumers,” Hollander continued.

“Protecting consumers, reducing financial support for mill breeders, and encouraging pet adoption are indisputably legitimate state interests,” Hollander wrote.

California and Maine have enacted similar legislation, the judge wrote, and New York is considering a similar ban.

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.