Pet stores including Just Puppies and Charm City Puppies are suing Maryland over a so-called puppy mill law set to go into effect next year, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The law says retail stores cannot sell dogs or cats, allowing them only to display pets available for adoption through animal welfare organizations or animal control units. Licensed breeders can continue to sell pets.

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In the lawsuit, filed last week in federal court, the pet stores say the statute violates the Constitution’s commerce and equal protection clauses and conflicts with a federal animal welfare law. It puts out-of-state breeders at a disadvantage and effectively forces retail pet stores out of business, they said.

Along with pet stores in Towson, Rockville, Columbia and Elkridge, the lawsuit’s plaintiffs include a breeder and a commercial broker of dog sales both based in Missouri.

The lawsuit also said regulations that were already being enforced before the General Assembly passed the law in 2018 were enough to ensure that puppies and kittens were being raised humanely.

As defendants, it names Attorney General Brian Frosh and the division of consumer protection within his office, as well as the state Senate and House of Delegates committees that passed the legislation.

A spokeswoman for Frosh said his office had not yet been served with the lawsuit Monday.

The legislation was a top priority of the late House Speaker Michael Busch, who testified in support of it in honor of his sister. She donated a kidney to him and joked with him all she wanted in exchange was for a puppy mill ban to become law in Maryland.

A similar law went into effect in California this year.

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