Selling dogs from 'puppy mills' prohibited by bill approved by Maryland legislature

Just Puppies is one of a handful of stores that sell puppies in Maryland. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun.

Maryland pet stores would no longer be able to sell dogs born in so-called "puppy mills" under a bill the General Assembly approved Saturday.

The legislation, which also applies to the sale of cats, limits where stores can obtain their animals to three sources: animal welfare organizations, animal control units and licensed breeders.


The bill now moves to Gov. Larry Hogan, who can either sign the measure, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

House Speaker Michael Busch testified in favor of the bill at legislative hearings alongside his sister, Kathleen "Laurie" Bernhardt.


Last year, Bernhardt donated half her liver to her brother, who was in the final stages of liver failure. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, she joked that all she wanted in exchange for that sacrifice was for a puppy mill ban to become law in Maryland.

Animal rights advocates say puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that value profit above animal welfare. Lawmakers said there are seven pet stores in Maryland known to sell from puppy mills.

Opposition to the bill came from delegates who questioned whether it was structured in a way that prevented reputable breeders from selling to pet shops

Just Puppies in Towson is one of the seven pet stores that lawmakers claimed sold from puppy mills. Donna Ryan, co-manager of the store, said she testified against the bill and that the store deals with small breeders and that the company ensures the dogs it sells are healthy and raised humanely.

"We're against large breeders," Ryan said Saturday. "We go beyond the rules that Maryland has already established."