Kagan Stern Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Maryland's Retail Pet Store Ban

August 25, 2019

On August 23, 2019, four Maryland retail pet stores, a Missouri commercial dog breeder, and a Missouri commercial dog broker, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s Retail Pet Store Ban (Section 19-703 of Maryland’s Business Regulations Article), which is to take effect on January 1, 2020.  The new law states that retail pet stores in Maryland are prohibited from selling dogs and cats, and it will cause retail pet stores that sell dogs and cats to the public to go out of business once it takes effect.  Maryland is only the second state in the country (along with California) that has passed a law banning retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats.

The lawsuit has garnered national attention based on the legal issues and public policy debate regarding the commercial breeding and sale of dogs and cats.  Maryland Pet Stores Sue to Block State Ban on Dog, Cat Sales, AP News, August 26, 2019, Michael Kunzelman. 

Prior to the enactment of Maryland’s Retail Pet Store Ban, Maryland had enacted some of the strictest laws in the country for retail pet stores.  Maryland laws provide that retail pet stores may only sell dogs obtained from USDA licensed commercial breeders and brokers who have not committed violations, and the stores must describe in detail all the background and health history information for each animal.  Further, retail pet stores are required under current Maryland law to provide health certificates and consumers have rights against such stores under Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act.  Maryland’s current laws were enacted to safeguard consumers in the purchase of dogs and cats from retail pet stores in Maryland.  Once the Maryland Pet Store Ban takes effect, all such laws protecting consumers will cease to be in effect, as retail pet stores will be prohibited from selling any dogs or cats to the public. As a result, Maryland consumers will be left to the unregulated internet and other sources, including unregulated animal welfare organizations and animal control units, to purchase dogs and cats in Maryland.  The Better Business Bureau has noted that the highest incident of consumer online fraud is the purchase of pets.  Such fraud scams will only increase after the enactment of Maryland’s Retail Pet Store Ban.  

Plaintiffs’ Complaint challenges Maryland’s Retail Pet Store Ban under the Dormant Commerce Clause, Equal Protection Clause, federal pre-emption, and violation of Maryland’s Constitution prohibiting monopolies.  

Plaintiffs are represented by Jonathan P. Kagan, Stephen S. Stern, Meagan C. Borgerson and KAGAN STERN MARINELLO & BEARD in Annapolis, Maryland.