Today there was a big win in federal court for animal advocates and the dogs left behind in puppy mills around the country. A Federal Judge in Rhode Island stuck a blow against animal cruelty by issuing a comprehensive ruling upholding East Providence’s ban on the sale of puppy mill dogs and kitten mill cats in pet stores.
If you’ve been following the battle between pet stores selling puppy mill dogs and the animal advocates trying to stop the practice, mark this one in the win column for the good guys. In Chicago, animal advocates have been keeping a close eye on the action in Rhode Island because East Providence’s law is similar to those passed in Chicago and Cook County a year ago.
The Rhode Island Ruling
In the Rhode Island ruling the judge took a big swing at the commercial breeders and pet stores making the bucks off puppy mill dogs. The ruling rejects the pet store’s claim under the federal Commerce, Equal Protection, Due Process and Contract clauses.
Two of the better lines from the ruling –
“Given that the Commerce Clause seeks to protect interstate commerce, not local interests, this argument is truly barking up the wrong tree.”
“Plaintiff claims to be similarly situated to ‘non-profit’ entities that the ordinance does not prohibit from selling cats or dogs, but provides no grounds for this contention. Indeed, on the most basic level, the entities are dissimilar. Plaintiff is a for-profit business that sells dogs, while the entities to which Plaintiff compares itself are not-for-profits that rescue and shelter them. The only similarity would seem to be that both involve dogs. But that is like saying a homeless shelter is similarly situated to a luxury hotel because both provide rooms to sleep in.”
What does this mean locally?
This particular ruling is very comprehensive. And, although courts here are not required to follow it, it still is positive news in the battle to uphold these laws around the country and should be very persuasive to other courts.
If you’ve been watching the local debate, both Chicago and Cook County should have been puppy mill free in pet stores by now. The Cook County Companion Animal and Consumer Protection Ordinance went on hold in September after three suburban pet stores filed a lawsuit to prevent the law from taking effect.
The Chicago lawsuit was filed in February shortly before the city ordinance was to go into effect. On Tuesday, the city of Chicago filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The Puppy Mill Project and The Humane Society of the U.S. have also filed a motion for permission to file a friend of the court brief.
While the wait continues in Chicago and in other communities, puppy mills continue to crank out fluffy little commodities on the backs of abused dogs. Pet stores that still sell dogs and cats continue to perpetuate consumer fraud. Here’s hoping that the judges here follow this lead and that we’ll soon be puppy mill free as well in our pet stores.
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