Pet Store Ban Challenged as Unconstitutional

     PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – A puppy store claims the city of East Providence, R.I. enacted an unconstitutional law making it a crime to “display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer, or sell any live dog or cat in any pet store, retail business or other commercial establishment” in the city.
     Perfect Puppy sued the City of East Providence on June 5 in Superior Court.
     The pet store claims it got a state license to run a pet store on May 14, and opened for business that day. Less than three weeks later, on June 3, the city “proposed and enacted” an ordinance making it a criminal offense to sell, display or transfer dogs or cats, according to the complaint.
     Perfect Puppy claims it was “the only commercial business in the City of East Providence that operated a pet store at the time of the enactment of the Amended Ordinance.”
     Perfect Puppy claims the city law violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and its right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
     The ordinance presumably was enacted to protect people and animals from “puppy mills,” breeders who raise animals for profit with no regard to the animals’ welfare.
     Perfect Puppy claims in the complaint: “The Amended Ordinance is over-inclusive, in that it bans pet stores from even displaying or giving away dogs and cats or selling puppies, regardless of whether they come from reputable breeders that are not ‘puppy mills.'”
     It claims that the law is also “under-inclusive,” in that it does not bar sales of puppy mill dogs from other sources, such as the Internet, animal shelters and rescue groups who, “wittingly or unwittingly, can end up buying ‘puppy mill’ dogs and passing them on to consumers.”
     The pet store claims that the ordinance is not only unconstitutional, but “counterproductive.”
     “The Amended Ordinance criminalizes conduct by pet stores, which can be regulated and held accountable, while driving demand to Internet brokers, which are virtually impossible to police and which are much more likely to buy from bad breeders.”
     Perfect Puppy seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction.
     It is represented by Lesley Rich, of Cranston, R.I.

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