7th Circuit Upholds Puppy Mill Ban

The Seventh Circuit ruled that banning sales of out of state breeders does not violate the Commerce clause, and should help reduce puppy mills. Since the law's enactment, pet stores in Chicago are limited to selling dogs, kittens, and rabbits purchased from animal shelters, nonprofit humane societies or animal rescue organizations.

Before it's effect in 2015, Chicago based pet shops brought up a federal complaint that accused lawmakers of doing more to help puppy mills with the law than shutting them down. The complaint argues that the ordinance does not eliminate the facilities, but eliminated the source of commercially bred puppies in the county that are highly regulated. So consumers wanting a pure-bred puppy will go straight to the source(the puppy mill) instead of going to the pet stores.

The Seventh Circuit found that they failed to state a claim. U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes states that, "the puppy-mill ordinance doesn’t discriminate against interstate commerce, even in mild practical effect, so it requires no special cost-benefit justification under the Commerce Clause.”

U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton said he will allow the pet stores to amend their suit with evidence of the law's actual impact on pet sales now that the ordinance is in effect since the ordinance will probably not reduce the demand for expensive, pure bred pets.  

Comments from Allen:  As someone who has owned pets from animal shelters as well as specially-bred dogs and cats, I think this law is atrocious. Who wants to go to a pet store for an animal that is the same as one you get from the puppy pound?  By the same token, I am also aware that if you want a particular breed of animal, you will probably not find one in a pet store; you will have to contact a professional breeder.

The question in this case has to do with the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce "among the several States."   That phrase was much more easily understood in 1788 when the Constitution was ratified.  Since that time, the definition has broadened to such an extent that Congress can regulate almost anything.

Let me give you an example of two things, one which can be regulated by Congress and one which can not under the interstate commerce clause.  #1:  I buy a cell phone. Congress can pass all kinds of laws concerning cell phones, because their component parts come from various states, and they are assembled in China.  #2.  A craftsman hand-carves wooden puppies in Idaho and sells them in Idaho.  Congress cannot regulate the sale of these items under the commerce clause, because nothing in the manufacture or distibution of these items concerns more than one state.

The pet store owners in this case were arguing that we have a scenario like #1 involved here, so the Commerce Clause is affected.  Well, just because interstate commerce is involved does not mean a city ordinance passing a pet sale law violates it.


Allen Browning is an attorney in Idaho Falls, Idaho who handles personal injury and criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience and handled thousands of cases. Allen handles cases from all over Idaho. Call (208) 542-2700 to set up a free consultation if you are facing legal trouble or you have been involved in an accident.

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