by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest column for Forbes documents another instance in which a local government has used its authority to attack a particular business.
In an ideal world, the law would shield people from aggression by others, allowing them to peacefully use their lives, liberties, and property as they desire.
In our actual world, however, many people cannot resist the urge to turn the law into a sword – into a weapon they can use against anyone who doesn’t live or act in “the right” way.
Examples of such legal plunder and coercive busybodyism pop up constantly. Here’s one that recently came to my attention.
The Perfect Puppy is a family owned business in Rhode Island. It sells healthy, well cared-for puppies. Pet stores in Rhode Island are subject to health and safety regulation by the state, and Perfect Puppy has never been fined or cited for any violation.
The owners wanted to open a new store in East Providence. In April 2014, the owners applied to the state for a license for a new store, which was issued on May 21. They also executed a one-year lease for the necessary retail space – 2800 square feet at 1235 Wampanoag Trail in East Providence.
It looked as though Perfect Puppy was good to go, but on May 20, the day before the State issued its license, the East Providence City Council introduced an ordinance which banned the sale of dogs or cats by any pet store or other kind of retail business. The ordinance was approved in the City Council’s June 3 meeting.
The city’s hastily enacted law made Perfect Puppy’s lease and license worthless and the owners had to close the planned East Providence store, suffering financial losses as a consequence.
I think it’s bad enough that East Providence politicians can use regulations as a sword against a harmless little pet store merely because some local busybodies don’t want that kind of business in “their” town. But East Providence wants to do its dirty work for free – not compensating the owners for their damages.