Several Montreal pet stores are suing the city over a new rule that forces them to get their dogs, cats and rabbits from shelters.

The new rule is part of the city’s animal control bylaw that came into effect on July 1.

Yves Pepin, a lawyer representing the 14 stores, said shelters rarely have puppies or dogs suitable for families with small children.

“We have nothing against refuges, but mainly they don’t have enough dogs and cats right now to be able to sell it,” he said. “Mainly, I think a family should have the choice of their puppy that they want, not the city telling them you go pick that dog or that cat.”

Pepin said he’s hoping to persuade a judge to suspend some articles of the bylaw by the end of the month.

City councillor Craig Sauvé defended the rule, saying the city is trying to address the number of animals in shelters and to ensure the animals are well-cared for and safe.

“We know the origins more and not as, not-so-clearly as when it’s coming from a pet store but when it’s in a shelter, they’ve been taken care of by people already and we know the condition of the animal,” he said.

According to Humane Society spokesperson Ewa Demianowicz many of the puppies that end up in pet stores come from puppy mills.

“A reputable breeder, ethical breeder, especially if it’s registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, cannot sell to pet stores,” she said. “They want to meet the person that buys their puppy.”

Sauvé recommended that animal lovers in the market for a specialized breed visit a reputable breeder or broaden their search.

“There’s tons of pets there and we want to make sure citizens go for those pets first,” he said.

But Pepin said the bylaw could push people to buy their animals online.

“There’s no guarantee on the Internet,” he said. “If you buy a dog (at a pet store) you’re going to guarantee you can come back, that the store won’t move. If you go on the Internet and try to find the guy who sold to you, you won’t find him.”

With reporting from Angela MacKenzie