Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals

Major Steps Forward: Maryland Passes Several Animal Rights Bills

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The Maryland General Assembly just finished its session this week, taking major steps forward with several animal rights bills.

  • HB 227/SB 115 authorizes a court to prohibit a defendant from owning, possessing or residing with an animal as a condition of probation for specific violations concerning animal abuse, neglect or cruelty.  [By comparison, Virginia Code Section 3.2-6570 allows a court to prohibit a person convicted of animal cruelty from owning or possessing a companion animal.  Virginia Code Section 3.2-6571 requires a court to prohibit a person convicted of dog or cock fighting from owning or possessing companion animals or cocks.  Unfortunately, Virginia’s version of neglect (lack of adequate care, found in Virginia Code Section 3.2-6503) does not authorize a court to prohibit possession of companion animals.]
  • SB 639/HB 339 establishes a task force for a statewide spay/neuter fund.  The bill specifies the task force’s membership, chair and staff; requires the task force to review spay/neuter programs, collect and review data, and make recommendations for a spay/neuter fund; and requires the task force to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and specified committees in the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2012.
  • SB 839/HB 940 requires a kennel license for persons who own or have custody of fifteen or more female dogs kept for the purpose of breeding and who sell dogs from six or more litters a year; requires each county to collect and maintain specified information related to each kennel license; and requires each county to report specified information to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation on or before January 15 of each year.  [Virginia already has a similar statute for breeders found in Virginia Code Sections 3.2-6507.1 through 3.2-6507.6, but it only applies to breeders with thirty or more adult female dogs.]
  • HB 407/SB 747 authorizes District Court Commissioners in interim protective orders, and judges in temporary and final protective orders, to award temporary possession of any companion animal of a petitioner or respondent in a protective order proceeding.  [A similar bill failed in Virginia’s General Assembly this year.]
  • HB 897 will require antifreeze to contain a bittering agent (denatonium benzoate), effective January 1, 2012.  [The American Veterinarian Medical Association has more information about which states already require a bittering agent in antifreeze.  Fortunately, Virginia is among those states, with Code Section 59.1-155.1 requiring the bittering agent in antifreeze and engine coolants as of January 1, 2011.]
  • HB 941 authorizes restaurants with outdoor dining areas to allow dogs in the outdoor dining area during specified hours.  This bill will allow restaurant owners to limit the size and type of dogs allowed, and will require the owners to post notices.  [For a comparison of how Virginia handles outdoor doggie dining, take a look at this post from the Northern Virginia Dog Blog.]

A couple of other bills were not so lucky.

  • SB 814/HB 770 would have allowed courts to grant decrees in divorce proceedings regarding ownership of a companion animal, and would have prohibited courts from ordering either party to order payment to maintain the companion animal under certain circumstances.  [Virginia’s General Assembly has stayed out of this area so far, leaving the Virginia courts to continue to consider and “dispose of” companion animals as property in divorce proceedings.]
  • HB 912 would have required retail pet stores to post specific information about each dog on each dog’s cage, maintain written records about each dog for one year after the date of sale of the dog.  [Virginia has similar “pet shop” laws, including specific Consumer Protection Act violations, found in Virginia Code Sections 3.2-6512 to 3.2-6516.]
  • HB 294 would have prohibited infliction of unnecessary suffering or pain on an animal through the use of a rifle, a handgun, or a specified weapon.  [To the contrary, the Virginia General Assembly focused much of its energy on pro-hunting legislation this session.]
  • HB 301 would have authorized the Department of Natural Resources to suspend hunting licenses or privileges of persons convicted of state or federal hunting violations, and would have required a minimum one-year suspension of hunting licenses or privileges for subsequent hunting violation convictions.

Kudos to Maryland for accomplishing so much for animals this session!  This was a much more productive session for animal rights than in Virginia.  If you’d like to know more about how Virginia fared this session (I’ll warn you that it’s pretty dismal), take a look at my post from earlier this year.

Author: Heidi Meinzer

Attorney and Animal Lover, not necessarily in that order

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