Maryland General Assembly Adjourns with Major Victories for Animals

The Humane Society of the United States applauds Maryland lawmakers for passing a slate of major animal protection measures before adjourning.  The General Assembly passed bills to address the issue of puppy mills, the importance of spay and neuter programs, to crack down on animal abuse and to protect pets in domestic violence situations.

“We commend lawmakers in Maryland for passing this raft of legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse,” said Tami Santelli, director of state legislation for The HSUS. “The anti-cruelty laws of a state are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and this collection of bills is a measurable step forward for the state of Maryland.”

 The General Assembly passed the following bills during their 90-day session:


  • Senate Bill 839, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore City, which requires commercial dog breeders to be licensed by the county in which they operate, and requires counties to report basic information about these commercial breeders once a year to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.  While most states have statewide licensing systems for commercial dog breeders, Maryland does not.  This bill, once signed into law, will provide critical information to understand the scope of the puppy mill situation in the state.  Companion legislation, H.B. 940, was introduced by Del. Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery County.


  • Senate Bill 639, sponsored by Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, which will set up a task force to study the need for funding of spay and neuter programs in Maryland.  Each year in Maryland shelters, an estimated 48,000 homeless dogs and cats are euthanized – that’s 5 animals each hour. Affordable, accessible spay/neuter programs can help prevent this tragedy. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have a public funding mechanism to subsidize the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for those who cannot afford it.  The task force will be comprised of representatives from animal control, humane societies, non-profit spay/neuter organizations, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Department of Agriculture and others.  Similar legislation, H.B. 339, was introduced by Del. Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s County.


  • House Bill 227/Senate Bill 115, sponsored by Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery County and Sen. James Robey, D-Howard County, which will allow courts to prohibit someone convicted of animal cruelty from owning animals as a term of probation. A recent rash of horrific cruelty cases in Maryland has illustrated the need for stronger animal cruelty laws.  Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting, or allowing courts to prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning animals for a certain period of time.  This legislation would be a small first step towards protecting Maryland’s animals and communities.


  • House Bill 407/Senate Bill 747, sponsored by Del. Susan McComas, R-Harford County, and Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, which allows courts to include protections for pets in domestic violence protective orders.  Research has repeatedly shown a link between animal abuse and domestic violence.  Children and animals in the family are often threatened, or actually harmed, as a way to manipulate and coerce others in the family.  This legislation will help protect Maryland’s animals and communities.

The General Assembly also passed H.B. 941, sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim, D- Baltimore County, to permit restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas, and H.B. 897, sponsored by Del. Peter Murphy, D-Charles County, to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze to protect pets and wildlife from antifreeze poisoning. Lawmakers considered several other animal protection measures, including legislation to require pet stores to disclose information about the puppies they sell, and to strengthen penalties for poaching. In February, more than 70 animal advocates from across the state participated in the 4th annual Maryland Humane Lobby Day to lobby in support of animal protection legislation.

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