Maryland Votes For Animals and The HSUS Celebrate Landmark Spay/Neuter Program

Maryland Votes for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States applauded the Maryland Senate and House for passing the spay/neuter bill, introduced by Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, and Del. Barbara Frush, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, to establish a statewide fund to support spay/neuter services through targeted community grants. 

Carolyn Kilborn, chair of Maryland Votes for Animals, praised the Maryland General Assembly, and said, “This vote signifies a win for Maryland’s animals and a win for Marylanders across the state. We are grateful to Speaker Busch, Delegate Frush and Senator Benson for their leadership in passing this landmark legislation. The majority of Senators and Delegates recognize the urgent need to address the tragic and unnecessary loss of life in Maryland shelters, and their votes will save thousands of lives.”

The voluntary spay/neuter program established in these bills will provide critically needed spay/neuter services throughout the state to combat shelter overpopulation and reduce Maryland’s homeless pet euthanasia rate.

Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States said: “Successful spay/neuter programs in other states have substantially reduced the number of animals euthanized in animal shelters. Passage of this legislation makes Maryland a leader in the country for implementing a humane approach to save the lives of thousands of animals. It will also help many Maryland families afford critical veterinary services they otherwise could not.”

Maryland Votes For Animals initiated work on the bill in 2010 by identifying the need for a statewide spay/neuter program, reaching out to the Speaker of the House, Michael Busch and the Legislature to establish a task force to study this serious issue. According to Speaker Busch, “Once Maryland Votes For Animal’s members explained to me the severity of Maryland’s homeless cat and dog problem, and how successful other states have been in reducing that problem and saving money by implementing a low cost spay/neuter program, I was convinced that it was something that we should be doing, and I wanted to help move it forward in our General Assembly.” 

The task force, created in 2011 with representatives from animal control, industry, animal welfare, veterinarians, and government, reported that Maryland’s shelter overpopulation has resulted in an avoidable and unnecessary loss of animal life: Maryland shelters euthanize 45,000 cats and dogs every year. The task force recommended establishing a program to increase spay/neuter surgeries as the most effective way to reduce Maryland’s intake and euthanasia of homeless cats and dogs. 

Sen. Benson, lead Senate sponsor and co-chair of the task force, stated, “I am delighted and excited that this critical piece of legislation passed. For many, pets are like members of the family. Establishing the Spay/Neuter Fund is a huge step towards maintaining a healthy pet population.”

More than 80 organizations, agencies, businesses and individuals, including the ASPCA, Maryland-SPCA, BARCS and PAWS, formed a coalition after the release of the task force report. Kilborn noted there was unprecedented support for this animal protection legislation, and the coalition worked together tirelessly for passage of this life-saving program. “The coalition partners are to be commended for helping achieve this victory for Maryland’s animals and people,” said Kilborn. “The passage of this bill is a crucial step in making Maryland a more humane state.”

According to Del. Barbara A. Frush, “As a Maryland legislator who has always been concerned with issues regarding animal welfare, I am honored to have sponsored and championed this bill in the House of Delegates working closely with my colleague, Senator Joanne Benson, who did the same in the Senate. The Maryland spay/neuter program has the potential to be one of the best in the nation. It is a ‘win-win’ for animals and our Maryland taxpayers. I was thrilled to work with such a dedicated group of advocates who are so passionate about helping Maryland’s pets.”

S.B. 820 passed 46 to 1 in the Senate on March 21. H.B. 767 passed 113 to 23 in the House of Delegates on March 18. Governor Martin O’Malley’s signature will finalize passage of the bill which will take effect on October 1, 2013.

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