Month: February 2014

Maryland Pet Legislation Update

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Yesterday was a interesting and exciting day in Annapolis, MD for dog owners and of course Pit Bull type dogs. Here are the updates and details for the two most important bills, SB247 and HB422:

 (SB 247/HB 73):This is the compromise legislation reversing the Court of Appeals decision that pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous. These bills remove strict liability for landlords and other third parties, and put in place a “rebuttable presumption” for dog owners, regardless of the breed of their dog.
The Second Reading of SB247 was concluded. As expected, Senator Zirking attempted to add an amendment re: strict liability. There was much discussion about that amendment. It was voted upon and failed.
A second amendment was introduced by Senator Zirkin, it was related to dogs running at large. It went quickly and failed.
Then Senator Raskin asked for a reconsideration of the 2nd amendment— “establishing that the owner of a dog is liable for injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog while the dog is running at large; establishing certain exceptions;”.—–this amendment PASSED by a narrow margin.
Text of the amendment is here:
(SB 991/HB 422): This bill prohibits a dog from being deemed dangerous based on breed, prohibits local breed specific laws, and prohibits landlords or homeowners associations from banning specific types of dogs or evicting someone because they have a particular type of dog.

The House Judiciary Committee met to hear HB 422, a bill that would prevent breed discriminatory laws on the state level.

According to the bills sponsor, the bill was submitted due to the Solesky decision.   The bill, which if it remains as is, would outlaw breed discriminatory laws on the state level, repeal existing ordinances and prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenets with certain breeds of dogs.

The bills sponsor pointed out the some of the numerous issues caused by BDL and the precedent of the 17 states that currently outlaw BDL and the additional states that are considering anti-BDL bills this year.

Right away one member of the committee raise the issue of Prince George’s County and what would happen to their ban.  The sponsor stated that it was her intention that existing ordinances would be grandfathered in, but the language of the bill does not allow for that.  The bills sponsor said that she would amend to clarify that issue.

It is important to note that the Chief of Prince George’s County Animal Management Division was present and testified in support of the bill.  He was asked to testify for the bill by the head on the Animal Management Services Division.  During what was a compelling testimony, he stated that 793 dogs were confiscated under the ban in the 2013 fiscal year.   Roughly 75% of confiscated dogs were euthanized.  $250,000 have been spent in Prince George’s County on enforcement of the ban in 2 years.  He also testified that the number one biter was either labs or cocker spaniels.  He stated that the ban has done nothing for Prince George’s County but separate well-behaved dogs from good families and that the focus needs to be on effective solutions.  He testified that the ban has not worked for Prince George’s County.

The portion of the bill which was most hotly contested was the portion relating to landlords.  Many people testified in support of the bill, with the exception of that particular portion.  Considering that the legislature has failed to address the effects of the court ruling, that particular portion of the bill would put landlords in an impossible position.  Again, amendments were suggested to remove the language pertaining to landlord discrimination.

Many people testified in support of the bill, but very oppose it.  Not surprisingly, Tony Solesky, whose son was the center point in the appeals court ruling, testified against.  There was a pattern during that day’s hearing.  There were many bills regarding dangerous dogs that were heard.  Tony Solesky testified against every single one regarding dangerous dogs, and spent the entire time focusing on breed instead of lobbying for effective solutions that have a chance of effecting change, and passing through the process.

For example, HB 371 was heard.  This bill is to strengthen the dangerous dog laws in breed neutral way.  Increasing penalties, and strengthening the requirements for those who have dangerous dogs.  Solesky testified against strengthening the dangerous dog laws because it was breed neutral and behavior based and tried to lobby for the bill to be breed based, saying that Maryland should be able to “…simply eliminate certain breeds of dogs the same way we eliminate, why wild animals aren’t allowed among us.”

This stark opposition to any form of solidifying the dangerous dog laws in a breed neutral way is confounding.  Victims are no more or less of a victim if they are attacked by one type of dog or another.  We point to this specifically in order to show that the issue is not really about public safety for the pro-BDL lobby.

Maryland legislators have heard a lot of information about the failures of breed discriminatory laws over the last few years.  Many of them come into the hearing for HB 422 extremely well versed in the failures and short comings of such legislation.

As things stand now, the committee has not acted.  Because the sponsor has said that she is drafting amendments to the bill, it is possible that the committee will not act on the bill until that is done.

Redemption

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Save the date for “Redemption,” a film about the No Kill revolution in America which is based on Nathan Winograd’s book of the same name and is coming to a theater near you this summer as part of the “No Kill is Love” tour.

Written by Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center and produced in partnership with Debi & Lincoln Day, No Kill Nation and Sagacity Productions.

movieposterweb– Minneapolis MN, June 6*
– San Francisco (Bay Area) CA, June 11
– Ft. Lauderdale FL, June 21
– Nashville TN, June 25
– Denver CO, July 12
– New York NY, July 16
– Boston MA, July 17
– Washington D.C., July 26
– Norfolk VA, July 27
– Austin TX, Aug 3
– Phoenix AZ, Aug 16
– Atlanta GA, Aug 21
– Charlotte NC, Aug 22
– Fayetteville AR, Aug 23
– Albuquerque NM, Aug 30
– Troy MI, Sep 4

Other dates to be announced for Sacramento CA, Chicago IL, Cleveland OH, Los Angeles CA, Buffalo NY, Louisville KY, Seattle WA, and the Central Valley of CA (Modesto). RSVP info to follow soon.

To learn more about the film: www.nokill.org

To watch the trailer: http://vimeo.com/48445902

To read the book: http://amzn.to/Z3cYwA

* For tickets to the first ever screening in Minneapolis, which will include an after party with red carpet, live band, and many of the people who appear in the film:www.animalarkshelter.org/redemption/

Pet Legislation in Maryland

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chrisThe bill introduction deadlines now have passed in Maryland, which means the first phase of the legislative session has ended!

Barring any last minute emergency bills, all the animal bills that will be considered this year have been introduced. Never before have we seen so many pet related bills in one session in Maryland.

Our main interest here in Maryland of course is the reverse of the Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey vs Solesky which basically is a State wide Breed Discriminatory Legislation.

Below is a overview of all current bills that have been introduced and may be coming up for vote.

 

BILL SUMMARIES AND STATUS:

  • Dog Bite Liability (SB 247/HB 73). This is the compromise legislation reversing the Court of Appeals decision that “pit bulls” are “inherently dangerous.” These bills remove strict liability for landlords and other third parties, and put in place a “rebuttable presumption” for dog owners, regardless of the breed of their dog.  This legislation is awaiting votes in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.  If your legislators are on these committees, call them and ask for their support!  Then send a follow up email.

 

  • Dogs and Cats in Research (SB 862/HB 1347).  This bill requires research facilities in MD that use dogs and cats to be licensed by the Vet Board and inspected quarterly, prohibits the facility from using dogs from Class B dealers, random sourced dogs or dogs that have been devocalized, requires facilities to reduce the numbers of dogs and cats used to the extent possible and to attempt to adopt out dogs and cats that are no longer needed, and requires dogs and cats to be humanely euthanized if not adopted.  It has a hearing in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 25th at 1pm and in the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 26th.
  • School Reporting – Animal Cruelty (HB 222).  This bill adds felony animal cruelty to the list of offenses that must be reported to school officials by law enforcement.  This bill just passed the House!
  • Animal Cruelty – Court Costs (SB 682).  This bill imposes an additional $45 fine on people convicted of animal-related crimes, to be used to support the county animal shelter. It has been scheduled for hearings in Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee onMarch 5th at 1pm.
  • Tax Credit – Adopted Police Dogs (HB 1357).  Establishes an income tax credit for qualified veterinary expenses incurred by state or local police officers who adopt a police dog. It has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committeeon March 4th at 1pm.

 

  • Tax Credit – Dog/Cat Adoptions (HB 1358).  Establishes an income tax credit for people who adopt a dog or cat from an animal shelter.  It has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 4th at 1pm.

Other dog bite related legislation:

  • Dog Bite Liability (HB 80): This bill would establish strict liability for dog owners in situations where the dog was running at large.  During the special session in 2012, similar legislation passed the House but the Senate declined to take it up.  It is awaiting a vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Dog Bite Liability (SB 286):  This bill has been introduced by Sen. Zirkin and would establish strict liability for all dog owners, prohibit insurance discrimination and impose a $45 fine on all “animal-related crimes” that would go into a fund to support county animal shelters.  Strict liability legislation has failed in the House twice so it seems unlikely this will get traction, but wanted to pass it along.  It is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and may still be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Dog Bite Liability – Insurance (SB 285):  This bill prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to someone because they own a dog (regardless of the breed of dog) and prohibits insurers from excluding coverage for dog bites. It is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Dog Bite Liability – Third Parties (HB 563).  This bill deals with the liability imposed on landlords and other third parties by the Court of Appeals ruling on “pit bulls,” and returns landlords to liability standard in place before that case.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.
  • Prohibiting Breed Discrimination (SB 991/HB 422): This bill prohibits a dog from being deemed dangerous based on breed, prohibits local breed specific laws, and prohibits landlords or homeowners associations from banning specific types of dogs or evicting someone because they have a particular type of dog. It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.
  • Dangerous Dogs (HB 371): Del. Glenn has introduced this bill for several years and is a comprehensive upgrade to the state dangerous dog law.  We worked with Del. Glenn on some amendments the last time it was introduced and I will reach out to her again.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.
  • Dangerous Dogs – Increased Penalties (HB 523):  Increases penalties for violations for the state dangerous dog law.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.

 

  • Dog Bite Reporting (HB 89):  Currently, counties are required to report the number of bite exposures to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  This bill would also require counties to report the breed and size of the dog, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.  It is awaiting a vote in the Health and Government Operations Committee.

Other animal related legislation:

  • Animal Abuser Registry (HB 373).  This bill requires people convicted of animal cruelty to register with local law enforcement, including address, place of employment, information about the conviction, photograph and fingerprints.  It has been assigned to theHouse Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.
  • Animal Abuser Registry (SB 912).  Establishes a centralized database of convicted animal abusers and an animal abuse registry fund, requires information in the registry to be available to the public, provides for an appeal process, prohibits animal shelters, pet stores and breeders from selling or adopting an animal to someone listed on the registry.  This bill has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 19th at 1pm.
  • Feral Cats (SB 1010). This bill clarifies that the animal abandonment statute does not apply to a feral cat caretaker, and prohibits local jurisdictions from banning TNR or declaring feral cats a nuisance, potentially dangerous, or dangerous solely because they are unowned.  It was filed after the bill introduction deadline so it has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.  If it comes out of Rules, it will be assigned to a standing committee and will be scheduled for a hearing.
  • Horse Slaughter (HB 1392).  This bill prohibits buying, selling or transporting horsemeat for human consumption or horses for slaughter for human consumption.  It was filed after the bill introduction deadline so it has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.  If it comes out of Rules, it will be assigned to a standing committee and will be scheduled for a hearing.

Hunting related legislation:

  • St. Mary’s Safety Zone (HB 1133):  This is a similar bill that would reduce the safety zone in St. Mary’s for bowhunting to 100 yards.  It has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Environmental Affairs Committee on February 28th.

 

  • Statewide Sunday Hunting (HB 671 & HB 890).  HB 671 would authorize bow hunting of deer on private property on any Sunday of bow hunting season, and HB 890 would remove the county specific Sunday hunting provisions and allow DNR to establish Sunday hunting throughout the entire deer hunting season.  Counties that prohibit Sunday hunting are exempt.  Both bills have been assigned to the House Environmental Affairs Committee.  HB 671 had its hearing yesterday and HB 890 is scheduled for a hearing on February 19th at 1pm.

 

  • Deer Baiting (HB 860).  This bill prohibits feeding or baiting deer except for hunting or population control activities authorized by DNR.  It has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Environmental Affairs Committee on February 19th at 1pm.

 

UPCOMING HEARINGS

In case it’s easier to see all the hearings in one place, here they are!

Thank you to Tami Santelli for compiling the updates.