The last few days have been a flurry of activity in Annapolis, since they just passed a critical deadline in the General Assembly. Yesterday was the “crossover” deadline, which is the date by which bills must pass the chamber in which they were introduced (i.e. a House bill must pass the House and a Senate bill must pass the Senate). This means lawmakers were working overtime to pass as many bills out of committee and off of the floor as possible – including many animal related bills!
If bills did NOT make this deadline, it doesn’t absolutely mean they are dead, but it does mean there are additional hurdles they will face, making it unlikely they will make it through this year. For bills that DID make the deadline, there are still some additional steps before these bills become law – even if the House and Senate passed identical versions of the same bill. House bills will now cross over to the Senate and will be scheduled for brief hearings in which only the bill sponsor can testify, and the same is true for Senate bills. So we will see a second round of hearings and floor votes, even though lawmakers have already heard and voted on their versions these bills. That’s just the process – a House bill must pass both the House and Senate and/or a Senate bill must pass both the Senate and the House in order to become law.
Thank you to Tami Santelli for the updates.
***Priority items for the next week***
- Prohibiting Breed Discrimination – If your state senator is on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, call and ask for his/her support of HB 422! Then, use this link to send a follow up email.
BILL SUMMARIES AND STATUS:
- Dog Bite Liability (SB 247/HB 73). SB 247 has passed the Senate and HB 73 has passed the House! This legislation removes strict liability for landlords and other third parties, and puts in place a “rebuttable presumption” for dog owners, regardless of the breed of their dog – and, as amended, it also establishes strict liability for injuries caused by a dog running at large. You can read the amended language here. SB 247 has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on March 25th at 1pm. For information about next steps, see above. J But we are almost there!
- Roadside Zoos (SB 827/HB 1124). SB 827 has passed the Senate and HB 1124 has passed the House! As amended by the committees, this legislation would put in place basic requirements for facilities that keep especially dangerous wild animals (big cats, bears and primates).
- Costs of Care (SB 149/HB 93). HB 93 has passed the House! This legislation will allow judges to order people convicted of cruelty to pay the costs of caring for the animals during the trial. It was substantially amended by theHouse Judiciary Committee so that reimbursement will be capped at $15,000 and would only be available in felony animal cruelty cases. You can read the amended version here. We will be working to strengthen the bill in theSenate Judicial Proceedings Committee. But this legislation has been introduced for several years and this is the first time it has ever moved out of the House Judiciary Committee – so that’s good news!
- Surgical Procedures (SB 659/HB 665). SB 659 has passed the Senate and HB 665 has passed the House! This legislation bans ear cropping, tail docking, removal of dewclaws and C-sections of dogs unless done by a veterinarian under anesthesia. The Senate adopted an amendment allowing ear cropping, tail docking and the removal of dewclaws by a vet tech under the supervision of a veterinarian, so the differences will have to be reconciled. You can read the language of SB 659 and HB 665.
- Devocalization (SB 660/HB 667). SB 660 has passed the Senate and HB 667 has passed the House! This bill bans debarking or surgically silencing dogs or cats. The House and Senate adopted slightly different versions, so they will have to be reconciled.
- School Reporting – Animal Cruelty (HB 222). HB 222 has passed the House! This bill adds felony animal cruelty to the list of offenses that must be reported to school officials by law enforcement. It had a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee TODAY and is now awaiting a vote in that committee.
- 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 is awaiting a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
- 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 is awaiting a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
Other dog bite related legislation:
- 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. This bill was withdrawn by the sponsor.
- Prohibiting Breed Discrimination (SB 991/HB 422): As it was introduced, this bill prohibits a dog from being deemed dangerous based solely 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 was amended by House Judiciary Committee which removed the provisions about discrimination in housing and clarified that it applies only prospectively (i.e. to any future local BSL – but not existing bans, as in Prince George’s). Even with these changes, this would be a huge step forward for Maryland, especially in light of the Court of Appeals ruling. It would be great to get this on the books!! HB 422 will now be assigned a hearing date in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. SB 991 is still in the Senate Rules Committee because it was late-filed.
- Dog Bite Reporting – Rabies (HB 1204): Requires the owner of a dog who bites someone to provide the injured person with proof of rabies vaccination. It is awaiting a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
Other animal related legislation:
- 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 is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
- Feral Cats (SB 1010/HB 1473). 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. SB 1010 had a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week and is awaiting a vote. HB 1473 was filed late and is still in the House Rules Committee.
- Horse Slaughter (HB 1392). This bill prohibits buying, selling or transporting horsemeat for human consumption or horses for slaughter for human consumption. It is awaiting a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
- Baltimore County Shelter (HB 1474). This is also a late-filed bill that would require Baltimore County animal control to make it a priority to adopt unclaimed dogs or cats and establish a volunteer program. It has been assigned to the House Rules Committee. This bill has missed the crossover deadline so it is unlikely to move for this year.
Hunting related legislation:
- Montgomery County Safety Zone (SB 309/HB 138): HB 138 has passed the House and SB 309 has passed the Senate. As amended, this bill would reduce the “safety zone” for bowhunting in Montgomery County from 150 yards to 100 yards.
- St. Mary’s Safety Zone (HB 1133): HB 1133 has passed the House. This is a similar bill that would reduce the safety zone in St. Mary’s for bowhunting to 100 yards.
- County Sunday Hunting Bills. There are several bills expanding Sunday hunting in various counties. They are all assigned to the House Environmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. If you are interested, here is more information on the bills impacting Anne Arundel (HB 197/SB 191), Western Maryland (SB 472, SB 473/HB 406, HB 432), Calvert (HB 759) and Harford (HB 672).
- 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 Sundayhunting are exempt. Both bills are waiting for votes in the House Environmental Affairs Committee. These bills have missed the crossover deadline so they are unlikely to move for this year.
- 3/19 – tethering dogs in cold weather (HB 1503) – House Judiciary Committee
- 3/25 – dog bite liability (SB 247) – House Judiciary Committee