Bravo! Another victory for grassroots! At the March 9 hearing for Maryland House Bill HB 912, our correspondent Nancy Hill (legislative representative for the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation) reported that Chairman Maggie MacIntosh announced that she has received more e-mails against HB912 than she had ever received on other significant legislative issues. As a result, the committee KILLED the bill by giving it an unfavorable report! Kudos to everyone who wrote in.
HB 912 would have changed the term “owner” to “guardian” throughout Maryland law. This bill was opposed by every major national and state animal organization, including but not limited to, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Horse Council – and on and on (see the March print edition of The Equiery or visit www.equiery.com and look on the home page in the lower right hand side for the legislative archives).
How did HB 912, which was such an obviously bad piece of legislation, even make it on the docket? Apparently, the sponsor of the bill, Delegate Kach, was approached by one of his former legislative aides who is now in law school and is taking a course on animal law, who thought this would be a good idea. Del Kach and his aide both argued that HB 912 is meant to be a “cultural shift” in the way people look at their animals, i.e. , owning a pet is not like owning a piano. Then, Del. Kach told the committee that he has drawn up an amendment that defines “guardian” as “owner.” Obviously, the amendment would undo what the bill was trying to do, rendering the bill moot. Kudos to the Environmental Matters Committee, who apparently realized the absurdity of the bill and promptly killed it.
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While I agree that perhaps animals should not have the same legal rights and protections, I DO believe that something better than than laws that consider animals as “property.” For example, a car is property. If one does not “feed” a car – with fuel, oil, etc – then the car just will cease to work. If one has an animal, say a horse – and doesn’t feed it, the animal will suffer physical and emotional pain and could eventually die. Animals are not humans, but they should be considered more than property. Isn’t it time we put out collective heads together and come up with some creative, meaningul legislation to correct this discrepancy? I am personally tired of seeing people who willfully & cruelly abuse and neglect animals get off with probation or a small fine. Thank you for your consideration.
In Maryland, intentional cruelty to animals is a felony. Intentional cruelty would include “willful and cruel abuse and neglect.” Until recent years, these crimes were considered misdemeanors. Maryland has led the nation in increasing the penalties for abuse and neglect, starting with ratcheting these crime up from mere misdemeanors to actual felonies.
Thank you for the reply and that is good news (I live in Virginia by the way, so I’m not totally current with all MD goings on). While I am glad that Maryland is leading the way in this area, I wish more states would follow that lead.