Maryland House Bill 912 is attracting the attention of not only local animal organizations but national ones as well…and they are all lining up to oppose the bill. While this is not desirable attention, it is good to know that we have the help and support of major animal welfare organizations. The organizations opposing HB 912 include (but are not limited to) the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Horse Council, the Maryland Dog Federation and the Maryland Association of Wildlife Conservation (an organization for hound sports, including fox chasing clubs, basseting clubs, coon hunters, and beaglers).

On March 1, the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee will consider House Bill 912, which seeks to change the word “owner” to “guardian” in numerous places within state code.  All of the organization noted above, as well as this publication, believe that this will result in a dramatic restriction in the rights of owners and veterinarians to protect and care for dogs.

It has happened in other states, and thus animal welfare proponents have been keeping a watchful eye for attempts by animal right’s activists to do something similar in Maryland, and with the introduction of House Bill 912, that watchfulness was warranted.

While we all feel as though our dogs and horses are part of our families, and it is understandable that some folks might think that “guardian” is a friendlier-sounding term than “owner,” the legal ramifications of “just swapping out words” is tremendous. As noted by attorney Jane Seigler in her Maryland Horse Council legislative blog: “’Guardian’ is a legal term that has significant legal implications and repercussions, including giving animals legal standing as “wards” rather than property.” The replacement of the word “owner” with “guardian” is often the first step in an effort to legally endow all animals with the same rights as humans.

Once the language is changed pertaining to dogs and other domesticated house-animals, it is only a short time before the language is changed for horses as well. This is part of a coordinated national effort to declassify horses as livestock and reclassify them as pets or companion animals. This would have devastating consequences on our national and international veterinary medical system as well as our legal system.

The Maryland Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association are opposing this bill; the two organizations have authored a joint statement on HB 912 listing the adverse affects of “guardianship” on animal owners, service providers, society and animals and will testify against the bill on March .

The Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation is urging the sponsors to withdraw the bill, and they have issued the following statement:

The Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation (MAWC) understands, and shares, the desire to protect dogs, but this bill carries that desire well beyond what we feel is reasonable.  HB 912 has far-reaching…consequences.

MAWC is opposed to the use of “guardian” as it represents a first step toward eliminating an individual’s right to own, breed, and participate in our hound sports.  We see no reason for changing Maryland law that pertains to owning a dog.  Instead, MAWC and other responsible organizations seek to educate the public about proper care and treatment of dogs.

The American Kennel Club is not focusing on convincing the bill sponsors to withdraw the bill. Instead, they have issue the following statement urging all Maryland dog owners to actively lobby members of the House Environmental Matters Committee (which is hearing the bill) prior ot the March 1 hearing, asking said legislators to oppose the bill:

The AKC believes that using the term “guardian” rather than “owner” may actually reduce the legal status and value of dogs as property.  As a result, no one may be legally bound to take responsibility for the dog or properly care for it.

The Equiery joins with the AMVA, MVMA, MHC, MAWC and MDF in opposing HB 912 and encourages all our readers to do the same.

Contact the House Environmental Matters Committee prior to the March 1 hearing and ask the members to vote “no” on House Bill 912.  The contact information is as follows:

Delegate Maggie McIntosh (Chair): (410) 841-3990 or

Delegate James E. Malone, Jr. (Vice Chair): (410) 841-3378 or

Delegate Pamela G. Beidle: (410) 841-3370 or

Delegate Elizabeth Bobo: (410) 841-3205 or

Delegate Rudolph C. Cane: (410) 841-3427 or

Delegate Alfred C. Carr, Jr.: (410) 841-3638 or

Delegate Barbara A. Frush: (410) 841-3114 or

Delegate James W. Gilchrist: (410) 841-3744 or

Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn:(410) 841-3257 or

Delegate Anne Healey: (410) 841-3961 or

Delegate Patrick Hogan: (410) 841-3240 or

Delegate Marvin E. Holmes, Jr.: (410) 841-3310 or

Delegate Jay A. Jacobs: (410) 841-3449 or

Delegate Stephen W. Lafferty: (410) 841-3487 or

Delegate Herb McMillan: (410) 841-3211 or

Delegate Doyle L. Niemann: (410) 841-3326 or

Delegate H. Wayne Norman, Jr.: (410) 841-3284 or

Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell: (410) 841-3314 or

Delegate Charles J. Otto: (410) 841-3433 or

Delegate A. Shane Robinson: (410) 841-3021 or

Delegate Dana M. Stein: (410) 841-3527 or

Delegate Cathleen M. Vitale: (410) 841-3510 or

Delegate Michael H. Weir, Jr.: (410) 841-3328 or

Delegate C.T. Wilson: (410) 841-3325 or


Read AKC’s policy position statement “’Guardian’ v. Owner”;

View and print AKC’s handout The Dangers of Guardianship