Maryland’s Unfinished Agenda for Animals Advances in 2021!

The 2021 Session was historic as it was conducted in a virtual format.  While the halls of Annapolis legislative chambers were quiet except for legislators and their staff, the usual rapid pace of bills introduced and hearings that occur in a normal session continued. Advocates and organizations testified in front of committees of legislators using Zoom from our homes.

With the early close of the 2020 Maryland General Assembly Session, our theme for 2021 was Maryland’s Unfinished Agenda for Animals. We were pleased to see the following bills pass in the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session: Prohibition on Cosmetics Testing and Sales of Cosmetics Tested on Animals in Maryland, making Maryland the fifth state to end this inhumane and unnecessary practice; Prohibition on Wildlife Killing Contests, making Maryland the eighth state to stop these cruel contests; and Prohibition on Intentional Balloon Releases, making Maryland the sixth state to protect marine species, wildlife, and our environment from the hazards posed by these balloons that do not decompose. We also passed bills making it a crime to intentionally harm or kill service animals, provide veterinary care reimbursement for retired law enforcement K-9’s, close loopholes in the 2018 retail pet store law to include brokers, allow shelters to waive fees for veterans who adopt a dog or cat, and require training and continuing education for animal control officers in Maryland. We strengthened the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 by passing legislation to require that neonicotinoid pesticides may only be sold to “certified applicators” with employee assistance at retail establishments.

While we celebrate the gains that we have made for Maryland’s animals, we were disappointed that the following bills did not pass: Protection for Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather, which passed in the House 121-9 but failed to advance out of committee in the Senate, Costs of Care, which provides a process when animals are seized in animal cruelty cases, and Extension of Maryland’s Spay/ Neuter Fund, which would continue Maryland’s lifesaving program that provides low cost spay and neuter services and TNR.

We plan to introduce these bills again next year and look forward to working with Maryland’s legislators as these are pressing issues that affect Maryland’s animals. Many thanks to our bill sponsors, to legislators who championed our bills in committee and on the chamber floor, as well as the numerous advocates and organizations who worked tirelessly with us this session.

We are grateful for your support and look forward to 2022 as we work to improve the lives of animals in Maryland. Please sign up for Action Alerts www.voteanimals.com. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @MDVotesAnimals. Stay tuned!!

2021 WINS for Maryland’s Animals:

-Banning Cosmetic Testing on Animals (SB 282/HB 611) sponsored by Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Terri Hill prohibits testing on and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals in Maryland.

-Banning Wildlife Killing Contests (SB 200/HB 293) sponsored by Senator Ron Young and Delegate Dana Stein bans organized wildlife killing contests where the sole objective is to kill as many animals as possible for prizes or cash.

-Banning Balloon Releases (SB 716/ HB 391) sponsored by Senator Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Wayne Hartman prohibits organizing or participating in a mass balloon release.

-Protecting Service Animals from Harm (SB 607/HB 234) sponsored by Senator Michael Jackson and Delegate Nicole Williams makes it a crime to intentionally harm or kill a service animal with designated penalties including courts being able to order a defendant to pay restitution.

-Veterinary Care for Retired Law Enforcement K-9’s (SB 156) sponsored by Senator Kramer requires veterinary services for adopted law enforcement K -9’s to be reimbursed by State or local law enforcement agencies up to a certain limit.

-Required Education and Training for Animal Control Officers (SB 159/HB 281) sponsored by Senator Jeff Waldstreicher and Delegate Mark Chang requires that animal control officers have a certain number of hours for training and continuing education approved by their county.

-Domestic Animals – Retail Pet Stores and Task Force (SB 103) sponsored by Senator Ben Kramer alters the definition of a retail pet store to include brokers and sets up a task force to study canine breeding facilities and sourcing standards in Maryland.

-Pets for Vets Act of 2021 (SB 338/HB 563) sponsored by Senator Simonaire and Delegate Long waives adoption fees by local animal control shelters for veterans who adopt a dog or cat.

-Agriculture- Neonicotinoid Pesticides- Sale and Storage (SB 375/ HB 208) sponsored by Senator Kagan and Delegate Healey strengthens the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 by placing restrictions on how and to whom these pesticides are sold at retail.

Bills that Failed to Advance:

-Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather (HB 81/SB 122) sponsored by Delegate Mary Lehman and Senator Ben Kramer would establish minimum standards for keeping unattended dogs safe in extreme weather.

-Costs of Care (SB 760/HB 1080) sponsored by Senator Justin Ready and Delegate David Moon would establish a process to deal with the costs of care of animals seized in cruelty cases.

-Spay /Neuter Fund Extension (HB 146) sponsored by Delegate Mary Lehman would require the Department of Agriculture submit a report regarding future fees to support and extend this program before its sunset in September of 2022.