‘A legacy year’ for animal welfare laws in Annapolis, advocates say

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

A year of abundance led to the passage of many ambitious programs to help struggling families and businesses in the just-completed General Assembly session — and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and legislative leaders signed several of those bills into law Thursday.

But the 2022 session also turned into a year of great victories for the animal rights movement in Maryland. From the most high-profile legislation — a bill to prohibit the declawing of cats — to measures seeking to prevent and mitigate animal cruelty and protect endangered wildlife internationally, “it was a legacy year” for animal welfare, said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Maryland state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“This was the year to get it done for the animals and pass critical reforms that have been debated but never before moved,” she said. “We are grateful that our legislature took action to protect so many animals from inhumane treatment.”

The bill-signing ceremony began with Hogan noting that Senate President Pro Tem Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s) was pinch-hitting for Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), making it a history-making moment in Maryland, with two Black women filling the role of legislative presiding officers at a bill-signing, as House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) took her customary seat to Hogan’s left.

“So you should get pictures,” Hogan told the assembled crowd.

In all, the leaders signed 103 bills Thursday, many of them designed to boost the economy and workforce, fight crime, protect the environment, and improve public and mental health. [Click here for a full list of legislation]

Jones said an influx of federal funding, coupled with “wise decision-making,” enabled lawmakers to “rebuild the foundation of our economy, Maryland’s middle-class families.”

But the abundance of animal rights legislation that passed is noteworthy, and Hogan signed a handful into law Thursday. They were:

  • House Bill 22, from Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery) and Senate Bill 67, from Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), which makes Maryland the second state in the nation to ban the practice of declawing cats.
  • HB 1062, from Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery), which establishes procedures for humane societies or law enforcement agencies to recover the costs of caring for animals seized from cruelty or severe neglect.
  • SB 44, from Sen. Christopher R. West (R-Baltimore County) and HB 16, by Del. Mary Lehman (D-Prince George’s), which prevents people from leaving a dog outside and unattended for longer than 30 minutes without access to shelter during extreme weather conditions. It provides for civil penalties for any offenses.
  • SB 381, from Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) and HB 52, from Del. Sara Love (D-Montgomery), which prohibits the sale of parts and pieces from 15 endangered and imperiled species of wildlife. That legislation stems from a 2021 study from the Humane Society that found items made from ivory were found for sale at 20 stores in Maryland. A dozen other states have similar legislation.

Additionally, Hogan at the first post-session bill signing, on April 12, signed legislation from the Maryland Department of Agriculture to reauthorize for another 10 years the state’s Spay/Neuter Fund, which finances grants to local governments and animal welfare organizations for programs that facilitate and promote spay and neuter services for cats and dogs in the state.

Despite the presence of hundreds of lawmakers and advocates, Thursday’s bill signing ceremony was accomplished in all of 45 minutes. There should be at least one more this spring: Hogan has until late May to sign or veto the rest of the bills that passed during the 90-day session. He also has the option of letting bills go into law without his signature.

“We still have hundreds of bills that are in the review process,” the governor said Thursday.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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