Want to make a major difference in the lives of animals? Here is your chance. All it takes is communicating with your state lawmakers.

Maryland’s state senators and delegates are well into the 2018 legislative session, which ends at midnight on April 9. Among the bills they are considering are several concerning animal welfare rights. The Washington, D.C.,-based Humane Society of the United States is lobbying for four bills this session.

Here is a summary:

  1. The Humane Adoption of Companion Animals in Research Act-House Bill 732/Senate Bill 675: Sadly, this bill has failed for three years in a row, but is back for a fourth try. It would require institutions that use dogs and/or cats in their research to work with rescue organizations to place animals no longer needed for research that are healthy enough for adoption in homes.

Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-19th), of Montgomery County, is the bill’s sponsor, and there are 130 co-sponsors. Joining the fight is Show Your Soft Side, a marketing campaign featuring billboards with famous athletes — such as former Raven and Super Bowl champion Torrey Smith — and others with beagles to fight animal abuse.

Former Raven Torrey Smith is among the celebrities featured in the Show Your Soft Side beagles billboard campaign.

Says Show Your Soft Side co-founder Sande Reisett: “These cats and dogs spend years in cages being tested on for our benefit. Don’t we at least owe them the chance to spend their remaining years being loved?”

Unfortunately, opposition to this bill is powerful — the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. Both have fought the measure each year and now say they will support it only with an amendment. That amendment would remove a provision requiring them to report what they do by providing information on the animals adopted or sent to rescue.

“That’s a scam,” says Del. Kramer. “It will afford them the ability to claim they’re doing something, while in reality they will likely be doing nothing. … The bill will be meaningless.”

Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-43rd), of Baltimore, chairs the House committee that heard this bill. She represents the district that includes Johns Hopkins.

Call her office or email her to advocate support of House Bill 732 WITH reporting (i.e., without amendments). Her office number is 410-841-3407. Email: maggie.mcintosh@house.state.md.us

2) No More Puppy-Mill Pups Act of 2018-House Bill 166:

Puppy mills are horrible places, and animals sold in pet stores often come from these breeders.

This bill would keep puppy mill pets out of Maryland by preventing pet stores from selling dogs or cats.

If a store wants to offer dogs or cats to the public, it would have to work with nonprofit organizations offering pets for adoption.

3) Protecting Animals from Sexually Abusive Predators-House Bill 1134/Senate Bill 800:

These crimes are not rare. Researchers say that people who sexually abuse animals are very likely to sexually abuse children. So stopping this crime is critical not only for the safety of animals, but for people as well.

This bill will close legal loopholes and penalize those who allow their pets to be sexually abused by others (usually for a profit) or force others to sexually abuse animals.

4) Elephants in Traveling Animal Acts-House Bill 618:

This bill would prohibit the use of performing elephants in Maryland. Emily Hovermale, Maryland state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says, “Elephants in circuses and other performing acts suffer lives of unending misery and long-term confinement. They’re trained using abusive and coercive techniques to perform unnatural activities and are deprived of normal lives. Generally, the public agrees that elephants should not be used in performing acts. That’s the reason so many circuses are transitioning away from this form of entertainment.”

Many jurisdictions have passed bills to prohibit elephant performances. Maryland should join them.

If you support these measures, look online for your state legislators’ phone numbers or email addresses. Let them know your opinion. “Let your voice be heard,” says Hovermale, “as we know the animals cannot speak for themselves.”

Deborah Stone and her dog

Deborah Stone and her dog
(Photo provided)

 

Deborah Stone is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and animal rights activist.