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Maryland Update: Three Dog Bills Impacting Dog Ownership Pass House

(Tuesday, March 18, 2014)
The Maryland House of Representatives passed three bills on Third Reading on Friday, March 14 that will impact dog owners. This includes a bill regarding ear cropping and tail docking, debarking, and a positive bill prohibiting breed-specific legislation.

Those who reside or participate in events in Maryland are urged to contact the Maryland Senate about these important measures. View contact information for the Senate here. Select the “Who Represents Me?” link on the page to find the name and contact information for your State Senator.

Summary:

House Bill 422This bill states that a dog may not be declared potentially dangerous based solely on the dog’s “breed, type or heritage” and prohibits counties and municipalities from enacting laws prohibiting ownership of specific breeds. A recent amendment removed a provision in the original bill that would have prohibited landlords from denying occupancy based on breed. However, the bill does not prohibit landlords from restricting ownership of all dogs or of dogs declared dangerous under Maryland law. The AKC and Maryland Dog Federation both support this bill.

House Bill 665This bill as introduced would have allowed veterinarians to perform ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal or surgical births and require that they use anesthesia. The AKC expressed concerns that this would not be in the best interest of dogs, as tail docking is often done when puppies are too young for anesthesia. To address these concerns, the bill was amended to state that anesthesia would only be required “when appropriate.” All these procedures must still be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

House Bill 667This bill only allows debarking if it is medically necessary to treat an illness, injury or defect that is causing the animal harm or pain. A veterinarian would be required to provide a written certification that includes supporting diagnosis and findings as to why the procedure was necessary.

There is much misinformation about the veterinary surgical procedure of debarking. Debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that may allow a dog owner to keep a dog in its loving home rather than to be forced to euthanize or surrender it to a shelter when the pet's noisy behavior continually disrupts the community. Debarking should only be performed under anesthesia by a qualified veterinarian after behavioral modification efforts to correct a dog’s excessive barking have failed. As with other veterinary medical decisions, the decision to debark a dog is best left to individual owners and their veterinarians.

Talking Points for HB 667:

Read the AKC’s position statement on debarking
Read AKC’s Issue Analysis: Dispelling the Myths of Cropped Ears, Docked Tails, Dewclaws, and Debarking

AKC Government Relations will continue to closely monitor these and all dog-related measures in Maryland and provide information as it becomes available. For questions or more information, contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.