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MD Update: Debarking, BSL, Crop/Dock Bills Heading for Final Vote- Contact the Senate Today!

(Thursday, April 03, 2014)
A number of bills relating to dogs in Maryland are expected to be scheduled for a final vote any day. These bills have already passed the House and have companion bills that are also moving, so this may be your last opportunity to comment before a final vote.

Those who reside or participate in dog events in Maryland are strongly encouraged to contact the Maryland Senate TODAY to express comments and concerns you have with the following measures:

House Bill 667 - This bill bans debarking unless 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. The Senate passed a companion version of this bill (Senate Bill 660) on March 10.

The AKC opposes this measure. Debarking is a viable veterinary procedure that may allow a dog owner to keep a dog in its loving home rather than 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.

Action Needed: Contact the Maryland Senate and express your opposition to this measure.

House Bill 73This bill creates strict liability for all dog owners – regardless of breed. If a dog causes personal injury or death, there is then a "rebuttable presumption" that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities. A judge may not make a determination on the rebuttable presumption, however, until after the jury has issued a verdict.

HB 73 further states that the owner of a dog is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property caused while their dog is running at large unless the loss was caused by someone committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense or if the dog was being teased, tormented, abused or provoked. The AKC appreciates this amendment that further clarifies when an owner is liable, but is still unclear how the rebuttable presumption language will be applied.

This bill seeks to repeal the Tracey v. Solesky Court of Appeals ruling that declared all “pit bulls” as dangerous.

Action needed: This bill unanimously passed the House and is pending a final vote in the Senate. A companion measure has already passed the House and Senate. Contact the Senate with comments on this measure.

House Bill 665 - As introduced, this bill would have required 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 or by a registered veterinary technician employed by and under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The companion Senate Bill 659 has passed the House and Senate.

Action needed: Contact the Senate with any comments on House Bill 665.

How to contact the Maryland Senate:

View a full Senate roster, or click on the Maryland General Assembly’s “Who represents me?” link to find the name and contact information for your State Senator.

For questions or more information on these or other dog measures pending in Maryland, contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.