The Maryland House Judicial Proceedings Committee will be holding a hearing on Senate Bill 877 tomorrow, March 8, 2022 at 1:00pm. This bill addresses the issue of animals that are seized and the costs of their care during impoundment.
AKC strongly believes that those who treat animals in a cruel manner should be held accountable and punished accordingly. Current Maryland law clearly defines cruelty and appropriate penalties. However, Senate Bill 877 ignores the basic right of innocent until proven guilty and could cause an owner to permanently lose their animals even if charges are dropped or they are found not guilty if they miss one payment for care during the trial.
Maryland residents are strongly encouraged to contact the committee and express concerns with Senate Bill 877 (scroll down for contact information).
Senate Bill 877 Bill Summary:
As introduced, the bill would create several new provisions, including:
- Requiring the owner of a seized animal to file a petition for its return. This will allow for an authorized agent who is required to protect animals to file a petition with a court in the county where the seizure has occurred for the reasonable cost of caring for the animal, including provisions for food, water, shelter, and medical care. The cost of care for a seized animal will be limited to $15 per day per animal and necessary medical care as determined and by a licensed veterinarian and documented with invoices.
- Requiring the authorized agent to present evidence that demonstrates the amount of reasonable care costs for the seized animal and that the seizure of the animal was warranted.
- Barring the court from considering the owner or custodian’s ability to pay when considering the cost of care and filing fees unless the proceeding involves less than two animals and the only charges are neglect. The owner or custodian will be required to make payments as required by the order. If they fail to do so the animal shall be automatically forfeited, and the authorized agent shall obtain all rights to the animal.
AKC greatly appreciates that the bills clarify that if the owner is found not guilty, the animal must be returned to the owner and the owner is entitled to the return of all reasonable costs of care paid by the owner. However, this appears to be incumbent on whether or not the owner has kept up on payments during the trial. Also, the animal control agency has the right to euthanize the animal at any time during the proceeding if determined necessary by a licensed veterinarian.
The AKC is asking for the bill to not advance until the following issues are addressed:
- The loss of ownership of an animal for failure to make a payment for cost of care even if an owner is ultimately found not guilty of the charges.
- The inability for a judge to consider the ability of an owner/custodian to pay in establishing the cost for care with few exceptions.
- There is no limitation to veterinarian care. As such, language needs to be added that states that alteration (such as sterilization) is allowed only if medically necessary. This is especially important if the owner or custodian is ultimately found not guilty.
While we agree that those convicted of animal cruelty should be held accountable, including paying for the costs of caring for the animals they mistreated. Those who are not guilty should not worry about the loss of their animals for failing to file a timely petition or timely meeting the costs of care requirements placed upon them while awaiting final adjudication of their case. View AKC’s brief animated video for more information on AKC’s position on this issue.
What You Can Do:
Maryland residents and those who participate in dog events in Maryland are encouraged to take the actions listed below. Let the committee know you appreciate that the bill states that the animal and payments will both be returned if the owner is found not guilty. Ask them to not support the bill until it is amended to address the concerns.
Submit testimony by 10:00 am March 8: Witness sign-up and written testimony submission begins the day before the bill hearing at 4:00 pm and remains open until 10:00 am on the day of the hearing
Instruction on submitting testimony for the hearing can be found here.
Contact Senator Waldstreicher and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee before the hearing.
Click here to contact Senator Jeff Waldstreicher.
Click here for Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee member contact information prior to the 1:00 pm hearing on March 8, 2022.
AKC Government Relations and Responsible Dog Owners–Maryland will continue to closely monitor this bill and communicate with the General Assembly. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.