Maryland House and Senate committees are considering bills over the next week that could cause an owner to permanently lose ownership of their animals when they are suspected of cruelty – even if they are found not guilty.
The AKC agrees that anyone found guilty of cruelty should be punished appropriately, including being responsible for the care of animals seized. However, under Senate Bill 152 and House Bill 135, a person could lose their animals forever just for being accused of cruelty unless they pay monthly fees (as determined by the agency that seized the animals) for the boarding of animals for the duration of the trial and any appeals.
These requirements imply the guilt of an individual before a conviction has been reached, and is likely to legitimize if not increase frivolous accusations and harassment of breeders and multiple-pet owners by anti-breeder radicals.
Those who reside, participate in dog events, or are co-owners of dogs in Maryland are strongly encouraged to contact the committees and express your concerns with Senate Bill 152 and House Bill 135.
1) Require that owners accused of cruelty post a bond to cover the cost of care of all animals seized for the entire length of the trial/appeals – and permanently forfeit ownership rights (regardless of ultimate outcome of a trial) if even one payment is missed.
The court determines the amount of the bond based on information provided by the agency caring for the animal and will include transportation costs, medical care, and ongoing food and sheltering needs.
In addition, the bill specifically states that the court may not consider the accused person’s ability to pay when determining the amount of the bond. AKC believes this punishes dog owners who may lack the resources to board one or multiple pets for months on end during a trial, particularly while also mounting a legal defense. Such owners could be forced to give dur to financial constraints to up their animals before a verdict is reached, even if the court finds them not guilty. If the owner is ultimately found not guilty, the money is refunded; however, the dogs will not be returned if a payment is missed during the trial regardless of the verdict.
2) Require that upon conviction the mistreated animal be removed immediately, and the ownership rights transferred to the impounding agency. AKC recommends that the rights of co-owners who do not currently possess the animal also be considered and that they be given the opportunity to claim the animal prior to its permanent transfer to a shelter or rescue.
What You Can Do:
Contact the committees prior to the hearings and consider attending the hearings if possible to express your concerns. Read AKC’s article “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?” for talking points and more information on this issue.
Senate Bill 152:
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing
Thursday, January 31
East Miller Senate Office Building, Room 2
Visit the Committee website for contact information
House Bill 135:
House Judiciary Committee Hearing
Thursday, February 7
Visit the committee website for full committee contact information
AKC Government Relations will continue to closely monitor these bills and provide more information as it becomes available. For questions, please contact AKC GR at email@example.com.