High Five for Maryland’s Animals

America’s No. 1 animal rights advocate joins state activists to celebrate a landmark legislative year
It has been a very good year to be an animal in Maryland. Propelled by the volunteer organization Maryland Votes for Animals and bi-partisan support, five animal protection bills became law in 2011.
    “This year was unprecedented,” says Carolyn Kilborn, founder and chair of Maryland Votes for Animals.
    It’s about time. The national animal rights organization, Animal Legal Defense Fund, ranks states by their animal protection laws. Maryland is scraping the bottom of the barrel, ranking 43 out of 50 states.  
    In this year’s unprecedented push, the Number One priority was a law forming a commission to develop a low-cost/no-cost spay and neuter program.
    “Thirty-four states have a statewide spay neuter program,” Kilborn says. “A lack of political will has kept Maryland from having a program, but that has now changed.”
    The bill mandates a Task Force on the Establishment of a Statewide Spay/Neuter Fund to report findings to the governor by January 1, 2012.
    Among the other victories:
    A first step to outlaw puppy mills, the Puppy Mill Registration law requires a person to obtain a kennel license to own or have custody of “15 or more un-spayed female dogs over the age of six months kept for the purpose of breeding the dogs and selling their offspring.”
    The Pet Protective Orders law will allow a judge to include pets in protective orders.
    “We’re very excited about this one,” Kilborn says. “When there is domestic abuse, the abusive spouse will sometimes threaten the pets, and this bill allows pets to be included in protective orders.”
    Antifreeze tastes sweet, but it is deadly. The Antifreeze Safety law requires that a bittering agent be added to antifreeze, making it distasteful to animals who might find a puddle and think they’ve found a treat.
    The Animal Cruelty law allows a court, as a “condition of probation for specified violations concerning animal abuse, neglect, or cruelty, to prohibit the defendant from owning, possessing or residing with an animal.”

Victory Lap

    Join Maryland Votes for Animals in celebrating what Kilborn calls “a magical session for animals” on July 21 at The Bistro at South River Pavilion. The big attraction is Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States.
    Pacelle worked to pass 500 new state laws since 2005 and 25 federal statutes to protect animals in the last decade. He has been profiled in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared major network news programs, along with guest shots on Oprah, Ellen and The Today Show.
    He’ll discuss his New York Times best-selling book, The Bond, and the need for a national dialogue about animals, our bond with them, and the ways we are testing that bond.
    “We know this is not a world where we can do whatever we want to animals. If you save 10, a hundred, a thousand animals in a year, that is a beautiful thing,” Pacelle said.

For tickets: www.voteanimals.org. Seating limited to 125.