A voice for the animals

Last year’s bill signing where Maryland made historic strides to protect animals. This year’s Humane Lobby Day is set for Feb. 12.

ANNAPOLIS — Stevensville animal rights advocate and supporter Kathy Trotter is again readying to lobby Team 36 for their support to co-sponsor legislation for the animals. On the Queen Anne’s County Animal Control Commission and on the Board for Maryland Votes for Animals, Trotter and her husband, Don, work tirelessly at the state and county levels to provide a voice for animals.

“Together we will be the voice and make a positive difference for the animals in Maryland,” said Trotter, who works closely alongside Emily Hovermale of the Humane Society of the United States and Lisa G. Radov of Maryland Votes for Animals. Last year’s bill signing in Maryland marked historic measures for the animals, but still more needs to be done for their protection, Trotter said, “Animals are my passion and they need us to be their voice.”

“Three bills passed that greatly improve the welfare of animals in our state,” said Radov. “Cracking down on the cruel puppy mill industry, Maryland became the second state after California to ban the sales of dogs and cats in pet stores.”

Additionally, in what has been called “The Beagle Bill,” Maryland followed six other states in passing legislation to save healthy cats and dogs from being euthanized after they have been used in research. Maryland also joined 26 other states, including all of Maryland’s neighbors and the District of Columbia, and passed legislation allowing judges, as a condition of sentencing, to ban convicted animal abusers from owning, possessing or residing with animals for a specified period of time.

Some of the bills that they championed were unsuccessful this session, Radov said. However, as with the Humane Adoption of Companion Animals Act of 2018, which took four years to pass, some legislation takes several sessions for legislators to become familiar with the issues, especially ones that are complicated or that they have never considered. This past session’s bill dealing with animal sexual abuse is a prime example of the type of complicated issue that will most likely require several sessions to pass, she said.

In 2019, they are hoping to successfully pass three laws:

• Protection of Animals from Sexual Abuse: This legislation will close loopholes in Maryland Law to clearly define what constitutes sexual abuse to animals so that those who engage in animal sexual abuse, as well as those who allow others to sexually abuse their pets (often for profit), can be properly penalized. Studies have shown that violence to animals has a direct correlation to abuse of children. Although Maryland Law criminalizes broadly “unnatural or perverted sexual practices,” the lack of clarity in the law has proven to be an obstacle for prosecutors of these cases. Sponsored by Senator Susan C. Lee and Delegate Vanessa E. Atterbeary.

• Costs of Care: This establishes a legal process so that a person who has animals seized due to allegations of cruelty may be required to post a bond to pay for the animals’ care if a court determines that the seizure was lawful and the costs requested are reasonable. This would prevent animal control agencies in Maryland from incurring crippling costs caring for these seized animals while the case is being adjudicated, saving tax dollars and allowing the animals to be adopted into new homes if the owner does not post a bond to cover costs of caring for the animals. Sponsored by Senator Justin Ready and Delegate David Moon.

• Extending the Ban of Cownose Rays Killing Contests: In these cruel contests, Radov said, participants compete to kill hundreds of Cownose Rays who migrate into the Chesapeake Bay while they are pregnant and then throw the dead animals back into Chesapeake Bay. This legislation extends the moratorium on these brutal contests imposed by 2017 legislation. Sponsored by Senator Ronald N. Young and Delegate Dana Stein.

The District 36 team members are not official co-sponsors of any of the above bills, said Hovermale, as the bills were already in the process of being introduced when contacted by Trotter, but Delegates Steve Arentz, Jeff Ghrist and Jay Jacobs and Senator Steve Hershey did let her know they would offer their support.

It’s not too late to have people register for Humane Lobby Day in Annapolis on Feb. 12, added Hovermale, where they plan to advocate for all three of the bills with legislators on that day.

“Humane Lobby Day is a great opportunity for advocates from all around the state to meet with their elected officials about animal welfare legislation. Showing legislators that their constituents care about animal welfare, we can make a difference for animals in our state,” she said.

Trotter’s goal is to continue to raise awareness for these issues. “I do speak up for the animals, but play just a small part,” she said. “As the saying goes ‘It takes a village,’ and I’m a proud member of that village.”

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