Tuesday, December 21, 2021

For a number of years now, with the primary goal of advancing federal animal protection legislation, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has published the Humane Scorecard to track the relevant votes, co-sponsorships, and other actions of federal lawmakers. It’s popular with our supporters, and it’s become increasingly influential with legislators who know the value of a higher score.

Given the success of the scorecard, and with so much at stake for animals in state capitols, we’ve now started tracking key animal protection votes by state legislators.

Our 2021 Maryland Humane Scorecard is now online, and we invite you to check out how your state legislators stood on a range of animal issues. Please share this scorecard with family, friends, and fellow advocates and help spread the word!

Accountability is critical to our work. We are accountable to our supporters as well as to the animals we seek to defend, and we never forget who we’re working for. This means that we also work continuously to hold elected officials accountable for their track records and their commitment wherever the interests of animals are concerned.

The items scored in the 2021 Maryland Humane Scorecard include:

Wildlife Killing Contests: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB200/HB293, an Act concerning Organized Killing Contests. An undercover investigation by HSUS revealed that competitions are being held in Maryland, where cash or firearm prizes are awarded for the mass killing of wildlife. Participants may use cruel tactics such as lures, calling devices, spotlights, and hound hunting to help them kill the most or the largest animals and win these “wildlife killing contests.” Once killed, the animals are often discarded, leaving their dependent young to die from starvation, predation, or exposure. SB200/HB293 has made Maryland the 8th state to ban this gruesome practice and preserve its treasured wildlife.

Humane Cosmetics Testing: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB282/HB611, an Act concerning Prohibition on Testing Cosmetics on Animals. These tests performed on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice are intensely cruel, and are unreliable predictors of effects on humans. Cosmetic companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. For new ingredients, animal tests are simply unnecessary since many alternative methods—more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry—are available to ensure products are safe for human use. Nearly 2 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and seven states (CA, NV, IL, VA, MD, ME, and HI) now have laws that will prohibit the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. SB282/HB611 has made Maryland the 5th state to prohibit the selling, offering for sale, or transporting of any cosmetic if a component ingredient was subject to new animal testing in 2022.

Balloon Release Ban: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB716/HB391, an Act concerning the Prohibition on Releasing a Balloon Into the Atmosphere. Honoring a celebration or memorial by releasing decorative balloons may seem harmless, but this is not the case for animals who ingest or become entangled in the litter. Once released, balloons can travel hundreds of miles before they burst or deflate, and the pain and suffering they may then cause a wide range of animals is staggering. SB716/HB391 has made Maryland the 6th state to establish civil penalties for helium balloon releases, defending the environment and the vulnerable animals left to suffer the consequences.

Animal Control Officer Training: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB159/HB281, an Act concerning Education and Training Requirements for Humane Society and Animal Control Officers. As Animal Control Officers investigate cruelty and neglect, collect evidence, and handle a wide range of pets, equines, and exotic species, they serve a critical role protecting animals and entire communities. To do so safely requires adequate training. SB159/HB281 has made Maryland the 12th state to mandate that new officers receive continuing education on safe handling skills, animal behavior, and other subjects concerning the safety of animals and officers, alike.

Shelter in Extreme Weather: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB122/HB81, an Act concerning Unattended Dogs in Extreme Weather Conditions. Currently, Maryland state law offers no protections for dogs left outdoors in extreme temperatures. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that no breed of dog be left in below-freezing weather, as even with an outdoor crate or shelter, extended exposure to brutally cold air can result in frostbite and hypothermia. Then in the summer months, heat stroke is another regular cause of death. This is one of the most commonly reported cases of animal cruelty in Maryland, but if SB122/HB81 is passed into law, it will make it a civil offense to leave a dog outside, unprotected, and unattended for over 30 minutes in weather conditions deemed unsafe.

Spay/Neuter Fund: A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of renewing the Spay/Neuter Fund (HB146). After 9 years of successfully reducing stray populations, strains on shelters, and the need to euthanize vulnerable animals, Maryland’s critical Spay/Neuter program is slated to sunset in September 2022. Since its inception the fund has awarded over $5 million in grants to local governments and animal protection nonprofits, using fees collected from pet food companies doing business in Maryland, and is anticipated to fund over 100,000 spay and neuter surgeries by the end of 2022. If HB146 passes to renew the program, it will continue to support low-income pet owners, lessen the burden on streets, and save innocent animal lives.

HSLF acknowledges the limitations of judging legislators based on a few votes and co-sponsorships on animal issues, however important those issues may be. In some cases, legislators must miss votes for unavoidable reasons, such as a death in the family, serious illness, birth of a child or emergency in their district. In assessing the record of your state-level representatives, and your strategy for engaging them in the future, do consider unrecorded matters such as committee participation and performance, House or Senate leadership posts, constituent service and responsiveness, and co-sponsorship of other animal protection bills not included in this scorecard.

This scorecard is a tool for moving the animal protection agenda forward in your state, and it only possible by the continued advocacy and support of members like you. Together, we can build on our victories and make even greater progress for the animals in 2022. We look forward to working with you.