Tuesday, August 29, 2023

This summer, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) released the 2023 Maryland Humane Scorecard. The scorecard grades legislators in the Maryland State House based on how they voted on key animal protection initiatives introduced during the 2023 session.

Knowing where legislators stand on our key issues, from veterinary access to trapping regulation, is crucial as we strive to make our voices louder than those of the trophy hunters, puppy mill lobbyists, and factory farmers. Every election cycle, HSLF supports candidates who understand the stakes of animal welfare. We want to elect legislators who will support laws that stop cruelty at the source – and we want to inform voters on which legislators are working to make Maryland a more humane home for companion animals and wildlife. The 2023 Maryland Humane Scorecard is one tool we have that serves two critical functions in this fight, as—it marks who did and who did not prioritize animal protection.

Some of those who stand firmly on our side of this fight are the highest scorers—the 100% club members. Their dedication is reflected in their positive track record on humane priorities which have united legislators on both sides of the aisle. The bipartisan support of the bills below indicates how animal protection remains a point of commonality for lawmakers in Maryland and across the country.

The bills scored on the 2023 Maryland Humane Scorecard which passed the state legislature and were signed into law include:

  • Eviction Protections (SB 279/HB 102): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 279/HB 102, a bill establishing basic protections for people - and pets - facing eviction. Roughly 72% of renters have companion animals, and these Marylanders could be facing eviction in record numbers. This bill requires all individuals facing eviction to receive information on how to plan and care for their pets during the process and requires landlords to perform pet checks of all rental units after an eviction takes place. Among other reforms, landlords must also provide tenants with the contact information of a shelter that takes in any pets left behind. Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D) and Rep. Dana Stein (D) sponsored the legislation.
  • Research Fund (SB 560/HB 626): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 560/HB 626 to provide grants to scientists in Maryland who are developing non-animal research methods. The first of its kind in the nation, the program is funded through a dedicated mandatory contribution paid annually by facilities in Maryland that are using certain animals in research. Moving away from antiquated animal experiments is better for both humans and animals, and the Human-Relevant Research Fund will accelerate the development of new, cutting-edge scientific discoveries, without animals suffering in the process. Sen. Guy Guzzone (D) and Rep. Bonnie Cullison (D) sponsored the legislation.
  • Bears (SB 310/HB 378): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 310/HB 378, a bill updating the Black Bear Damage Restitution Fund to be a proactive tool to finance conflict avoidance between bears and humans. Similar programs are working in other states to reduce damage to human property and in turn reduce the demand to kill "nuisance" bears causing that damage. Life for bears grows harder every year. In order to coexist with them, we need to use innovation to prevent conflicts before they occur. Sen. Chris West (R) and Rep. Sara Love (D) sponsored the legislation.
  • Trapping (SB 275/HB 406): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 275/HB 406, a bill requiring that all traps are tagged with the license number of the trapper who set it and ensuring that DNR (Department of Natural Resources) is collecting reports for trapping incidents. Traps are inherently cruel, and because traps are indiscriminate, family pets as well as protected, threatened and endangered species, and other animals can be their unintended victims. Proper labeling of traps and prompt reporting of trapping-related incidents is a step in the right direction towards protecting Maryland’s animals from unnecessary suffering and death. Sen. Jack Bailey (R) and Rep. Sara Love (D) sponsored the legislation.
  • Wildlife Advisory Commission (SB 320/HB 188): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 320/HB 188, a bill redefining the membership of Maryland’s Wildlife Advisory Commission to include biologists, conservationists, and recreational users, as well as hunters. Recent research found that more Marylanders believe that we should humanely coexist with wildlife than believe that wildlife should be used and managed for human benefit. Those perspectives will now have a voice when the Commission sets rules regarding hunting and trapping in the state. Sen. Benjamin Brooks (D) and Rep. Julie Palakovich Carr (D) sponsored the legislation.
  • Vet Access (SB 390/HB 325): A ✓ indicates a vote in favor of SB 390/HB 325, a bill expanding veterinary access to shelters and rescues. The veterinary shortage is impacting pet owners everywhere, but nowhere is the need more critical than in shelters. The bill authorizes clinical staff to provide rabies vaccines to shelter animals and requires an expedited process for vets licensed in other states to become licensed to practice in Maryland. Sen. Karen Lewis Young (D) and Rep. Jennifer R. Terrasa (D) sponsored the legislation.

One bill included on the scorecard regarding pet-friendly housing, SB 72/HB 1039 sponsored by Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D) and Rep. Dana C. Jones (D), did not pass the state legislature. While the task force did not pass, HSLF will continue to advocate for reforms that will expand access to pet-friendly housing for renters.

Holding members of state legislatures accountable to humane interests is crucial as we continue our fight for the most vulnerable among us. By increasing the use of scorecards at the state-level, HSLF continues to create a trove of animal protection resources available to voters. Marylanders are encouraged to use this scorecard to make pro-animal choices in the next election as well as to thank bill sponsors and those who scored well.

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 other animal protection bills not included in this scorecard.

The full 2023 Maryland Humane Scorecard can be found online at hslf.org.