Kitty Post: Free-Roaming Community Cats Are on Maryland’s Legislative Agenda By Sallie Rhodes
Updated: May 6, 2022
The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering several bills to support humane treatment of feral cats as well as pet cats and dogs in our state. First, to support the spaying and neutering of free-roaming community cats, both the Maryland House and the Senate are entertaining bills to extend the Spay/Neuter Funding authority within the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) for an additional 10 years. The current funding authority, which provides competitive grants to groups like Beltsville Community Cats (BCC), will expire this year.
In January, BCC President Sallie Rhodes testified before the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee on HB 0191, the House version of the spay/neuter bill. She noted that one female cat in this area typically has three litters a year (a total of 12 kittens each year), potentially resulting in an exponential growth in the feral cat population. She explained that spay/neuter groups like BCC use humane strategies, such as trapping-neutering-vaccinating-returning (TNVR) adult community cats and rescuing young kittens to be adopted into forever homes, to control the growth in the community cat population. In addition, vaccinating community cats can reduce the potential for these cats to transmit disease to other cats, including pet cats that are allowed to roam outside.
According to Delegate Mary Lehman’s office, the House passed HB 0191 in early March and the companion bill (the same bill except for 3 words) has passed the Senate. With a minor amendment to the Senate bill, this legislation should be signed into law by the end of March.
Delegate Lehman (District 21), a long-time advocate for animal issues, is also sponsoring a “shelter for unattended dogs” bill that would require Maryland residents to provide adequate shelter when leaving their dogs out in the elements. While there is significant support for the House version of this bill, there is also opposition, making final passage uncertain.
A third bill being considered by the Maryland Legislature would prohibit veterinarians from declawing cats with a few exceptions under a tight set of circumstances. This bill has passed both the House and the Senate, and a final vote on the conferenced bill will happen sometime after March 21st. If passed, Maryland will become the second state to ban declawing.
BCC would like to thank Delegate Lehman for her tireless efforts to ensure that cats and dogs in Maryland are treated humanely and that groups like BCC have the resources they need to implement humane strategies designed to control and protect the community cat population.