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January 28, 2009

Md. Legislature Introduces Important Animal Welfare Bills

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauds Maryland lawmakers for introducing two important bills to protect animals and consumers during the 2009 legislative session. Maryland legislators have proposed measures that would strengthen protections for dogs at abusive puppy mills and require accurate labels on fur-trimmed garments.

"We commend lawmakers in Maryland for introducing this pair of bills to protect animals from cruelty and abuse and protect consumers from fraud and deception," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS. "The anti-cruelty laws of a state are a reflection of our basic values and attitudes toward animals, and passing these reforms would be a measurable step forward for the state of Maryland."

Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that mass produce puppies for sale in pet stores, over the Internet and directly to consumers. Puppy mills commonly house animals in overcrowded, filthy and inhumane conditions with inadequate shelter and care — where dogs are treated not like family members, but like a cash crop. These breeding operations can range in size from a dozen dogs to hundreds of dogs, often stacked in wire cages, without exercise, socialization or human companionship.

Currently, Maryland does not have any state laws to regulate puppy mills. The legislation introduced by Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-41, S.B. 318 would prevent breeders from possessing more than 50 breeding dogs over the age of 4 months at any time. It also establishes enclosure size and exercise requirements for breeders with more than 10 breeding dogs. Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-36, plans to introduce similar legislation in the House of Delegates.

Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed similar laws last year, and this important legislation will help to curb puppy mill abuses in Maryland — as well as preventing puppy mills from setting up shop in Maryland in the future.

Fur Labeling

A recent investigation by The Humane Society of the United States revealed that many designers and retailers were selling unlabeled fur-trimmed jackets advertised as "faux" of "fake" fur, when laboratory testing showed the fur came from animals, even dogs and raccoon dogs skinned alive in China. 

A loophole in the federal fur labeling law allows products with $150 worth of fur or less to go completely unlabeled. This loophole means that many unlabeled garments are falsely advertised as the wrong species or even as "faux" fur and therefore consumers are not provided with accurate information critical to their purchasing decisions. Several states — such as Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin — have passed fur labeling law so that consumers in those states have additional protection.

Legislation introduced by Delegate Tom Hucker, D-20, H.B. 208, will require all garments containing animal fur to be labeled with the type of animal fur and the country of origin. Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-40, plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills. To learn more about fur and fur labeling go to humanesociety.org/furfree

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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