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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                   Spring 2013

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Legislative Update 2013
by James B. Reed, DVM

This year’s legislative session has reviewed bills in three areas that affect the veterinary profession.

House Bill 78 is an emergency bill to address the current ruling in the Court of Appeals regarding the case of Tracy v. Solesky. It creates “a rebuttable presumption that an owner of a dog that bites a victim knew, or should have known, that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.” This bill essentially changes the current “Common Law” application to the first time bite. Owners would now be liable at the first bite of the dog and would need to prove to the court if taken to trial that the dog is not vicious or dangerous. The term rebuttable presumption assumes the dog is dangerous so the burden is now on the owner to provide evidence to the contrary. This bill also specifies that the policy of rebuttable presumption applies to the owners without regard to the pet’s breed or heritage.

The second part of the bill aims to restrict liability to only the owner of the dog. Initially, the bill protected only landlords, but with amendments that were suggested by the MVMA’s legal counsel, it has been amended to read that “action against a person other than an owner of a dog reverts back to a retained common law of liability that previously existed.” This is relevant to people handling dogs at kennels, veterinary hospitals, and dog walkers. The MVMA supports this bill as amended in the third reading since it reverses the single breed liability and limits the assumed liability to only the owner.

This bill has passed the House with 133 unanimous “yeas;” a similar bill drafted in the Senate, Senate Bill 160, has passed with Amendments, and was to be heard in the House Judiciary in late March.

Click here to read HB 78

Click here to see the amendments to HB 78

Click here to read SB 160

Click here to see the amendments to SB 160

House Bill 618 was also reviewed after being introduced by the House in relation to the Solesky decision. The bill was intended to restrict direct liability to owners of dogs that bite while off leash and at large. This bill lacks public support and support from the Senate, and therefore is unlikely to move forward.

House Bill 767 has received much community support and was recently passed with amendments. Starting with a task force created over 1 year ago this bill was drafted by legislators to address the high incidence of euthanasia of unwanted pets and the significant costs for state and local government managing the problem of pet overpopulation through creation of a Spay-Neuter Fund. The bill establishes a fund managed by the Department of Agriculture to provide competitive grants to communities for animal sterilization, thereby reducing the unintentional litters of pets in certain low income areas. The fund would be supported by monies collected from an increase in fees to the pet food industry. Funds so collected would also be used for public education and outreach programs. These funds would be separate and special to the General Fund in the state, and would be non-lapsing.

MVMA President Kris Evans spoke in favor of this bill at a hearing before the House on February 21, when the original language provided for individual vouchers that qualified pet owners could submit to participating veterinarians, but voiced concerns that certain standards of care be met, and that there be no liabilities to veterinarians for not providing services, in accordance to the restrictions placed on the voucher. This bill was debated by the MVMA Board of Directors on multiple occasions, and they determined that support for the bill should be given to continue the long legacy of the MVMA’s participation in community efforts to help control animal population. The amendments providing for monies as grants rather than vouchers is viewed as beneficial to the veterinary community.

The corresponding bill in the Senate SB820 was heard in early March and passed with amendments.

Click here to read SB 820

Click here for amendments to SB 820

Senate Bill 520 was introduced this year seeking to prohibit use of antimicrobials in commercial animal food and drinking water for non-therapeutic use and in the absence of disease diagnosed by a veterinarian. This bill has a large impact on our agricultural community, in particular, poultry producers. The list of drugs for non-therapeutic use includes those for growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain, routine disease prevention, or any other routine purpose. The bill further prevents the sale of any commercial feed containing said ingredients in the State of Maryland. The AVMA has had a national interest in such bills and has opposed most of these bills. The MVMA will continue to collaborate with the AVMA legislative services on this bill.

Final resolutions and additional comments on these legislative matters will be available in the summer newsletter.

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Important Links from this article

Read HB 78

Amendments to HB 78

Read SB 160

Amendments to SB 160

Read SB 820

Amendments to SB 820

© 2013 Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

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