Local Legislators Propose Strengthening Dog-Fighting Law
Senator Bryan Simonaire, (R-District 31) and Delegate Tony McConkey (R-District 33A) announced they are introducing emergency legislation to deal with the heinous acts of dog baiting. This is in response to the recent finding of two dogs, Rocky Road and Princess, in northern Anne Arundel County who were mauled in separate situations and suspected in dog baiting.
Dog baiting is generally referred to as setting a dog trained for fighting against another chained or confined dog to test its fighting instincts. Many times the dog being baited is severely mauled or killed. Additionally, the bait dog generally has its mouth tied shut and its legs tied together with metal wire. These constraints render the dog as bait; it is unable to defend itself.
While dog fighting is illegal in Maryland, this legislation would specifically define dog baiting and include it in the prohibited list of activities associated with dog fighting. Additionally, this legislation would add a provision to the overall law stating if any dog owner is convicted of an associated dog-fighting activity, the animal(s) shall be awarded to the local humane society or other animal welfare agency.
Under this legislation, the penalty associated with being convicted of dog baiting would carry a maximum of three years in jail and/or fines up to $5,000.
Many other state statutes specifically include dog baiting when defining crimes associated with dog fighting. Marylands current law is silent on dog baiting. Therefore, our legislation ensures that dog baiting is defined and is included in prohibited acts associated with dog fighting in Maryland law. The legislation also ensures that a dog owner convicted of dog fighting or baiting has the dog(s) removed from their ownership. Currently, it is at the courts discretion.
The General Assembly rules will have to be suspended to introduce legislation this late in the session, but both Simonaire and McConkey think it is important to pass this legislation this year, considering the two recent reported cases of suspected dog baiting in northern Anne Arundel County.
Once the bill is introduced, they will push for quick hearings in order to beat the crossover date for the Senate and the House.
It is heartbreaking to see innocent animals manipulated for such a devious and cruel sport, Senator Simonaire stated. The two separate and brutally victimized dogs, Princess and Rocky Road, are a graphic visualization of why we so urgently need this legislation. There is no place for dog baiting or fighting in Anne Arundel County or anywhere in Maryland.
This legislation expands the definitions surrounding dog fights, as baited dogs are not technically engaged in a fight. The individuals are using dogs as bait and they may not fall under the definition of dog fighting. When you put a worm on a hook, you dont say the worm is fighting the fish. The worm is bait! explained Simonaire. In the same way, these dogs are being put up as bait to test the fighting instincts of vicious dogs.
The experience gained from successfully navigating other late legislation last year gives us hope that we can accommodate the lateness of this legislation. I have seen legislation fly through these chambers with the speed of light when there is an urgent need. It is my hope that this will be one of those times, Simonaire concluded.