Save thousands of animals and millions of dollars

Legislation would reduce euthanasia by almost half in Maryland at no cost to taxpayers

March 19, 2013|By Barbara A. Frush

When 45,000 dogs and cats are tragically killed yearly in Maryland, costing taxpayers over $8 million, a remedy is long overdue. That's why Sen. Joanne Benson and I sponsored House Bill 767 and Senate Bill 820 in the 2013 General Assembly. It will establish a voluntary, low-cost spay-neuter program for dogs and cats owned by low-income Marylanders — and it will do this without raising your taxes.

Each year, close to 100,000 dogs and cats are surrendered to Maryland animal shelters and control facilities, including boxes of puppies and kittens, and the public must pay for their care. Otherwise, they'd be roaming the streets, unvaccinated, causing human health risks, car accidents and more.

Housing, food and adoption efforts cost millions of dollars. Yet, almost half of those dogs and cats never get that good "forever" home. There's only so much room at the shelter: They must be killed as more come in. Adding to these costs is the psychological toll on animal shelter personnel who must insert that needle, often ending a perfectly healthy dog or cat's life.

Thirty-four other states have successfully tackled this problem by instituting voluntary, low-cost dog and cat spay-neuter programs. New Jersey's program reduced euthanasia rates by 61 percent, while New Hampshire's rate decreased by 75 percent — and realized more than $3 in savings for every dollar invested. Now it's Maryland's turn.

After two years of study by the volunteer Spay/Neuter Task Force commissioned by Gov. Martin O'Malley and the legislature, House Bill 767/Senate Bill 820 is our best answer. It reflects the opinions of veterinarians, health officials, agriculture, the pet food industry and animal welfare workers. It is based on research, meetings and compromises. The bill passed the House of Delegates last week and is now awaiting action in the state Senate.

The bill provides funds for spay-neuter services for distribution through competitive grants to organizations targeting low-income Maryland pet owners, the group shown by previous studies to be the most critical in successfully reducing euthanasia rates. The idea was supported by 7 out of 10 Marylanders randomly surveyed during fall 2012.

The spay-neuter bill would generate funding from a surcharge on the fee that manufacturers must pay to sell pet food in Maryland. Of all the funding mechanisms considered by the Spay/Neuter Task Force, this source was found to be the most reliable, sustainable and fair. The cost works out to about 36 cents in additional pet food costs per animal per year. If the manufacturers passed along those extra costs to buyers, 8 out of 10 pet owners surveyed supported it.

Whether or not you are passionate about dogs and cats, this bill will benefit you, yet take nothing from our state coffers. It will prevent the needless deaths of 45,000 dogs and cats every year while saving the state millions of dollars. Everybody wins — the animals and you.

Del. Barbara A. Frush, a Democrat, represents District 21 in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Her email is For more information, go to

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