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Feral cat caregivers may get legal protection in Maryland

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A bipartisan proposal to give feral cat caregivers certain legal protections has been introduced in both chambers of the Maryland legislature, proponents said March 3.

House Bill 1473 (HB 1473) and Senate Bill 1010 (SB 1010) would prohibit any local or county government from enacting or enforcing a ban on feeding or providing veterinary care to unowned “community cats” who live outdoors. Caregivers of such cats could not be prosecuted for abandonment for getting these cats veterinary care, such as spaying/neutering, and then returning them to their outdoor homes.

The legislation seeks to recognize that caregivers are Good Samaritans and are distinct from those who dump their pets without regard for their welfare, according to the Maryland Animal Law Center.

The proposal was introduced by Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s County) and Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County). Kach told Examiner.com that the proposal could face an uphill battle due to opposition from the influential Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), which sees the legislation as infringing on the authority of county governments.

The Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee has scheduled a hearing on the matter for March 12 at 1 p.m. in Annapolis.

UPDATE: Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare group based in Utah, has set up a webpage to help Maryland residents urge their elected officials to support the legislation.

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