The Maryland House of Delegates approved the bill late March 18. The measure now goes to the state Senate for its consideration.
The bill would provide low-cost vouchers for low-income residents and make competitive grants available to animal shelters and rescue groups. It would be funded with a surcharge on the registration fees that pet food manufacturers must pay to sell their products in the state. If those companies passed on those costs, consumers would pay 36 cents in additional pet food costs per animal per year, bill supporters say.
The bill is aimed at reducing the number of animals who are put down in overcrowded shelters. Each year, an estimated 45,000 cats and dogs – or almost half of those who enter shelters -- are destroyed at a cost of about $8 million. Of the 45,000 killed in 2011, almost 35,000 were cats, according to Maryland Votes for Animals, which backs the bill.
Supporters say similar measures adopted in other states have cut euthanasia rates dramatically.
“For example, New Jersey witnessed a 61-percent decrease and New Hampshire over a 75-percent decrease in their euthanasia rates,” Maryland Votes for Animals said. “In the state of New Hampshire, for every $1 invested in spay/neuter programs, it saved $3.15 in reduced impoundment costs.”