Wicomico Puppy Mill Inspires New Laws in Maryland - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wicomico Puppy Mill Inspires New Laws in Maryland

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Gov. Larry Hogan and Gem, a rescued Pomeranian from Wicomico County. (Photo: Aaron Balsamo) Gov. Larry Hogan and Gem, a rescued Pomeranian from Wicomico County. (Photo: Aaron Balsamo)

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. - On Thursday, Maryland Gov.  Larry Hogan had some company with him in Annapolis as his signature created new laws in the state. Hogan was joined by Gem, who is one of the 310 dogs that were rescued from a puppy mill operation in the Wicomico County community of Eden last April.  A couple of the new laws signed by Hogan will look to prevent similar situations, or provided much needed assistance when animals need to be rescued.

The first new law makes changes to an old one when it comes to kennel licenses in the state.  Previously, any dog owner with 15 or more unspayed females used for breeding, and who sold dogs from six or more litters a year, needed to get a kennel license in Maryland.  A new law signed by Hogan on Thursday reduces the number to six unspayed females.  The law also removes the word "and" and replaces it with "or."  So, now any dog owner with six or more unspayed females, or sells dogs from six or more litters must get a license.

Aaron Balsamo, executive director of the Humane Society of Wicomico County, said Friday that the new law will allow local jurisdictions to keep an eye on breeding operations.

Another bill that Hogan signed created the Animal Abuse Emergency Compensation fund.

"It's going to take fines from animal cruelty and neglect cases that would typically go into the general fund or elsewhere in the state and it's going to divert those funds into this fund that was newly created," Balsamo said.

Next year, state budget money can also be put into that fund.  The money will be used in emergency situations, when animals are seized and a large number of them need to be cared for.

"There's stories from all over the state, even smaller scale seizures, 30 to 40 dogs, that some shelters weren't able to pull in the funds.  And I know some shelters that are thankful they had good lines of credit to use for it. So, it's going to be very useful," Balsamo told WBOC Friday.

The new laws officially go into effect Oct. 1.

There were two other pieces of legislation, sponsored by Senator Jim Mathias, that did not make their way out of committee.  The first said that a person charged with animal cruelty to 10 or more dogs would face a felony charge, rather than the current misdemeanor in Maryland.  The second bill looked to create an animal abuse registry for people convicted of the offense.  Despite the failure of the two bills, Mathias and Balsamo said they would try again next year, during the legislative session, to get them passed.

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