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Where those $1,000 fines came from

While they may seem to dog owners to have come out of nowhere, the changes in the city’s animal control law that led to $1,000 fines for off-leash dogs and unscooped poop have a history.

And here it is:

Feb. 25, 2008: The revised law was introduced to the city council, with the following sponsors listed: James B. Kraft, Bill Henry, William H. Cole, IV, Robert W. Curran, Sharon Green Middleton, Edward L. Reisinger, Warren Branch.

It was then sent for review to the following committees and offices:

  • The Public Safety and Health Committee, which completed its review ten months later, gave it a thumbs up.
  • The City Solicitor’s office deemed it legal, which also took ten months.
  • The Health Department, meanwhile, okayed it in three days. Also signing off on it were the city’s Office of Animal Control, Department of Finance and Environmental Control Board.

Dec. 2, 2008: The Public Safety and Health Committee held a public hearing on it.

Dec. 4, 2008: The revised law had its second reading before the city council and was approved.

Jan. 14, 2009: Signed by Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Feb 14, 2009 — Law went into effect.

What little official information can be found about the new law — though it’s not a shining example of clarity — can be found here.

Under the new law, the penalty for letting your dog off his leash, or not picking up dog waste is the same as the penalty for dogfighting. In fact, penalties for more serious offenses were increased far less severely than run of the mill offenses.

For instance, these penalties all went up tenfold: Not having a rabies vaccination (from $50 to $500), not having a license (from $25 to $250), animal disturbing the peace, failure to pick up dog waste, and unleashed dogs (from $100 to $1,000).

Meanwhile, the penalties for dogfighting only doubled ($500 to $1,000), the penalty for abusing an animal went from $200 to $500, and the penalty for operating an unlicensed dog facility only went up from $100 to $250.

So today in Baltimore, thanks to the city council, abusing a dog is a less serious offense — fine-wise, at least — than letting one off his leash, or not picking up his poop.


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time April 14, 2009 at 10:49 am

None of this surprises me, and it shouldn’t surprise any of us. It’s been a long time since the average citizen could rely on the city for any reason. We’ve known this for at least twenty years, since that’s when we had to take our kids out of the public schools here.

Ever had a problem with your water bill in Baltimore? They’re merciless if there’s money at stake. Ever had to call for the paramedics? You’ll get a bill, and it’ll be a substantial one; better hope you’ve got good insurance. Even the parking meters on North Charles street are set up to rob you. They’ll keep taking your money, even though the very tiny and inconspicuous print says you can only park for an hour. I’m unsure as to where any of this money goes, since I read this morning that there are about 3,000 homeless humans on the streets here on any given day. And if it’s going to the schools or the police, we’re certainly not seeing too many results.

Mayor Dixon and the City Council of Baltimore and the city government do not give a hoot about you or your dog. They care about three things: Keeping up appearances so as not to disturb the tourist industry, finding ever-fresh sources of revenue, and keeping their jobs come election time. They care about dog fighting because it looks bad. They care about unlicensed kennels because that represents less money for the coffers. As for the other fines, middle-class dog owners who pay their bills and take care of their taxes are far more reliable as cash cows than people running dog fights or other illegal operations. It’s pretty simple.

If I sound cynical it’s because we’ve lived in Baltimore for almost thirty years and have attempted to raise (and educate) a family here. Here’s the deal: It is unwise to rely on the City of Baltimore for anything. Don’t rely on them for fair taxes, dog parks, education, trash pickup, or even a fair hearing on your issue or problem. You exist as a source of revenue.

Comment from dog
Time April 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Maybe this is a fundraiser to build new dog parks in the city (;