Animal advocates in Maryland celebrated this past week as the General Assembly session came to a close. They hailed legislators for the passage of several critical reforms — Maryland became the fifth state to prohibit the use of animals in cosmetics testing, the eighth state to ban cruel wildlife killing contests and the sixth state to protect wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons.

The Prohibition on Testing Cosmetics on Animals (SB282/HB611) is headed to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk. It would ban products like lipstick, foundation, mascara, eye shadow and others that have been tested on animals from being distributed in Maryland. The legislation also bans companies contracting a separate entity to conduct animal testing during the development of a cosmetic.

Many cosmetics companies manufacturing or selling products in Maryland, including Lush, MOM’s Organic Market, Jill Turnbull and ReNew Botanicals Skin Care sent letters in favor of ending cosmetics testing sales and production.

In February 2020, the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover investigation that exposed wildlife killing contests in Maryland, revealing participants and their young children hauling in bloody piles of dead foxes, raccoons and coyotes to be weighed and counted for prizes. The bills to ban such contests (SB200/HB293) passed by landslide votes. The governor is expected to sign the measure.

Last year, at the urging of environmental groups, Queen Anne’s became the first county in the state to ban balloon releases. This year state lawmakers passed a similar measure with support of both environmentalists and animal advocates. Witnesses testifying in support of the legislation said birds, fish, turtles, ponies and seals have died after eating or becoming entangled in the strings of balloons. Released balloons have also caused power outages and litter trees and waterways.

“Maryland had an opportunity to be a leader and end some of the cruelest practices like animal cosmetics testing and wildlife killing contests,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Maryland state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful that our legislature took action on these critical reforms to protect all animals.”

The legislature also passed several reforms that will protect companion animals, including establishing education and training requirements for animal control officers (SB159/HB281); creating stronger penalties for intentionally harming or killing a service animal (SB607/HB234); and providing for the veterinary care of retired law enforcement K-9s (SB156).

Animal advocates say important work remains for the 2022 session, particularly around protecting companion animals, but overall, the recent legislative session can be called a win for animals and animal lovers, making Maryland a more humane state for all it residents.

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