ROCKVILLE, Md. - A Montgomery County animal cruelty case involving dozens of neglected dogs is inspiring new legislation in Maryland.
Senate Bill 672 would beef up penalties for people who neglect or abuse animals to the point they have to be euthanized.
Currently, the maximum penalty for that in Maryland is three months behind bars and a $1,000 fine. The bill would increase that to three years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy reached out to Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery Co.) highlighting the need for harsher penalties and prompting Kramer to sponsor the bill.
At a hearing Tuesday in Annapolis, McCarthy and his staff testified in favor of the legislation mentioning a 2016 case where a woman was found with 66 neglected dogs in her small Rockville home.
"Three of those dogs had to be euthanized because of the deplorable conditions," McCarthy said. "All 66 of them had physical injuries and needed treatment, but three literally died."
Katherine Ting Tiong was found guilty and faced three months behind bars for each dog. The judge ended up suspending her sentence to 6 months total, and if she abided by her probation, she could own dogs again after a few years.
Kramer’s bill also seeks to prevent people from owning animals following cases like this.
"Besides upping the penalty, it gives the court the express authority to ban that individual from owning or possessing an animal again," McCarthy said.
There were additional disturbing cases highlighted at the hearing Tuesday, including a woman arrested in St. Mary’s County in 2019 after investigators said her dog resembled "a fur-covered skeleton," due to lack of food. The dog had to be put down.
In another Montgomery County case, officials said a dog trainer ignored signs of heatstroke to the point a dog died.
"I had to tell the owner, ‘Hey, I can charge this guy with a 90-day misdemeanor,’" Montgomery Co. Animal Services Investigator Jack Breckenridge said at the hearing. "And I can stop him from having contact with pets for the length of probation for the district court."
An attorney from Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office who spoke in favor of the bill said her office has seen a direct correlation between animal abuse and neglect cases and domestic violence and child abuse cases by the same defendants.
The bill is now awaiting a committee vote.