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Animal Protection Bills to Watch in Massachusetts – 2019-2020 Legislative Session

Massachusetts is considering a number of significant animal protection bills this legislative session. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is supporting several priority bills, including legislation to prevent convicted animal abusers from accessing animals, protect elephants and other wild animals from being exploited in circuses, prevent convicted wildlife poachers from hunting in Massachusetts, and more.

At this point in the 2019-2020 legislative session, all of these animal bills have had their public hearings. Please contact Stephanie Harris, Senior Legislative Affairs Manager, for more information.

Prevent Convicted Animal Abusers from Accessing Animals

An Act relative to the ownership of animals by convicted animal abusers (S.2494) would prevent a person convicted of animal cruelty (including torture, mutilation, and dogfighting) from possessing, adopting, or fostering an animal for at least five years after their release from custody. Courts would have the discretion to consider each case individually and extend the possession ban for any greater length of time deemed reasonable to protect animals.

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Possession bans are one of the most effective ways to ensure a person convicted of animal cruelty does not reoffend.

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Tram Nguyen (H.3772), State Representative Bradford Hill (H.1435), and State Senator Dean Tran (S.1037). S.2494, a redraft of these three bills, was referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee of the Judiciary. The public hearing for H.1435 and S.1037 was held on May 14, 2019 and for H.3772 on September 24, 2019.

Take action: If you’d like to support this bill, please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their Senate colleagues to protect animals from convicted animal abusers S.2494.

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Protect Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, and Bears from Cruel Circus Life

An Act Relative to the Use of Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, and Bears in Traveling Exhibits (H.2934 and S.2028), would prohibit the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears, and giraffes in circuses and traveling shows in Massachusetts.

These animals are subjected to neglect, abusive training, prolonged confinement. Many wild animal exhibitors that perform in Massachusetts have histories of federal Animal Welfare Act violations as well as dangerous public safety incidents.

Wild animals in circuses spend most of their days in cramped, barren cages, deprived of the ability to engage in their natural behaviors. Forced to perform frightening and sometimes painful tricks, they endure a lifetime of misery.

Status: Sponsored jointly by State Representative Lori Ehrlich, State Representative Bradley Jones, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and State Senator James Welch. H.2934 and S.2028 were referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Take action: If you’d like to support these bills, please contact your state senator and state representative and urge them to support them.

Stephanie Harris, Animal Legal Defense Fund Senior Legislative Affairs Manager, attended a rally for animals used in circuses and testified at the public hearing on October 22, 2019.

Prevent Convicted Wildlife Poachers from Hunting in Massachusetts

An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices (H.4131), would protect the welfare and conservation of native species important to Massachusetts ecosystems.

The Poaching Bill would (1) modernize penalties for illegal hunting, some of which are out of date by about a century, and (2) enter Massachusetts in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which already benefits every other state wildlife law enforcement agency in the continental United States. If enacted, this would end Massachusetts’ status as a safe-haven for convicted poachers whose hunting, trapping, or recreational fishing license has been suspended in any of the 48 member states.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Mike Moore and, jointly, by State Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Ann-Margaret Ferrante. H.4131 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. The public hearing was held on April 23, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state representative to ask them to urge their colleagues on the House Committee on Ways and Means to help prevent poaching by releasing H.4131.

Additional Bills

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is also actively supporting other key animal protection bills. To take action on these bills, please use the Animal Legal Defense Fund action alerts or look up your state senator and state representative to ask them to urge their colleagues on the committee where the bill has been referred to support or oppose.

Facilitate the Adoption of Dogs and Cats Retired from Research Laboratories

beagle

Known as the “Beagle Bill,” An Act Protecting Research Animals (S.2463), would require that dogs and cats, no longer needed for research purposes at research institutions or product testing facilities, be offered for adoption through a non-profit animal shelter or rescue or private placement, once the research ends, if a necropsy is not mandated. This provides an opportunity for these animals to live a life in a home as an adopted pet once their time in the research laboratory has come to an end – an opportunity that each of these dogs and cats deserve.

Status: Sponsored by State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and State Representatives Carolyn Dykema and Michelle DuBois. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Public hearing held on September 10, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state senator in support of the Beagle Bill (S.2463).

Promote Alternatives to Animal Use in Cosmetic and Other Product Testing

An Act Concerning The Use Of Animals In Product Testing (S.2504) would require manufacturers and their contract testing facilities to use test methods that replace animal testing of products and ingredients when they are available and provide information of equivalent or better scientific quality and relevance for the intended purpose. It would apply to products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, and industrial chemicals, like those in paint.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Mark Montigny and State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Environment Natural Resources and Agriculture. Public hearing held on September 10, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state senator and urge them to support the Alternatives Bill (S.2504).

Extend Citations Authority for Keeping Animals in Cruel Conditions and Update the Tethering Law

dog in winter

An Act Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals (S.989) would allow law enforcement officers to issues citations for all domestic animals, including farmed animals, in “cruel conditions” expanding upon the current law that only applies to dogs. Currently, the only tool that law enforcement officers have is a felony cruelty charge. Providing a citation with a monetary fine gives officers the ability to achieve corrective action without automatically invoking a felony prosecution. Additionally, this legislation would make a technical change, updating current law to better ensure dogs left outside and unattended are afforded protections. Similar language is also part of an omnibus animal protection bill released from the Joint Committee on Municipalities (S.2760) and is pending before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Mark Montigny. S.989 was referred to Joint Committee on Judiciary; the public hearing was held on September 24, 2019; and the reporting deadline was extended to July 31, 2020.

Take action: Please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Judiciary to support of S.989.

Halt Trafficking in Ivory and Rhino Horn

An Act Preventing Trafficking in Ivory and Rhino Horns (S.496) would restrict the sale of ivory and rhino horn in the Commonwealth, ending Massachusetts’ role in the global poaching crisis. It would more closely align Massachusetts commerce laws with federal interstate commerce regulations and establish a fund, with penalties assessed under the proposed law, to promote conservation and education.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Lori Ehrlich. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on January 8, 2020. Public hearing held on September 10, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to support of S.496.

Close the Puppy-Mill-to-Pet-Shop Pipeline

As filed,  (H.800 and  S.175) would have prohibited the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet shops unless made available in partnership with an animal shelter or rescue organization. Pet shops typically acquire their dogs and cats from inhumane commercial breeding facilities, often called “puppy mills” or “kitten mills.” Pet stores are a preferred sales outlet for puppy mills because they allow the cruelty at the mills to remain hidden from consumers. However, this legislation was redrafted (S.2592) in Committee and no longer resembles the original bill nor its intended purpose. This redraft language has been significantly weakened to protect puppy-selling pet stores as well as the puppy mill industry at the expense of consumer protection and animal welfare.

Status: H.800 and S.175 were sponsored by State Senator Patrick O’Connor and Representative Natalie Higgins. A problematic redraft (S.2592) was released from the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The public hearing was held on July 22, 2019. The Animal Legal Defense Fund cannot support S.2592 in its current, weakened form.

Protect puppies and kittens and enhance the issuance of citations for keeping animals in cruel conditions

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An Act Protecting the Health and Safety of Puppies and Kittens in Cities and Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals (S.2760) would ensure animal control and law enforcement officers are able to issue civil citations for keeping domestic animals—including farmed animals—in cruel conditions, which expands on the current law that applies only to dogs. It would also establish minimum standards for the protection of dogs and cats being sold to consumers as well as those being kept at doggie daycares, boarding kennels, and breeding kennels. 

Status: This omnibus bill is a redraft by the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, which was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The redraft includes seven previously separate bills by Senator Harriette L. Chandler (S.114), Senator James T. Welch (S.1204), Representative Bruce J. Ayers (H.1757, H.1758), Representative Linda Dean Campbell (H.1774), Representative Angelo J. Puppolo Jr. (H.1822), and Representative David M. Waters (H.1823).  

Take action: Please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Senate Ways and Means Committee to support of S.2760.

Establish Protections for Animals and Consumers by Updating the “Puppy Lemon Law”

An Act Protecting Consumers When Purchasing A Pet ( H.1823 and  S.1204) updates the state’s puppy and kitten “Lemon Law” and provides some financial protections to consumers who purchase puppies and kittens who later become ill. Families who discover they have purchased a sick puppy from a pet shop or breeder regularly end up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on unexpected veterinary bills. These bills enhance consumer protection by improving the remedy options, including reimbursement of some medical expenses.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator James Welch and State Representative Dave Rogers. Referred to Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Public hearing held on June 4, 2019. Reporting deadline extended to May 8, 2020.

Take action: Please contact your state senator and state representative to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government to support of H.1823 and S.1204.

Prevent Breed Discrimination by Homeowners and Renters Insurance Companies

An Act Concerning the Use of Certain Insurance Underwriting Guidelines Pertaining to Dogs Harbored Upon the Insured Property (H.1037) would prevent insurance companies from denying, canceling, failing to renew, or charging an increased premium for homeowners or renters insurance based on the breed of their dog. Policies that target specific breeds discriminate against responsible dog owners who properly train and socialize their dogs. As a result, owners unable to obtain insurance may surrender their dogs to shelters and other potential adopters may be unwilling to adopt certain breeds.

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis and State Senator Anne Gobi. Referred to House Committee on Steering, Policy, and Scheduling after release from Joint Committee on Financial Services. Public hearing held on September 26, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state representative to ask them to urge their colleagues on the House Committee on Steering, Policy, and Scheduling to support H.1037.

Ban Cat Declawing

An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing (S.169) would prohibit cat declawing except as a medical necessity to address an existing or recurring infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition in the claw that jeopardizes the cat’s health. Declawing is a major surgery involving amputation. It is extremely painful and can lead to lifelong behavioral problems like biting and aggression.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Mark Montigny. Referred to Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. Public hearing held on July 22, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to support S.169.

Protecting Dogs in Daycares and Boarding Facilities

An Act Protecting Dogs at Boarding Kennels and Daycare Facilities (S.2358) would establish minimum standards for dog daycare facilities and boarding kennels including staff to dog ratios, housing and care requirements, and indoor and outdoor facility requirements.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Patrick O’Connor, State Representative Hannah Kane, and State Representative Michael Soter. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means after release from the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Take action: Please contact your state senator to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to support S.2358.

Ensure First Responders May Care for Injured Police Dogs

An Act Allowing Humane Transportation of K9 Partners also known as “Nero’s Law” (S.2423) and An Act Providing for the Care and Transportation of Police Dogs Injured in the Line of Duty ( H.4230) would ensure that first responders are allowed to treat injured police dogs and to transport them to veterinary hospitals when there are no injured people requiring transport to a hospital. Known as “Nero’s Bill,” this legislation was named for the K9 partner of slain Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon, who was fatally shot in 2018 while serving an arrest warrant. Nero was also shot and, under current state law, EMTs were unable to treat or transport him. Thankfully, in this case, a retired K9 officer eventually arrived to help Nero, who survived.

Status: Sponsored by State Senator Mark Montigny and State Representative Will Crocker. S.2423 referred to Senate Ways and Means after release from Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. H.4230 referred to Joint Committee on Health Care Financing after release from Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Public hearing held on July 18, 2019.

Take action: Please contact your state senator and state representative to ask them to urge their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security to support of H.4230; please also ask your state senator to to urge their colleagues on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to support of S.2423.

OPPOSE: Expand cruel methods of hunting and repeal of Sunday hunting prohibition

Each session in Massachusetts, bills are filed to legalize cruel methods of killing wildlife, including the use of indiscriminate traps and snares, piles of food that “bait” bears for an easy shot, and artificial lights that “spotlight” animals to give hunters an unfair advantage. These practices are not even endorsed by most wildlife managers who otherwise support lethal wildlife management tools. The current law, revised in 2000 by a conference committee with input from key stakeholders, made substantial concessions to the Wildlife Protection Act, providing for more local authority to issue permits for trapping and other options. Further changes are unnecessary.

Most of these bills were not released from committee. However, several were redrafted into an omnibus bill, An Act relative to outdoor heritage (S.2501). To prevent expansions of cruel bow hunting, the use of disfiguring leg snares,  and the repeal of Massachusetts’ existing Sunday hunting prohibition that maintains a single day of the week for residents to enjoy nature and wildlife without worrying about conflicts with hunting activities, we strongly oppose S.2501.

Status: Of the concerning wildlife bills, including H.781, H.839, H.884, H.885, H.887, H.890, S.468, S.475, S.479, and S.487 , referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and heard on June 25, 2019, several were redrafted and reported out favorably in an  omnibus bill. That omnibus bill, S. 2501, was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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