Animal Protection Bills to Watch in Massachusetts

Critical animal protection bills have been filed in the 2021-22 legislative session in Massachusetts, including bills to prevent convicted animal abusers from possessing animals, protect wild animals from being used in circuses, prevent convicted wildlife poachers from hunting in Massachusetts, improve conditions for egg-laying hens, and ban the sale of new fur products, and much more. The bill filing deadline was February 19, 2021. In Massachusetts, every bill filed in a timely manner will have a public hearing. This session, public hearings are expected to be scheduled between spring of 2021 and late winter 2022.

More details about animal protection bills filed this session is below. Please contact your state senator and state representative to urge them to co-sponsor animal protection bills and to urge their colleagues on key committees to support their favorable release from committee.

If you have questions about animal protection legislation in Massachusetts, please contact Stephanie Harris, Senior Legislative Affairs Manager, for more information.

Prevent Convicted Animal Abusers from Accessing Animals

An Act to Protect Animals from Convicted Animal Abusers would prevent a person convicted of certain animal cruelty crimes — including torture, mutilation, and dogfighting — from possessing, adopting, or fostering an animal for at least five years after their release from custody for a first offense and at least fifteen years for a second or subsequent offense. 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. Possession bans are one of the most effective ways to ensure a person convicted of animal cruelty does not reoffend.


First time offenders may petition the court to reduce the duration of their possession ban and shall have the burden of establishing by a preponderance of evidence that they do not present a danger to animals, they have the ability to properly care for an animal, and they have successfully completed relevant classes and counseling deemed sufficient by the court.

Status: Sponsored by State Representatives Tram Nguyen and Bradford Hill (H.1824), and State Senator Mike Moore (S.1111). Referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Public hearing held on May 19, 2021.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

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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, Giraffes, and Bears in Traveling Exhibits would prohibit the use certain wild animals in circuses and traveling shows in Massachusetts. These animals are routinely 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 Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Bradley Jones (H.3776) and by State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (S.2251). Referred to Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

Prevent Convicted Wildlife Poachers from Hunting in Massachusetts

deerAn Act Further Regulating the Enforcement of Illegal Hunting Practices would protect the welfare and conservation of native species important to Massachusetts ecosystems.

Known as the “Poaching Bill,” this legislation would (1) modernize penalties for illegal hunting, some of which are out of date by about a century, and (2) authorize Massachusetts to enter in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which already benefits every other state wildlife 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 jointly by State Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Ann-Margaret Ferrante (H.904) and by State Senator Mike Moore (S.587). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Public hearing held June 8, 2021.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

Improve Conditions for Egg-laying Hens

chickens in a cage

An Act to Upgrade Hen Welfare and Establish Uniform Cage-free Standards for Egg-laying Hens would improve conditions for hens by mandating that they be able to engage in certain vital natural behaviors such as perching, scratching, dust bathing, and laying eggs in a nest. It would require cage-free conditions for hens raised in Massachusetts and eggs sold in Massachusetts. Specifically, this bill would expand the covered egg products to include “liquid eggs” (those often used at restaurants) as well as “shell eggs” as products.

Since An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals passed at the ballot as Question 3 in 2016, leading retailers, producers, and other states – including California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington – have mandated even stronger standards in the shift to cage-free conditions for hens. This hen welfare upgrade would bring our existing in line with this new standard.

Status: Sponsored by Representative Dan Cahill (H.864) and Senator Jason Lewis (S.36). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, which held a public hearing on May 4, 2021 and reported out a redraft of the bill (S.2470) with a favorable report on June 10, 2021. Referred to Committee on Senate Ways and Means, which recommended a redraft of the bill (S.2481) ought to pass on June 21, 2021. Passed the Senate in a voice vote on June 24, 2021. Referred to the Committee on House Ways and Means, which recommended a redraft of the bill (H.4194) ought to pass on October 5, 2021. Passed the House of Representatives (156-1) on October 6, 2021. Differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill will have to be reconciled.

Take action: Urge your state representative to support this legislation.

Fight the Cruel and Unnecessary Fur Industry

foxAn Act Prohibiting the Sale of Fur Products would ban the sale of new fur products, including clothing, fashion accessories, and home décor, in the Commonwealth. Millions of animals are killed for their fur each year. Some are trapped in the wild, but the vast majority are raised in often factory-like fur farms. On fur farms, animals like foxes and minks are confined to tiny wire cages for virtually their entire lives. Unable to engage in most of their natural behaviors, these animals routinely resort to self-mutilation, obsessive pacing, and infanticide. Undercover investigations on fur farms have uncovered egregious cruelty — including animals being skinned alive.

These fur factory farms can be breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases. Mink fur farms in the U.S. and around the globe have become hot spots for COVID-19. Minks are the only animal known to both catch the virus from people and transmit it to them. To protect public health, European governments killed nearly 20 million minks in 2020. Other governments have banned fur farming or the sale of fur products.

Status: Sponsored by Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (H.965) and Senator John Velis (S.623). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

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 open action centers 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


An Act Protecting Research Animals, known as the “Beagle Bill,” would require that dogs and cats, retired from laboratory use at research institutions or product testing facilities, be offered for adoption through a non-profit animal shelter or rescue or private placement, when a necropsy is not mandated. This provides an opportunity for these animals to live a life in a home as an adoptee — an opportunity that each of these dogs and cats deserve.

Status: Sponsored by State Representatives Carolyn Dykema (H.901) and Michelle DuBois (H.890) and State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (S.613). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Promote Alternatives to Animal Use in Cosmetic and Other Product Testing

An Act Concerning The Use Of Animals In Product Testing 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 Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (H.966) State Senator Mark Montigny (S.584). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

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

Puppy poking head through metal fence

An Act Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals would allow law enforcement officers to issue 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.

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Angelo Puppolo (H.1840) State Senator Mark Montigny (S.1097). Referred to Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Public hearing held on May 19, 2021.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

Halt Trafficking in Ivory and Rhino Horn

An Act Preventing Trafficking in Ivory and Rhino Horns 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 Representative Lori Ehrlich (H.903) and State Senator Jason Lewis (S.576). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

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

An Act Banning the Retail Sale of Cats and Dogs in Pet Shops would prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens (and rabbits in the House version of the bill) 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.

Status: Sponsored by Representative Natalie Higgins ( H.384) State Senator Patrick O’Connor ( S.230). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Protect Puppies and Kittens As Well As Their Guardians 


An Act Protecting the Health and Safety of Puppies and Kittens in Cities and Towns would protect animals and consumers in five ways: (1) prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks of age; (2) require the promulgation of rules and regulations for business-related kennels used for boarding, doggie daycare, or breeding; (3) update laws relating to kennel licensing; (4) end the roadside sale of animals; and (5) clarify that the law does not consider dogs and cats “livestock.” 

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Linda Dean Campbell (H.2148) and State Senator Harriette Chandler (S.1322). Referred to Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.

Keep Families with Dogs Housed Together During the Pandemic and Beyond

An Act to Maintain Stable Housing for Families with Pets in an Economic Crisis and Beyond would help keep families with dogs housed together during the pandemic and beyond. Specifically, it would prevent evictions based on whether a family has a dog without written permission for one year after the COVID-19 emergency ends and require that hotels allow companion animals during the COVID-19 emergency. Additionally, it would prevent insurance companies from denying, canceling, failing to renew, or charging an increased premium for homeowners or renters insurance based on a dog’s breed. Policies that target specific breeds discriminate against responsible dog guardians who properly train and socialize their dogs. Families are too often unable to afford or access housing or insurance because their family includes a dog or because of the dog’s breed and, as a result, they may surrender those animals to shelters and other potential adopters may be unable or unwilling to adopt them.

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Dave Rogers (H.1437) and State Senator Anne Gobi (S.885). Referred to the Joint Committee on Housing.

Protecting Dogs in Daycares and Boarding Facilities

Several bills have been filed that would require the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to promulgate rules and regulations relating to dog boarding kennels and “doggie daycare” facilities. Establishing minimum standards, such as staff to dog ratios, housing and care requirements, and indoor and outdoor facility requirements, will help protect animals and consumers.

Status: Sponsored by State Representative Brian Ashe (H.305, “Ollie’s Law”), State Representative Hannah Kane (H.949), State Senator Mark Montigny (S.582), and State Senator Patrick O’Connor (S.595). H.305 referred to Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure; public hearing held on July 12, 2021. H.949, S.582, and S.595 referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Ban Cat Declawing

An Act Prohibiting Inhumane Feline Declawing 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 (S.222). Referred to Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. Public hearing held on July 12, 2021.

Ensure First Responders May Care for Injured Police Dogs

An Act Allowing Humane Transportation of K9 Partners also known as “Nero’s Law” and An Act Providing for the Care and Transportation of Police Dogs Injured in the Line of Duty (Nero’s Law) 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 Law,” 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 (S.1606) and State Representative Will Crocker (H.2547). Referred to Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Public hearing held on July 14, 2021.

Help Protect Animals from Rat Poisons

An Act Relative to Pesticides would reduce the use of rat poisons or “rodenticides,” which directly harm individual animals and threaten the health of additional wildlife populations in the food chain, including bald eagles, great horned owls and bobcats. This legislation would mandate the use of “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) plans — which seek to resolve human-animal conflicts with minimal risks to humans, wild animals, and the environment — on public lands and publicly-owned property and require pesticide applicators to provide information about IPM to consumers prior to providing services. It would also move pesticide use reporting records online and create IPM-related educational programs.

Status: Sponsored by Representative Jim Hawkins (H.3991). Referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Take action: Urge your state legislators to support this legislation.

OPPOSE: Expand Cruel Methods of Hunting and Repeal of Sunday Hunting Prohibition

Each session in Massachusetts, bills are filed to weaken or repeal existing protections against particularly cruel methods of killing wildlife, such as the use of indiscriminate traps and snares, and to weaken or repeal the existing Sunday hunting prohibition. The current trapping 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. Additionally, Massachusetts’ existing Sunday hunting prohibition maintains a single day of the week for residents to enjoy nature and wildlife without worrying about conflicts with hunting activities.

Status: We oppose legislation that puts wildlife and residents in jeopardy, including Sunday hunting bills (H.914, H.984, H.1015H.1019, H.1032,  and S.547) and bills removing trapping restrictions (H.913, H.1016, H.1022, and S.554). Referred to Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Thank You for Your Advocacy

The 2021-22 legislative session presents an opportunity to make great strides for animals and, possibly, to raise Massachusetts from its already leading position as sixth in the nation for animal protection laws (see our 2020 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings Report.)

Recent victories for animals in Massachusetts have included an allocation of $100k for companion animals in need in the FY2022 budget and $50k in the FY2021 budget. We thank the governor as well as the many state legislators, coalition partners, and advocates who helped secure progress for animals despite a global pandemic and social unrest. We are grateful to all those who helped advance animal protection bills in the legislative process during the 2019-20 legislative session, laying a foundation for future legislative campaigns.



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