dog and cat

Animal Possession Ban (Massachusetts)

An Act to Protect Animals From Convicted Animal Abusers (H.1703/S.1076)

Bars people convicted of animal cruelty from possessing, adopting, or fostering animals for at least five years after their release from custody


March 13, 2023

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Post-conviction animal possession bans are one of the most effective ways to ensure a person convicted of animal cruelty does not reoffend. These laws restrict a convicted animal abuser’s access to animals, drastically limiting the pool of potential victims. Possession bans also help stem the high rates of recidivism associated with certain types of animal abuse.

An Act to Protect Animals From Convicted Animal Abusers (H.1703/S.1076) would prohibit a person convicted of certain serious 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.

This important animal protection legislation is filed in the House, jointly, by Representative Tram Nguyen (D-18th Essex) and Representative Vanna Howard (D-17th Middlesex), and in the Senate by Senator Mike Moore (D-Second Worcester). It was referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

If you live in Massachusetts, please take action to support this bill.

Current Massachusetts law prohibits offenders convicted of felony animal cruelty from working with animals. However, the law only explicitly allows courts to prohibit possession of or access to animals after a conviction of animal sexual abuse— not after other types of animal cruelty convictions. This bill would create a possession ban following other serious animal cruelty crimes.

This legislation would prevent a person convicted of animal cruelty crimes from possessing, adopting, fostering, or exercising control over animals for at least five years 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.

Additionally, the legislation would establish a petition process wherein a first-time offender may appeal their possession ban status if they can demonstrate rehabilitation in a number of specific ways, including 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.

To facilitate enforcement, this legislation would require courts to notify relevant authorities — e.g. animal control officers, municipal dog licensing officials, special state police officers with the MSPCA and Animal Rescue League of Boston — of the duration of a possession ban.

This bill would complement Massachusetts’ strong animal protection laws by providing an additional tool to help prevent cruelty in their communities. In fact, the legislatively-created Animal Cruelty Task Force recommended in its 2016 report that the legislature consider such a provision.

in 2022,By helping prevent future cruelty to animals, possession bans help save local agencies and shelters resources. (Large-scale cruelty cases can cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars during lengthy trials.) They also offer law enforcement officials an additional tool to monitor and quickly intervene to protect at-risk animals and prevent animal abuse in their communities. As of 2022, 40 states, Guam, and Washington D.C. have post-conviction possession ban laws — 20 bans are mandatory and 20 are permissive. These numbers are trending upwards — Arizona, Florida, and Virginia created or strengthened their possession ban laws in 2022.

Learn more about possession bans.