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Protect Domestic Animals from Cruel Conditions with Civil Citations (Massachusetts)

An Act Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals (H.1840/S.1097)

Allows Massachusetts law enforcement officers to remediate situations involving domestic animals kept in cruel conditions before they escalate to felony cruelty by issuing civil citations.

Updated

December 7, 2021

Work Type

Legislation

Status

Active

Early intervention in situations where animals are kept in cruel conditions can prevent them from escalating to the level of felony cruelty, where animals may be suffering or beyond veterinary help. The issuance of civil citations for dogs kept in certain cruel conditions have proved effective in Massachusetts. However, no similar protection exists for cats, rabbits, or other domestic animals kept in cruel conditions, and law enforcement officers are currently limited to two extremes of enforcement — a warning or a felony cruelty charge.

An Act Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions (H.1840/S.1097) would allow animal control officers and special state police officers with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and Animal Rescue League of Boston to issue written civil citations for certain cruel conditions, creating a financial incentive for animal guardians to improve conditions for domestic animals, including farmed animals. Cruel conditions for domestic animals would include exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, non-potable water, noxious odors, and dangerous objects that could cause injury or death. Civil citations will serve as a tool for law enforcement officers to help to remediate conditions before they escalate, with the goal of reducing reliance on felony cruelty charges — an outcome in the best interests of the animals, their guardians, public safety, and the courts.

Massachusetts: Help Protect Animals from Cruel Conditions

Allows Massachusetts law enforcement officers to remediate situations involving domestic animals kept in cruel conditions

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There are situations in Massachusetts that could or would benefit from early intervention. In 2016, Westport, Massachusetts, saw the largest animal cruelty investigation in New England’s history — over a thousand domestic animals, including farmed animals, were kept in deplorable and dangerous conditions with inadequate food, water, or shelter, many of them suffering from severe health ailments. Hoarding cases, often involving cats, occur too frequently in the Commonwealth.

This critical animal protection legislation is filed in the House by Representative Angelo Puppolo (D-12th Hampden) and in the Senate by Representative Mark Montigny (D-Second Bristol and Plymouth). It was referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and heard on May 19, 2021. This legislation has broad support from the animal protection community, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Humane Society of the United States, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), and the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA). Law enforcement and animal control officers agree that the current citations law has effectively changed human habits and protected dogs. This legislation allows for the issuance of civil citations for more animals, providing a financial incentive for correcting citations, avoiding the protracted process of felony prosecution, and preventing animal suffering and death.

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