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


Allows Massachusetts law enforcement officers to remediate situations involving animals kept in cruel conditions by issuing civil citations.


March 17, 2023

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Early intervention in situations where animals are kept in cruel conditions can prevent them from escalating to a point of suffering or beyond veterinary help. Issuing civil citations for dogs kept in certain cruel conditions has proved effective in Massachusetts. However, no similar protection against being kept in cruel conditions exists for cats, rabbits, or other animals, 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 for Animals (S.1059/H.2102) 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. Citations create a financial incentive for animal guardians to improve conditions for domestic animals, including farmed animals. They 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.

Language regarding civil citations for cruel conditions for animals is also filed as a provision of the omnibus anti-cruelty bill, the Humane Protection of Animals Act (S.1142/H.1718).

Massachusetts: Ask Your Legislators to Strengthen Animal Cruelty Laws

The Humane Protection of Animals Act contains a collection of provisions that strengthen and clarify Massachusetts’ animal cruelty laws. Ask your MA legislators to co-sponsor this important bill!


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. Additionally, hoarding cases — often involving cats — occur too frequently in the Commonwealth.

An Act Enhancing the Issuance of Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals is filed in the House by Rep. Angelo Puppolo (D-12th Hampden) and in the Senate by Sen. Mark Montigny (D-Second Bristol and Plymouth). It is referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

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 for dogs has effectively changed human habits and protected dogs.

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