Bill to Prevent Animal Cruelty on the Move at the State House

July 15, 2014

BOSTON, July 15, 2014 – Animal protection groups including the MSPCA-Angell and the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) have united behind pending legislation that would increase the  penalties for animal cruelty and to prevent it from happening in Massachusetts, and are calling on concerned citizens to contact their elected officials to help pass the measure.

House Bill 4244 would increase the maximum penalties for convictions of animal cruelty from 5 to 7 years and $2,500 to $5,000. The bill also creates a task force comprised of experts in law enforcement, animal protection, veterinary and the law to systematically and comprehensively evaluate the state’s cruelty statutes to ensure continued progress. A number of officials have embraced the measure and are hoping it will pass.

“I’m pleased that the Judiciary Committee moved this bill forward,” said State Representative Lou Kafka. “It makes a necessary update to outdated penalties and ensures that legislators continually receive the best advice on how to combat animal cruelty in our Commonwealth from those who deal with it most frequently.”

“The case of Puppy Doe galvanized many animal welfare advocates and legislators to put forward legislation like H. 4244, yet her case is just one of far too many the ARL sees every day,” explained Mary Nee, president of the ARL. “Passing this bill is critical to strengthening our ability to prevent future cases of animal cruelty in Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts currently has some of the most lenient fines in the nation for animal abuse, with a fine of up to $2,500. Many other states have higher prison time, too.  These penalties have not been updated or expanded in nearly ten years.

Rep. Bruce Ayers stated, “The passage of the bill out of the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago is evidence that lawmakers are listening to their constituents, who—especially in the wake of the horrific Puppy Doe animal abuse case in Quincy, my district,  last year —are demanding stricter penalties for those who abuse or kill animals.”

In addition to increasing penalties, H. 4244 would also require veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty (a provision supported by Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association), and create a task force to evaluate current animal cruelty laws in a systematic and comprehensive manner to make recommendations for future prevention and legislative efforts. The amended bill took provisions from bills filed by Representatives Kafka and Ayers, as well as Senator Tarr’s PAWS Act. 

Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell states, “Research has consistently shown a link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. By increasing the penalty for animal cruelty we are not only working to keep animals safe from harm but we can hopefully have an even bigger impact in the overall efforts to reduce crime. This bill will ensure that this is just the beginning of an effort to protect animals from cruelty.”

How to Help

Concerned citizens can help pass H. 4244 by contacting their elected official and asking them to support the bill. The MSPCA-Angell provides contact information for legislators as well as tips and recommendations for how to successfully lobby elected officials. Readers can click here to learn more.

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About the MSPCA-Angell

The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions from individuals who care about animals. Please visit www.mspca.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mspcaangell

About the Animal Rescue League of Boston

Founded in 1899, the ARL is dedicated to rescuing domesticated animals and wildlife from suffering, cruelty, abandonment, and neglect. In 2013, the ARL served over 14,000 individual animals through our shelters in Boston, Brewster, and Dedham, and our law enforcement, rescue, and veterinary services. The ARL receives no government funding and relies solely on the generosity of supporters to help animals in need. Visit arlboston.org for more information.