animal cruelty bond bill

H. 1220: An Act Updating the Law Relating to Posting a Security for Seized Animals in Cruelty Cases

MSPCA Position: Support

Bill Status: Sent to the Juciairy Committee.

This bill would make a few, mostly technical, changes in this statute that passed in 2002 that remedied a problem that occurs when animals must be seized as the result of cruelty investigations.

The law (M.G.L. Ch. 272 §104) now allows an authority that seizes an animal pursuant to applicable animal cruelty or fighting statutes to request the court to order a bond to cover the costs of caring for the animal during the period of time the animal is held until the case is adjudicated.  

The reason this law was enacted was to remedy problems that occur when animals must be seized as the result of cruelty investigations:

  • Law enforcement officials must hold seized animals as evidence and thus the animals cannot be adopted or returned to an owner until the case has been adjudicated. 
  • Animals are different than other seized property; animals must receive food, water, board, and often-extensive medical care from the authority that took possession of them as part of the arrest or seizure. 
  • This care can cause an extreme financial hardship for these authorities – which include cities and towns – that have rescued animals from a cruel or neglectful situation.  
  • Animals kept in confinement for long periods of time are subject to many behavior and medical problems. Dogs and cats can become aggressive, lose house or litterbox training, and demonstrate obsessive behavior such as chewing and gnawing on themselves. 
  • Medically, animals are susceptible to infectious diseases due to immune system suppression resulting from stress.   

With this law, many cases have been resolved more quickly and animals placed in permanent homes in a more expeditious and humane manner.  However, there have been some issues that have limited this statute from being as effective a tool as it can be.  Highlights include:

  • Since animal cruelty became a felony in 2004 some of the language in the statute is now outdated and would be fixed with this bill.
  • The bill would now allow the district attorney to file the petition for the bond. It would, in many cases, be more efficient to allow the bond issue to be addressed as part of the prosecution. Many local police departments seize animals and this would particularly help them.
  • Other changes include acknowledging that substantial expenses can be incurred before the judicial decision on the petition, eliminating ambiguity if the defendant fails to post the bond and clarifying what happens if an animal is suffering and needs to be humanely euthanized during the period when the bond is posted.