Government Affairs

Past Legislative and Ballot Question Successes

2014 - Animal Cruelty
This law increases  maximum penalties for animal cruelty from 5 to 7 years in prison and from $2,500 to $5,000 fine and creates enhanced penalties for repeat offenders (up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000); requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty; and creates a task force to consider future protections for animals and ways to strengthen Massachusetts' cruelty laws. Signed by the Governor on August 20, 2014.

2014 - Shark Finning
This law prohibits the possession, trade, sale, offer for sale and distribution of shark fins. Signed by the Governor on July 24, 2014.

2014 - Pets & Disasters
This law requires that municipalities have a disaster plan in place that incorporates planning for pets. This was signed by the Governor on March 24th. Cities and towns have one year to comply.

2012 - Wholesale Bittering Agent and Antifreeze Law
Most people get their vehicles serviced at garages that use wholesale containers of antifreeze, which were exempted from the 2010 law; if those vehicles leaked antifreeze, animals could still be poisoned.  After a dog named "Schubert" was poisoned by antifreeze, this legislation was filed to further protect animals (and people). This law requires the addition of a bittering agent to wholesale containers of antifreeze. This law was signed on 1/4/13 and took effect 90 days hence.

2012 -- Animal Control
This law creates a statewide spay/neuter program and adds enforcement provisions to the spay/neuter deposit law for animals adopted from shelters.  It requires animal control officers to receive training for the complicated work they do to keep the people and animals in their community safe. The law also creates: statewide oversight for animal control; categories for kennel licensing; consistency in the holding time for stray dogs.  It provides other meaningful updates to the state's antiquated animal control laws, including restrictions on tethering dogs and the prohibition of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas as a means to "euthanize" dogs and cats.  It will reduce dog bites by improving the dangerous dog law in a breed neutral manner and allow pets to be included in domestic violence protection orders to protect both animals and people.  Because it is funded by a voluntary tax check off, the new law will not cost money— it will actually minimize costs to municipalities by reducing the number of homeless animals and the associated cost to house and take care of them.  This law took effect October 31, 2012. 

2010 -- Allowing Pet Trusts
This law enables people to leave money to care for their pets with a legally enforceable trust.  This law took effect in April 2011. 

2010 - Retail Bittering Agent and Antifreeze Law
Most automotive antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to animals and humans and can produce life-threatening kidney damage, even in small amounts.  This law requires the addition of a bittering agent to retail containers of antifreeze. This law took effect on January 1, 2011.

2008 - Increased Penalties for Spectators at Animal Fights
The new law increases the penalties for aiding or being present at an exhibition of fighting animals to a maximum $1,000 fine and/or five years in prison.  The previous fine was a mere two hundred and fifty dollars or imprisonment for not more than one month, or both.

2008 - Greyhound Protection Act
This ballot question -- Question 3 -- passed 56% to 44% and won in 12 out of 14 counties.  It phased out live greyhound racing in Massachusetts by 2010.

2008 - Banning Renting of Pets
This law prohibits the practice of renting pets in Massachusetts.  News of a company, FlexPetz, coming to Boston prompted concerns among people who care about animals. The MSPCA worked with The Coalition to Prohibit the Renting of Pets to pass the bill. The City of Boston also passed a similar ordinance.

2007 - Internet Hunting Banned
An Act to Prohibit Internet Hunting was passed in response to the development of a click and shoot mechanism that operates like a computer assisted Internet hunting game, but kills real animals. The passage of the law made it illegal to create, maintain or engage in a computer-assisted Internet hunting program in Massachusetts or to operate a shooting range for this purpose.

2006 - Animal Fighting and Cruelty Laws are Strengthened
An Act Relating to the Penalties for Animal Fighting was passed and strengthened Massachusetts’ statutes pertaining to animal fighting. The law enables better enforcement by clarifying the authority of law enforcement to seize paraphernalia intended to be used for illegal animal fighting and to seize the offspring of animals who are intended to be used in future fights.  The law also requires the forfeiture or surrender of an animal if the owner has been convicted of animal cruelty, so that the animal does not go back to the abuser.

2004 - Animal Abuse Becomes a Felony Offense
When this law passed, cruelty to animals became a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. Under the previous statute, pet owners faced lesser penalties for abusing their own animals compared to individuals who abused animals who did not belong to them.

2004 -Recognizing the Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence
A law was passed that allows the Department of Social Services (DSS) employees to report instances of animal abuse, cruelty or neglect when they are conducting investigations. The DSS employee may report the case to any organization that investigates animal abuse within two days of witnessing the abuse.

2002 -- Protecting Animals Seized in Cruelty Cases
This law is designed to protect animals that have been abused and have been seized by law enforcement authorities.  These animals can spend years in "legal limbo" while the case goes to trial.  This law allows the court to require the defendant to post a bond to help care for the seized animal and prevent trial delays.  This prevents animals from having to face the stress of being boarded for a long time.

2002 - Spay and Neuter License Plates Hit the Road
The MSPCA helped to pass a law and posted the bond that got the "I'm Animal Friendly" license plates off the ground! These plates fund low cost spay/neuter programs across the state. For more information and to find out about purchasing a plate, click here.

2001 - Protections for Veterinarians and Reporting of Animal Abuse
This statute protects veterinarians from civil or criminal liability when they alert authorities to an animal they suspect has been inhumanely treated. The fear of being sued or of breaking client-doctor confidentiality may cause some veterinarians to hesitate to report the problem. The good Samaritan law is intended to encourage practitioner reporting by granting legal protections when, for good reason, veterinarians breach client confidentiality to report abuse.

1997 - Preventing Animals From Falling and Jumping from Pick-up Trucks
This law requires that an animal be safely cross-tethered or otherwise secured in an open vehicle, such as a pick-up truck or jeep, so that the animal does not jump or fall.  More than 700 dogs were being injured or killed each year in Massachusetts in this manner prior to this bill's passage.

1996 - Wildlife Protection Act
An initiative petition, the 1996 Wildlife Protection Act (Question 1) was passed by a 64% majority of Massachusetts' voters and consisted of three sections: 1. It restricts the use, setting, manufacturing or possession of body gripping traps (such as leghold traps) to capture fur-bearing mammals; 2. It prohibits the pursuit or hunting of bear or bobcat with dogs; 3. It eliminates the requirements that 5 of the 7 board members of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife - the agency responsible for managing wildlife - must have held sporting licenses for 5 consecutive years and that 4 members must represent trapping, hunting and fishing interests.

1989 - Pets in Housing Law
Following a year long pilot program involving seven state housing authorities, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law establishing a program of pet ownership in state aided public housing for seniors and disabled residents.

Massachusetts protects stray animals by banning "pound seizure"
This law prevents the taking of lost, stray, or abandoned pets from municipally funded animal shelters for the purpose of research, testing, or teaching.