It was quite a session! While the Massachusetts State House halls were still quiet at the beginning of the legislative session due to COVID, there was a flurry as formal sessions ended in July. All of our meetings and outreach were virtual until the State House opened in March. Though this is was not ideal, we were able to still make great change for animals.
In the first year of the session, important updates to the 2016 farm animal ballot question passed to further require enrichments that provide hens the ability to engage in vital natural behaviors such as perching, scratching, dust bathing, and laying eggs in a nest. The legislation also added liquid eggs to the law (commonly used by restaurants and food services), making these changes impact millions more hens.
Early in 2022, Nero’s law passed the legislature and was signed into law by the Governor. This law allows a police dog (a dog owned by a police department or police agency of the Commonwealth, or any political subdivision thereof, that is used by the department or agency for official duties) injured in the line of duty to be transported in an ambulance if there is not competing need for human transport. This law was recently used for the first time when State Police Officer K9 Frankie was shot in the line of duty. Frankie did not survive his injuries, but was able to be treated immediately and was transported in an ambulance.
In each year of the 2-year legislative session, we have been able to obtain more $100,000 in the state budget for the Mass. Animal Fund to spay/neuter/vaccinate homeless animals and those living with families who cannot afford these health services.
The Governor recently signed the “beagle bill” which facilitates adoption of dogs and cats who are no longer needed for research purposes at research institutions or product testing facilities, in partnership with a shelter or rescue or via private placement. He also signed the “poaching bill” which authorizes Massachusetts to enter the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which already benefits 49 member states, and allows reciprocal recognition of hunting license losses for convicted wildlife poachers. It also modernizes certain penalties for illegal hunting.
Another last-minute victory included banning betting on dog races that are simulcast in Massachusetts, but run elsewhere. For those who remember the 2008 ballot question that banned greyhound racing, this is the final step needed for full compliance with that measure.
A provision to the study the feasibility of wildlife crossings (tunnels or bridges that allow wildlife to cross human-made barriers, such as highways) with the goal of establishing and maintaining these important passageways also was passed into law.
Some bills can pass from now until December, when not deemed controversial, and we are hoping that legislation to address the dangers of rodenticide will advance in the House. It has already passed the Senate. H. 4931 would require public institutions of higher education to adopt Integrated Pest Management Strategies, which use multiple methods to prevent and address rodent problems; for example, sealing building holes and cracks and removing nesting materials from problem areas discourage rodents. This bill also requires digitization of pesticide use forms for better monitoring.
There are many bills that did not make it to the finish line, and we will be revisiting those next year. Though these bills did not make it through, we were able to learn a lot from their movements through the legislature. This fall, we will be preparing and strategizing for the upcoming 2023-2024 session.
Thank you to the many legislators, advocates, and organizations who we partnered with to move statewide animal protection measures forward this legislative session.
For more information, visit www.mspca.org/state-legislation.