With the end of the Massachusetts legislative session comes a big win for animals in the Commonwealth. On August 9, Governor Baker signed S. 2646, An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns (PAWS II) into law. This law builds upon changes to the state’s animal cruelty laws made with passage of the PAWS (Protect Animal Welfare and Safety) Act in 2014.
The original PAWS Act gained momentum after law enforcement and others responded to a cruelty matter where a puppy — who became known as “Puppy Doe” — was systematically and severely tortured over several months. The details of this case galvanized people who care about animals to ensure that perpetrators like Puppy Doe’s abuser (and others who engage in such cruel acts) are penalized in a manner sufficient for the crime. It also prompted the public to seek to ensure the Commonwealth’s laws are sufficient to prevent animal cruelty and neglect.
The impact of animal abuse is far reaching and the link between animal abuse and violence toward humans is well-documented. A Massachusetts study found that a person who has committed animal abuse is: five times more likely to commit violence against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to be involved in drunken or disorderly offenses. When our laws recognize this link, all our family members can be better protected.
With the passage of the PAWS Act, Massachusetts decided that we must do all we can to prevent cruelty to animals and engage in a thorough investigation of the strength and effectiveness of existing laws, as well as to determine what gaps exist. The PAWS Act formed a Task Force to do this. This new law is the result of the Task Force’s effort and is the next step toward ensuring our laws protect both people and pets.
Specifically the new law:
- Facilitates the reporting of suspected animal abuse by investigators in the Department of Elder Affairs and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission;
- Requires animal control officers to report the suspected abuse of elders, children, and disabled persons;
- Prohibits the drowning of animals;
- Ensures that property owners check vacant properties for the presence of abandoned animals.
- Ensures efficient enforcement of animal control laws;
- Ends the automatic killing of animal fighting victims; and
- Modernizes the animal sexual abuse law by expressly prohibiting sexual contact with an animal, trafficking animals for sex, facilitating or promoting sexual contact with an animal, and forcing a child to engage in sexual contact with an animal.
It will take effect on November 8, 2018.
This monumental step for animal welfare would not be possible without the tireless work of the Animal Cruelty Task Force, and the law’s sponsors – Representative Lou Kafka, Senator Mark Montigny, and Senator Bruce Tarr.
For more information, visit www.mspca.org/pawsii. To join the Animal Action Team to get involved with efforts to further improve the laws and policies in Massachusetts relating to animals, sign up at www.mspca.org/jointtheteam.