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Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals

S. 1059/H. 2102: An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Angelo Puppolo, Jr.
Status: Referred to Joint Committee on the Judiciary (S. 1059); hearing held April 4, 2023. Referred to Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government (H. 2102); hearing September 26, 2023 at 1pm – read the hearing notice. Extension order filed (until 6/14/2024).

Summary: This legislation would amend M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 174E to protect all domestic animals, not just dogs, from “cruel conditions,” a phrase that has a specific meaning under the law (see background section). Expanding the current statute’s scope in this narrow way would allow a quick and effective response to troubling situations involving animals.

Currently, M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 174E’s prohibition against cruel conditions is limited to dogs. This bill would extend protections to all domestic animals to prevent them from suffering under cruel conditions, such as exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, non-potable water; excessive noxious odors that create a health threat to people or animals; dangerous objects or other animals that could injure or kill an animal upon contact; other circumstances that could cause harm to the health or safety of the animal based on species, age or physical condition; or failure to provide access to appropriate food and water based on the animal’s species, age, and physical condition.

Allowing animal control and law enforcement officers to address cruel or dangerous conditions for animals with a civil citation would permit local law enforcement to more readily address these situations with owners, provide a financial incentive for correction of such conditions, and help avoid the needless suffering and death of animals.

Why do animals need this protection?
In July of 2016, municipal and special state police officers responded to a 70-acre parcel in Westport. Over 1,000 animals were found on the site, some dead and others in such poor health that on-site euthanasia was required. Cows, goats, and pigs were found in filthy makeshift pens with little access to clean water and food. Some animals foraged for food amid piles of garbage while other animals lay dead near the food source. Rabbits were kept crammed in small cages, one on top of another, while severely dehydrated calves stood nearby with dirty matted coats.

This incident occurred at a time when there was—and continues to be—evidence of interest in higher welfare standards for farm animals. This bill will allow for a broader consideration of factors that can adversely impact animal health and welfare.

The passage of this bill, which would allow intervention by local animal control officers and certain special police officers, might prevent situations such as Westport from developing to the point where animals are suffering beyond veterinary help.

Further, this citation ability would be helpful in addressing issues with other domestic animal species, such as cat hoarding cases. Earlier this year, a Massachusetts resident surrendered 91 cats, many having health issues commonly seen in hoarding scenarios, such as upper respiratory infections and blindness. Animal hoarding affects thousands of animals annually and may be linked to mental illness.

Ch. 140 sec. 174E would be an effective tool to protect domestic animals
This bill could help animal control and law enforcement officers to provide incentives, encouragement, and information to farmers to establish farm practices in the best interest of the animals. A financial citation can be effective in changing behaviors, and some situations could be resolved without having to charge felony animal cruelty, which might take months to reach a disposition.


Updated 4/22/2024

State Senators:

Name District/Address
Mark C. Montigny Second Bristol and Plymouth
John F. Keenan Norfolk and Plymouth
Michael O. Moore Second Worcester
Patrick M. O’Connor First Plymouth and Norfolk
Adam Gomez Hampden
Susan L. Moran Plymouth and Barnstable

State Representatives:

Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr. 12th Hampden
Brian M. Ashe 2nd Hampden
Lindsay N. Sabadosa 1st Hampshire
Steven George Xiarhos 5th Barnstable
Jack Patrick Lewis 7th Middlesex
Natalie M. Higgins 4th Worcester
David Henry Argosky LeBoeuf 17th Worcester
William C. Galvin 6th Norfolk
Michelle M. DuBois 10th Plymouth
Paul McMurtry 11th Norfolk
John Barrett, III 1st Berkshire
Denise C. Garlick 13th Norfolk
Samantha Montaño 15th Suffolk
Bruce J. Ayers 1st Norfolk
Adrian C. Madaro 1st Suffolk
David T. Vieira 3rd Barnstable
James C. Arena-DeRosa 8th Middlesex
Jennifer Balinsky Armini 8th Essex

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