S. 1097/H. 1840: 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 the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Hearing held May 19, 2021. Reported favorably from Judiciary Committee. Accompanied a new draft, see S. 2672.
Summary: This legislation would amend M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 174E to protect domestic animals from “cruel conditions,” a phrase that has a specific meaning under the law (see below). Expanding the current statute’s scope in this narrow way would allow a quick and effective response to troubling situations involving animals.
Ask your legislators to support S. 1097 and H. 1840 to protect animals from cruel conditions!
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.