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Citations for Cruel Conditions for Animals

S. 989, H. 1822: An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Montigny, Representative Puppolo
S. 989 referred to Joint Committee on the Judiciary; hearing held September 24, 2019. Deadline for action: July 31, 2020.

H. 1822 referred to Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government; hearing held June 4, 2019. Portions of the bill included as part of an omnibus animal bill released from the Committee on May 8, 2020. The new bill also contains language from S. 114/H. 1774 (An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns) and S. 1204/H. 1823 (An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens).

Summary: These bills would amend in M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 174E to protect domestic animals from cruel conditions. Expanding the current statute’s scope in this narrow way would allow a quick and effective response to 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 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 were 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 which can adversely impact animal health and welfare.

The passage of this bill, which will 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 and beyond veterinary help.

Further, It has become increasingly clear that this citation ability would be helpful to address other species of domestic animals; for example, cat hoarding cases.

Ch. 140 sec. 174E would be an effective tool to protect domestic animals
This bill could help resolve situations more quickly and allow animal control and law enforcement officers to provide incentive, 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. Some appropriate situations could thus be resolved without having to charge felony animal cruelty, which might take months to reach a disposition.

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