S. 2646: An Act to protect animal welfare and safety in cities and towns (PAWS II)
Sponsors: Senators Montigny and Tarr; Representative Kafka
MSPCA Position: Support
Status: S. 2646 was enacted by the Mass. House and Senate on August 2. The bill was signed by Governor Baker on August 9, 2018!
This bill builds upon changes to the state’s animal cruelty laws made with passage of the PAWS (Protect Animal Welfare and Safety) Act in 2014. It is Chapter 219 of the Acts of 2018.
The PAWS Act gained momentum after law enforcement 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 bill is the result of the task force’s effort and is the next step toward ensuring our laws protect both people and pets.
Key provisions of this bill:
Help ensure abuse is reported
This section builds on Massachusetts law relating to the reporting of abuse, both of animals and vulnerable people, recognizing the link between these crimes. Specifically, this bill would allow animal abuse to be reported by the Department of Elder Affairs investigators and Disabled Persons Protection Commission investigators. The bill would add animal control officers as mandatory reporters of child abuse, elder abuse, and abuse against disabled persons.
Ensure efficient enforcement of animal control laws
This section would increase the effectiveness of and add more appropriate penalties to animal control laws that provide non-criminal penalties for violations (such as licensing violations; violations of the dangerous dog law). Highlights include removing language requiring a clerk to dismiss a first offense and increasing the penalty for a violation for not obtaining a kennel license.
Prohibit the drowning of animals – wild and domestic
These changes would explicitly list drowning of animals as a violation of the law. Many are surprised to learn that animals, particularly wildlife, are currently being drowned – a cruel and inhumane death.
Update the animal fighting law to prevent the automatic killing of animal fighting victims
Massachusetts is one of only 11 states that has a provision requiring automatic killing of animals involved in animal fighting. This bill removes this language, so that there are other options in statute for these animal victims.
Add animal crimes to the list of offenses that serve as the basis for a request for a determination of detention and/or release upon conditions
This would amend G.L. c. 276 § 58A to include the crimes of animal cruelty and fighting as specifically enumerated offenses to serve as the basis for a request for a determination of detention and/or release upon conditions.
Ensure that landlords check vacant properties for the presence of abandoned animals and clarify the law relating to when animals are abandoned
This provision would require a landlord, owner, or assignee that knew or should have known that a property was vacated through foreclosure, termination of tenancy, abandonment or other removal or exclusion of a tenant to check the property within three days. If they encounter an animal, they must immediately notify the police or animal control officer.
Animal Sexual Abuse
This section clarifies and updates the law against animal sexual abuse, by prohibiting sexual contact with an animal and prohibiting the promotion or facilitation of an act involving sexual contact with an animal and forcing a child to engage in sexual contact with an animal.
Dogs and Insurance
While the provision to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating based on perceived dog breed was unfortunately not included in the final bill, a provision that requires insurers to ask more questions about dog bite incidents to better track and identify the factors that contribute to dog incidents (not just focusing on breed) has been included.
Update a law relating to who/what entities can be charged with certain types of animal cruelty
Ch. 272 sec. 79 currently provides that “A corporation violating either of the two preceding sections shall be punished…”. At one time, this likely meant section 77 and section 78 (section 79 was enacted in 1868). In later years, additional sections added to G.L. c. 272 changed the meaning of “two preceding sections.” In addition to a “corporation” as currently permitted, the current language is amended to add additional crimes and to make additional entities subject to this law. These changes recognize that these types of entities should be held responsible for a violation of the enumerated statutes and that entities doing business with animals might not be a formal corporation.