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Protecting Animals from Abusers

H. 3772: An Act relative to protecting animals from abusers

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Representative Tram Nguyen
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary; hearing held September 24

Placing reasonable restrictions on owning or accessing animals following an animal cruelty conviction can help end the cycle of animal cruelty.

Massachusetts law already prohibits convicted animal abusers from working with animals (Ch. 272 §77). Further, the law relating to animal sexual abuse explicitly allows courts to prohibit ownership of, or contact with, animals after a conviction of animal sexual abuse (Ch. 272 §77C). However, a legal gap exists because the law currently does not allow a prohibition on ownership or contact after other animal cruelty convictions. This legal gap can lead to increased recidivism rates and needless suffering for animals.

H. 3772 would establish that a person convicted of an animal cruelty crime (cruelty to animals, willful injury of a police dog or horse, devocalization, and animal fighting) may not harbor, own, possess or exercise control over an animal, or adopt or foster an animal for five years or a greater length of time that the court deems reasonable for the protection of all animals.

This bill does not create a new crime. It is a preventative measure that places reasonable restrictions on those convicted of animal cruelty crimes – like torture, mutilation, or dogfighting. Additionally, it gives the court the discretion to consider each case individually.

This bill would complement Massachusetts’ strong cruelty laws by providing an additional tool for law enforcement to help prevent cruelty in their communities. In fact, in its 2016 report, the Animal Cruelty Task Force highlighted the value of such a provision.

Already, a majority of states have passed similar laws. As of January 2019, thirteen states mandate possession bans after a conviction for animal cruelty — but several of those state statutes are limited to specific crimes (as in Massachusetts) or species. Twenty-three states and D.C. statutorily authorize permissive possession bans, leaving adjudication up to the court’s discretion. Seven states created or strengthened their possession bans in 2018.

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