S. 1076/H. 1703: Protecting Animals from Convicted Animal Abusers
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Mike Moore; Representatives Tram Nguyen and Vanna Howard
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary. Hearing held on April 4, 2023.
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 kinds of animal cruelty convictions. This legal gap can lead to increased recidivism rates and needless suffering for animals.
This legislation would establish that a person convicted of an animal cruelty crime may not harbor, own, possess, or exercise control over an animal or adopt or foster an animal for five years post-conviction, or a greater length of time that the court deems reasonable. Additionally, the bill establishes a petition process wherein a first-time offender may appeal their possession ban status if they can demonstrate rehabilitation in a number of specific ways.
This legislation does not create a new crime. It is a preventative measure that places reasonable restrictions on those convicted of animal cruelty crimes, such as torture, mutilation, or dogfighting. Additionally, it gives the court the discretion to consider each case individually.
These bills complement Massachusetts’s 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.
As of January 2021, 39 states have post-conviction possession ban laws, 17 of which have mandatory possession ban laws and 22 of which have permissive possession ban laws.
This legislation would also direct certain funds to the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund (“Mass Animal Fund”). The Mass Animal Fund provides spay, neuter, and vaccination services to animals in need, including homeless dogs and cats and those living with low-income families. The financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have turned many assistance requests into urgent pleas for help due to housing issues or medical emergencies. Many animals are going unserved, lacking critical health services. This funding will help animals in families impacted by COVID-19 and the related economic downturn.