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Puppies, Kittens, and Citations Omnibus Bill

S. 2760: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns and enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senators Chandler and Welch, and Representatives Campbell, Puppolo, and Rogers
Status: Released favorably from the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Referred to Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

In May, The Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government released five animal protection bills, and combined them into one piece of legislation.

This legislation protects animals from unsafe practices and cruel conditions, and provides common-sense consumer protections to families purchasing puppies and kittens. It also updates archaic language in animal control laws and gives law enforcement and animal control officers the tools they need to protect animals.

Key Provisions:

Expands use of citations for keeping animals in cruel conditions

Allowing animal control and law enforcement officers to issue citations for domestic animals kept in cruel conditions will facilitate earlier intervention and provide a common-sense middle ground between a verbal warning and felony cruelty charges. It would extend protections that are already in place for dogs to other domestic animals—providing a tool to assist animals 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, and other circumstances that could cause harm to the health or safety of animals based on the animal’s species, age, and physical condition.

Addressing these conditions with a civil citation provides a financial incentive for correction of such conditions and prevents the situation from escalating to cause the needless suffering and death of animals.

Prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old

Separating puppies and kittens from their mother and littermates early can result in health and behavioral problems, including disease susceptibility and aggression. For puppies, these weeks include their primary socialization developmental stage—when they learn important species-specific behaviors such as bite inhibition, submissive postures, and the development of proper social relations with their littermates. Behavior problems caused by early separation can make dogs in particular more difficult to adopt and, in worst-case scenarios, can contribute to the likelihood of dog bites and can be a public safety threat.

Prohibits roadside sale of animals

Because the USDA does not regulate direct sales, outdoor sales are one of the preferred venues for puppy mills and kitten mills, breeding facilities that place profit over the welfare of animals. This bill would prohibit the sale, exchange, or commercial display of any dog or cat on any roadside, park, recreation area, flea market or outdoor market, or parking lot. The prohibition would not apply to the transfer of a dog or cat by, or to, a shelter, animal control, or animal rescue (regardless of payment or compensation); or to the display of a dog or cat as part of a state or county fair exhibition, a 4-H program, or similar exhibition or educational program.

Requires promulgation of rules and regulations for boarding facilities and higher-volume breeders

Massachusetts currently has no state oversight of breeders or doggie daycare/boarding facilities. The only requirement for a person or business keeping more than four dogs is to obtain a kennel license from the city or town. This bill would require the Department of Agricultural Resources to establish reasonable rules and regulations for the operation of certain breeding kennels and catteries producing pets for the public, as well as boarding kennels and daycare facilities for dogs and cats.

Provides fair and reasonable recourse in the event an “unfit” puppy or kitten is sold to a consumer

Unfortunately, many Massachusetts families have unknowingly purchased an unhealthy puppy or kitten. This can result in families spending vast sums of money on veterinary bills trying to keep their new family member alive and healthy, rather than returning the puppy or kitten to the seller—both because they are attached to the animal and are concerned about what might happen if returned.

This bill would provide clear remedies for customers who purchase a puppy or kitten that is subsequently deemed “unfit for purchase” by a veterinarian, including an option for reimbursement for veterinary fees of up to the purchase price of the animal, as well as provide protections for responsible breeders who take reasonable steps to ensure the sale of healthy pets.

Updates kennel licensing laws

This bill would update and clarify some antiquated language in the kennel licensing laws. Changes would ensure that all dogs have an individual license (even if they are housed or kept in a kennel with a kennel license) to assist with rabies vaccination efforts; update provisions to help ensure a city or town licensing authority knows when a dog is purchased from a kennel and moves into the city or town; and that the number of dogs housed in a kennel is appropriate based on a determination by the municipality.

Requires microchips for dogs and cats adopted from a shelter or purchased from a pet shop

Microchips in dogs or cats have helped reunite many lost pets with their owners. This provision requires that pet shops or animal rescue groups implant all cats and dogs with a microchip as permanent identification before the animal is sold or adopted.

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