Enforcing Dog Laws

S. 1085, H. 1866: An Act strengthening the enforcement of certain dog laws

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsor:  Senator Patricia Jehlen, Representative Dave Rogers
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Note that language similar to that in S. 1085 is now included in S. 2369.

Take Action to Strengthen Enforcement of Dog Laws

Why is this bill needed?

In 2012, an amendment to the animal control bill passed that created Chapter 140 Section 174E that restricts the manner in which dogs can be tethered outside and also prohibits certain cruel conditions, including exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, dirty water, noxious odors, dangerous objects that could injure or kill a dog upon contact or other circumstances that could cause harm to a dog’s physical or emotional health.

The statutes in Chapter 140 are enforced by municipal animal control officers; however, enabling the MSPCA and ARL officers to enforce this section will not only result in more animals being helped, but will also save the state court time and increase the efficiency of how animal neglect situations are dealt with.

What would this bill do?

In addition to animal control officers, this section would be able to be enforced by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Rescue League of Boston special police officers appointed under section 57 of Chapter 22C. These highly-trained and professional police officers attend a 20-24 week state-sponsored police training program, and are commissioned as special state police officers to investigate and enforce Massachusetts animal cruelty laws. Across the state, these officers serve warrants, make arrests, and testify – all at no cost to taxpayers.

Officers responding to cruelty complaints make every reasonable effort to educate offenders before filing for prosecution. Animals without proper shelter, in need of medical attention, not receiving proper nutrition, and animals abandoned when an owner moves away, are only a small sample of the complaints that are investigated. Education is especially important for cases in which the letter of the law has not been broken, but neglect exists through failure to meet an animal’s social and physical needs. This is why 174E and its citation system would be effective:

These law enforcement officers would be able to, in appropriate cases, cite a violator to get him/her to change the behavior that is harming the animals. Officers would be able to resolve some situations without charging animal cruelty — which is a felony — if a financial citation is effective in changing someone’s behavior when a verbal warning is not. The bill could also avoid lengthy court proceedings and resolve situations in the best interest of the animal more quickly.

In addition to enforcing animal cruelty laws, MSPCA and Animal Rescue League of Boston law enforcement officers have conducted inspections of state-licensed teaching and testing animal research facilities, pet shops, riding and boarding stables, boarding kennels, guard dog facilities and carriage horse operators. Our officers also have monitored activities such as rodeos, horse and oxen pulls, science fairs, and many other events that use or feature animals.

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