An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death

(Boston, MA, 08/24/16) MSPCA on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. Staff photo by Matt Stone

(Boston, MA, 08/24/16) Photo by Matt Stone

This law is Chapter 248 of the Acts of 2016. It took effect on November 17, 2016. We thank the Governor and the legislators for taking action and to everyone who took time to advocate for this law.

See more photos of the bill signing on our flickr site.



Danger signals to watch for in a dog or cat:
heavy panting  ●  rapid breathing ●  staggering  ●  weakness

A heat-stricken animal can die in minutes, but proper care may save its life.


What does this law do?

  1. Enables animal control officers, fire fighters, and law enforcement to remove animals kept in vehicles in a manner reasonably expected to threaten the health of the animal due to extreme heat or cold. In extreme weather, cars can heat up rapidly, putting animals left in cars at risk for suffering and death. Law enforcement officers shouldn’t have to  have to wait until an animal is suffering so much it is a violation of the animal cruelty statute before removing an animal from a vehicle. Ch 140 sec. 174F allows individuals to remove an animal when  in immediate danger in a vehicle and no other options exist.
  2. Improves the effectiveness of a law restricting dog tethering by making the law more enforceable. This bill prohibits tethering between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, unless it is for less than 15 minutes. It also prohibits tethering for more than 5 hours during the day. Improves impact of the law that restricts tethering and prohibits keeping dogs in “cruel conditions” by allowing additional agencies to enforce it.

Why are these protections needed?

The inside of a car can heat up to 100° F in 10 minutes on an 80° F day – even with the windows slightly open. Animals may suffer and can die quickly when left in a hot car. A car will heat up rapidly and an animal is unable to cool himself or herself down. Pets can suffer needlessly and could die when left in a car even on a moderately hot day.

Many animal control officers had expressed concern that waiting to remove an animal from a vehicle until the animal is suffering enough to be a violation of the cruelty statute is inhumane, wrong and can still be too late for the animal. Earlier intervention can save the animal and save the owner from being charged with animal cruelty, a felony in Massachusetts. This law has also been helpful in educating the public about the dangers of leaving animals in cars in extreme weather. Citations have enabled officers to promote animal safety and will hold offenders accountable for their actions.

Good tethering policies prevent dogs from living on chains and help both people and dogs. Dogs are naturally social animals who thrive on interaction. A dog kept continuously on a chain suffers immense psychological damage and an otherwise friendly and docile dog can become neurotic, anxious, or aggressive. Allowing MSPCA and Animal Rescue League of Boston officers to enforce this provision regarding cruel conditions has reduced animal suffering — especially during winter months where animals can suffer from inadequate shelter and protection from the elements. Read the law relating to dog tethering and cruel confinement.



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