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State Legislation

2019-2020 Massachusetts Legislative Session

The current session started on January 2, 2019 and ends on July 31, 2020. The deadline for bills to be filed was January 18, 2019. Usually, more than 5,000 bills are filed at the beginning of a session and another couple of thousand are late-filed. We will continue to update this page as we review the language of bills.

Legislators had until February 1, 2019 to co-sponsor House bills. Legislators have until bills are reported from their Joint Committee to sign on to Senate bills. Find out how to contact your legislators, and learn tips on how to engage with them here. Also, click on any Read More link below to take direct action on that particular bill.

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Bills We Support:

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
The Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government released five animal protection bills, and combined them into this 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.

S. 1204, H. 1823: An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens
These bills provide fair and reasonable recourse in the event that an “unfit” puppy or kitten is sold to a consumer by improving the puppy and kitten “Lemon Law.” Families who discover that they have purchased a sick puppy or kitten from a pet shop or breeder typically spend unexpected and large sums of money on veterinary bills, choosing to keep the animal rather than return him or her to the seller—both because they are attached to the animal and are concerned about what might happen if he or she is returned. These bills enhance consumer protection by requiring a better remedy, including the option for reimbursement of some medical expenses.

S. 989, H. 1822: An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals  
These bills expand upon current law, found in Ch. 140 sec. 174E, that allows citations to be issued when dogs are kept in cruel conditions. This legislation extends this protection to all domestic animals and also updates language to ensure that dogs left outside and unattended are protected. Broadening the current statute’s scope in this way allows an effective response to problematic situations without escalating them prematurely.

S. 595, H. 1037: An Act concerning the use of certain insurance underwriting guidelines pertaining to dogs harbored upon the insured property
These bills prevent insurance companies from denying or cancelling homeowners insurance based on the breed of dog owned, a practice that can separate dogs from their families. Such decisions should instead be based on the behavior of the individual dog, not his or her appearance/suspected breed.

H. 1038: An Act to prohibit housing discrimination against responsible dog owners
This bill ensures that certain types of housing agreements (such as condo bylaws, some leases, etc.), as well as public housing authorities, cannot discriminate against, or include language that limits, a tenant or resident’s ability to live in that type of housing based on the size, weight, or perceived breed of a dog owned by a tenant/resident.

S. 496: An Act relative to ivory and rhinoceros horn trafficking
This bill clamps down on illegal ivory and rhino horn sales by restricting the sale, trade, and distribution of ivory and rhino horn in Massachusetts, ensuring that the Commonwealth no longer contributes to the unprecedented global poaching crisis. Elephants are being killed at an unsustainable rate; 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012 alone to satisfy the ivory market, an average of 96 per day, and forest elephants are predicted to be extinct within a decade if current poaching rates continue. All five subspecies of rhinos are endangered. This unprecedented poaching crisis is not just a global or federal issue, however. Massachusetts plays a substantial role, and bold action is required on the state level to save elephants and rhinos from extinction.

S. 2028, H. 2934: An Act relative to the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows
These bills prohibit the use of elephants, big cats, primates, bears, and giraffes in traveling shows in Massachusetts. These shows—using dangerous animals—are not only detrimental to animal welfare, but also present a public safety risk. Such traveling shows subject highly intelligent, social animals to coercive and abusive treatment and near-constant travel where they are deprived of exercise and the ability to express their most basic, natural behaviors, all while simultaneously putting the public at risk of both disease and injury.

H. 4131 (formerly S. 507, H. 773): An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices
This bill modernizes penalties for poaching—some of which have not been updated in nearly a century—and enters Massachusetts into an interstate law enforcement network, ending our status as a poacher’s paradise. Currently, only two states are non-members of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact: Massachusetts and Hawaii. Yet even Hawaii, a borderless state, has, as of May 2019, passed legislation in both of its chambers to join the compact. By joining this compact and by updating our poaching penalties to bring them in line with those of other states, Massachusetts would be able to deter would-be poachers, while also protecting wildlife, tourism, and business in the Commonwealth.

S. 2463 (formerly S. 534, H. 758, H. 764): An Act protecting research animals
This bill facilitates a relationship between laboratories that use dogs and cats for research purposes and registered non-profit animal rescue organizations in order to make suitable retired laboratory dogs and cats available for public adoption.

S. 2504: An Act concerning the use of animals in product testing
This bill requires the use of non-animal test methods when available. Alternatives provide information of equivalent or superior quality and relevance to humans in comparison to animal tests. This bill applies to products such as cosmetics, household cleaners, and industrial chemicals, like those in paint; it does not apply to testing done for medical research, including testing of drugs or medical devices.

S. 2358 (formerly S. 510, H. 812, H. 3603): An Act protecting dogs at boarding kennels and daycare facilities
Massachusetts currently has no state oversight of doggie daycare or boarding kennels. This bill would require reasonable rules and regulations of these facilities, such as specifications on staff to dog ratios, group sizes and supervision, minimum housing and care requirements, indoor and outdoor physical facility requirements, dog handling, and insurance. Many families in Massachusetts have suffered the loss or injury of a companion animal at a doggie daycare or kennel—tragedies that could be mitigated by commonsense oversight of these facilities. (Note: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns (see above) also has sections that address boarding and daycare facilities for dogs and cats.)

S. 501: An Act to provide additional funding for animal welfare and safety programming.
This bill would enable additional monies to be directed to the Mass Animal Fund for the purpose of spaying, neutering or vaccinating homeless dogs and cats, or those that live with low-income families, by stipulating that administrative fines issued pursuant to Section 37 of Chapter 129 (“Enforcement actions; jurisdiction of commissioner of agriculture, district and superior courts”) would go to the Fund.

S. 169: An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing
This bill prohibits the declawing, onychectomy, or tendonectomy of a cat. The standard, elective, declawing procedure calls for the removal of the claw and the first bone of the toe. The operation is usually performed on the front feet, and is in fact an amputation comparable to the removal of human fingertips at the first knuckle.

S. 2494: An Act relative to the ownership of pets by convicted animal abusers
This bill would prohibit a person who is convicted of animal cruelty from owning or possessing an animal for a period of time determined by the court. It also would enable additional monies to be directed to the Mass Animal Fund for the purpose of spaying, neutering or vaccinating homeless dogs and cats or those that live with low-income families.

S. 2423 (formerly S. 1431): An Act allowing humane transportation of K9 partners, a.k.a. Nero’s Law
H. 4230 (formerly H. 2037): An Act providing for the care and transportation of police dogs injured in the line of duty
These bills would allow a law enforcement dog injured in the line of duty to be treated and transported in an ambulance if there is not competing need for human transport.

H. 3714: An Act to create a special commission to study the effects of rat poison on wildlife
This bill would create a special commission to study techniques to control rodent populations, to explore effectiveness and deterrents, and to develop a model integrative pest management plan to serve as the framework for mitigating conflicts that incorporates preventative techniques (such as exclusion) and awareness about wildlife-proofing. This bill would allow an examination of alternatives to rodenticides. Among other rodenticides, second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are used quite heavily in Massachusetts to reduce the rodent population, often without awareness to what these chemicals do to their target (mice and rats), non-target wildlife, and domestic animals.


Bills We Oppose:

S. 2501 (formerly S. 468): An Act relative to outdoor heritage
This bill (now carrying S. 471S. 472S. 473S. 474S. 476S. 479S. 487H. 782H. 835H. 884 and H. 887) removes a number of restrictions and bans on unsporting and unnecessary hunting practices such as Sunday hunting, moose hunting, and certain prohibitions on carrying firearms, making enforcing poaching laws more difficult. For more information on moose hunting (S. 474) and Sunday hunting (S. 472, S. 487H. 782, H. 884, H. 887) see below.

S. 474: An Act relative to the moose population in the Commonwealth
This bill seeks to lift the existing law prohibiting moose hunting in Worcester, Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties. A statewide prohibition on hunting moose has been in place in Massachusetts since 1913. There is no data showing that a moose hunt is necessary for population control. While the most common concern raised regarding moose is car collisions, this issue can be, and has been, addressed with more effective methods than hunting. Additionally, 86% of Mass residents agree that with less than 1,000 moose in the state, moose hunting should remain prohibited. Given the small moose population in Massachusetts and the Commonwealth’s residents’ overwhelming opposition, there is simply no reason to re-introduce moose hunting in Massachusetts.

S. 472, S. 487H. 782, H. 884, H. 887: Sunday hunting legislation
These bills would, in various ways, end the statewide ban on Sunday hunting. 86% of Massachusetts residents want to maintain the ban on Sunday hunting while hunters represent just 1% of the Massachusetts population. These bills prioritize a small minority over an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts residents who rely on Sunday to be the one day of the week during hunting season when they can safely venture into the woods without fear of an accident. As the third most densely populated state in the nation, lifting our Sunday hunting ban would introduce unnecessary risk to the public, as well as to the companion animals with whom they spend time in the outdoors.

S. 475An Act relative to the use of artificial light; H. 890: An Act relative to hunting with artificial light
These bills would expand an already-archaic Massachusetts state law that permits spotlighting, which involves shining a bright light at a target animal to blind, and thus paralyze it. At night, a nocturnal animals’ pupils are wide open to let in as much light as possible, and spotlighting literally temporarily blinds them. While blinded and frozen in place, they are shot. Most states ban spotlighting because it is considered so unsporting, but these bills expand the practice. Spotlighting is also dangerous to public health because hunters often spotlight not far from dark roads and cannot easily see passing cars or people who may be in the surrounding area and harm’s way.

S. 479H. 781H. 839, H. 885: Trapping legislation
These bills would remove or weaken current restrictions on cruel body-gripping Conibear and leghold (sometimes called foot-hold) traps, which are used to capture fur-bearing animals, such as beaver and coyote. These changes would effectively allow a return to the days of recreational trapping with these inhumane and indiscriminate devices, something that 64% of Massachusetts voters rejected in 1996 when they voted in favor of the Wildlife Protection Act ballot initiative.

H. 1773: An Act to protect pets in the Commonwealth
This bill is a watered-down version of a bill (An Act to protect puppies and kittens) that passed the Senate last session. It removes important protections in that bill at the behest of the pet trade industry, including: removing provisions for a remedy if a person purchases a sick puppy or kitten, removing language that would allow cities and towns to still enact local ordinances relating to the retail sale of animals, explicitly allowing unlicensed breeders to sell to pet shops, and removing important consumer protection information required on an animal’s cage, among other changes. We urge people to support the stronger bills (see above for more info): An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns; An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops; and An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens.

S. 2592 (formerly S. 175/H. 800): An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops
As originally filed, this bill would have prohibited the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet shops unless the animals come from shelters or rescue organizations. Typically, pet shops obtain animals from substandard breeding facilities, which results in consumers unknowingly purchasing sick or genetically-compromised pets. Massachusetts state records consistently document such complaints from across the Commonwealth. State and federal records have also demonstrated that puppies from the worst “puppy mills” in the country have been sold to Massachusetts consumers via pet shops. These bills thus protect both animals and consumers, while having no impact on responsible breeders.

This bill was re-drafted in the Committee and would no longer do this and has new harmful language.


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