State Legislation

2019-2020 Massachusetts Legislative Session

The current session started on January 2, 2019. 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 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. 114, H. 1774: An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns
These bills have several provisions to protect consumers and animals from unsafe practices by: prohibiting the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks of age; ensuring regulations for certain kennels, such as boarding and breeding kennels; updating several laws about kennel licensing; and prohibiting the roadside sale of 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 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. Note that S. 990: An Act relative to improving enforcement for tethering violations contains the sections of this bill relating to dogs kept outside and unattended.

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. 175, H. 800: An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops
These bills prohibit 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.

S. 496, H. 772: An Act relative to ivory and rhinoceros horn trafficking
These bills clamp 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, and bears 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.

S. 507, H. 773: An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices
These bills modernize penalties for poaching—some of which have not been updated in nearly a century—and enter 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. 534, H. 758, H. 764: An Act protecting research animals
These bills facilitate 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. 505, H. 823: An Act concerning the use of animals in product testing
These bills require 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. These bills apply 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
While the language varies, these bills would provide some regulations of “doggie daycares,” and several would also require regulations be promulgated for the operation of boarding kennels and daycare facilities (such as staff qualifications and development, provider/dog ratios and interaction, group sizes and supervision, minimum housing, physical facility and care requirements, utilities, dog handling, body language interpretation, breed familiarity, emergency response training, and insurance). Note that 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 vaccinated 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. 1037: An Act relative to the ownership of pets by convicted animal abusers
H. 3772: An Act relative to protecting animals from abusers
These bills, while drafted differently, both prohibit a person who is convicted of animal cruelty from owning or possessing an animal for a period of time determined by the court.

S. 1431: An Act allowing humane transportation of K9 partners, a.k.a. Nero’s Law
H. 2037: An Act providing for the care and transportation of police dogs injured in the line of duty
While not identical, both of these bills would allow a law enforcement dog injured in the line of duty to be 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 and to explore effectiveness and deterrents and to develop a model integrative pest management plan to serve as the framework for mitigating conflicts that will incorporate 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. 472, S. 487H. 782, H. 884, H. 887: Sunday hunting legislation
A number of bills are filed each session that would eliminate in whole or part 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. Sunday hunting bills prioritize a small minority over an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts residents who do not hunt, and who enjoy non-consumptive uses of nature and wildlife.

S. 479H. 781H. 839, H. 885: Trapping legislation
A number of bills are filed each session that 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 decried in 1996 when they voted in favor of a ballot initiative known as the Wildlife Protection Act.

S. 468: An Act relative to outdoor heritage
This bill removes a number of restrictions and bans on unsporting and unnecessary hunting practices such as Sunday hunting, bear baiting, spotlighting, and moose hunting. It would also remove some prohibitions on carrying firearms, making enforcing poaching laws more difficult. (For more information on spotlighting and moose hunting see S. 475 and H. 890 (spotlighting) and S. 474 (moose hunting) below.)

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. 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.

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; An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens.


Want to see what we supported and opposed during the 2017-2018 session? Click here!

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