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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill to Improve Protections for Pets

Animal welfare organizations urge Governor Charlie Baker to sign S.2369

BOSTON, Aug. 11, 2016 — On one of the hottest days of 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill that would prevent animal suffering and death by ensuring animals can be rescued from hot cars, limiting the time dogs spend on a tether, and increasing enforcement of existing prohibitions on keeping dogs in cruel conditions. The bill is now headed for the Governor’s desk.

S.2369 would give animal control officers, law enforcement officers, and fire-fighters authority to remove an animal and cite the owner when conditions in a car are expected to threaten the health of the animal due to extreme heat or cold. The bill would also prohibit dog tethering between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and when a weather advisory or warning has been issued. Tethering is permitted for less  than 15 minutes and if the dog is not left unattended.

With the passage of S.2369, special police officers from the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston could enforce existing prohibitions on keeping dogs in cruel conditions, such as exposure to excessive animal waste, garbage, dirty water, noxious odors and other potentially dangerous circumstances. This provision provides greater protection for animals by permitting these law enforcement officers to issue financial citations when verbal warnings are not effective.

“This is the first animal protection bill to reach the Governor’s desk, and The Humane Society of the United States, the MSPCA, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston urge Governor Baker to sign S.2369 into law,” said Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts state director for The HSUS. “Animal protection is a bi-partisan issue that has tremendous support among Massachusetts voters. We’re grateful to the state legislature for continuing Massachusetts’ trend of leading the country in protecting animals.”

“The urgency to pass S.2369 thankfully has not been lost on our legislators. Just last week a dog died in Plymouth after being left in a vehicle and another one was near death in Quincy,” said Mary Nee, president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. “We will continue to advocate for the safety and well-being of all animals and urge the Governor to sign S.2369 giving our first responders the protections to do their job without fear of lawsuits and the ability to protect all animals in need.”

“We thank the many legislators worked to move this bill through the legislature to get it to the Governor’s desk.” said Kara Holmquist, director of Advocacy for the MSPCA. “This bill will help maintain Massachusetts as a leader on animal protection and will have a significant impact on animals in our state.”

Legislator quotes:

“Most of us treat our pets like family members — some even better — but for the poor animals that are neglectfully left in hot or cold cars or tethered inappropriately, this bill is for them,” said Lori Ehrlich (D -Marblehead) the House sponsor of the bill. “Thank you to the MSPCA for raising awareness and making sure that those who cannot open doors, untether themselves, or speak, have a strong voice on Beacon Hill.”

“I’ve seen firsthand in my district the issue of animals in hot cars,” stated Representative Angelo Puppolo. “I am proud to have advocated for this bill to ensure animals have the best chance of surviving this potentially deadly situation.”

“This measure represents an important step forward for the health and well-being of animals here in the Massachusetts.  Now the MSPCA and Animal Rescue League, working cooperatively with animal control officers, will be able to rescue animals if they are in danger,” said Representative David Rogers (D-Cambridge). Civilians will also be able to save pets from hot cars after looking for the owners and notifying law enforcement. This legislation will provide a safety net for animals, helping ensure they do not suffer needlessly.”

“I’m very pleased that we got this done before the summer ends,” said Representative Kafka. “I am confident that this legislation will go a long way in reducing these kinds of occurrences, which often have tragic results.”

“The bill enacted in the Legislature today strengthens crucial protections for animals by expanding the authority of special state police officers employed by the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston to enforce already existing restrictions relative to how dogs can be tethered outside and what kinds of conditions they can be subjected to,” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “I’m grateful for the Legislature’s efforts to protect animals across the state and look forward the bill becoming law.”

“Enactment of S. 2369 reaffirms Massachusetts’ commitment to ensuring that the lives of our animals are valued. I am glad I was able to play a role in advancing this important legislation to keep animals safe in and out of their homes and in all weather conditions,” said Senator Barbara L’Italien.

“Pets who provide us with enduring companionship and love must be protected from cruel and abusive actions by neglectful owners. This legislation will crack down on such reckless treatment by empowering local authorities and the general public to take action while imposing stiff penalties on the perpetrators.  Simply put the animal first. If you see one in distress call 911 and break the window,” stated Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford).

“Passage of this legislation raises awareness and provides guidelines and direction for a person to act when they encounter a dog in danger when locked in a vehicle in extremely hot weather,” said Representative Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers).

Media Contacts:

  •         The HSUS: Cheylin Parker, 240-599-6848,
  •         The MSPCA: Rob Halpin, 617-541-5120,
  •         The Animal Rescue League of Boston: Dot Joyce, 617-293-3530,

About The HSUS: Subscribe to Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation. Follow The HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals and people.

The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions from individuals who care about animals. Please visit and like us on Facebook at

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is dedicated to rescuing domesticated animals and wildlife from suffering, cruelty, abandonment, and neglect. In 2014, 15,100 animals received the care they needed through ARL shelters, rescue and law enforcement services, and community veterinary programs.  The ARL receives no government funding and relies solely on the generosity of supporters to help animals in need.  To learn more about the impact of your donations on animal, visit