BOSTON, March 17, 2014 – As the MSPCA-Angell and hundreds of animal advocates prepare to descend on the Massachusetts State House for tomorrow’s Lobby Day for Animals 2014, a bill to protect both humans and animals from severe storms and natural disasters today passed in the state Legislature and now awaits the signature of Governor Deval Patrick to become law.
Senate Bill 1172, better known as an “act ensuring the safety of people with pets in disasters,” was sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka and passed both the House and Senate with broad support. “As a dog owner and animal lover, I understand the reluctance of many people to leave their pets and service animals behind in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency,” said Senator Spilka (D-Ashland). “Victims of a disaster should not have to suffer the additional emotional stress of having to abandon their household pets. I’m glad that the legislature is taking these steps to ensure public safety and better care for our animals.”
Championed by the MSPCA and the State of Massachusetts Animal Response Team (SMART), the law will require cities and towns to have a plan in place to address the evacuation and sheltering needs of household pets and service animals before, during and after an emergency or natural disaster.
The bill is popular with other organizations tasked with protecting the public from the effects of natural disasters, such as the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Said the organization’s chief disaster officer in Massachusetts, Leighton Jones: “History has shown us that people will risk their lives for their pets during disasters by either not evacuating or by trying to rescue them. Their pets are their family, and you don’t leave family members behind. The American Red Cross of Massachusetts works with a number of agencies across the state to ensure pets and their owners are safe during emergency situations, and this bill supports that effort.”
The MSPCA’s Advocacy team includes a summary of the bill, and other pending animal protection legislation on its Website. Click here to read more on how the bill will protect people and animals.
Said MSPCA-Angell director of advocacy Kara Holmquist, “The fact that this bill passed in just one legislative session underscores how important it is to protect animals and people during natural disasters—which pose an increasingly severe threat to residents of the Commonwealth. Now, citizens of our state will never have to choose between their own safety and that of their pet or service animal.” David Schwarz, DVM and president of SMART echoed Holmquist’s comment. “The State Of Massachusetts Animal Response Team (SMART) will make every effort to help all emergency managers include pets in planning for all emergencies and disasters,” he said.
Setting the Stage for Lobby Day
News of the bill’s passage comes as nearly 300 animal advocates are expected to attend Lobby Day for Animals tomorrow, March 18, to meet one-on-one with lawmakers and urge passage of several bills that will dramatically advance animal protection in Massachusetts. The MSPCA is targeting 2014 for the passage of several new laws. A snapshot includes:
- Strengthening the laws to prevent animal cruelty
- Requiring landlords and owners of vacant properties to inspect them for abandoned animals
- Ensuring the health and well-being of dogs and cats bred and sold in Massachusetts, including preventing the sale of dogs or cats less than eight weeks old
- Prohibiting certain confinement practices for egg-laying hens, veal calves and pregnant pigs
- Ending the trade of shark fins (obtained by cutting the fin off live shark)
For a complete list of pending legislation the MSPCA supports or opposes click here. The MSPCA has held a series of information sessions leading up to Lobby day to brief participants on the pending legislation and prepare them for meetings with lawmakers.
The MSPCA and its supporters will be joined by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts.
The MSPCA Advocacy team encourages anyone who would like to be kept up-to-date on animal-related legislation to join its Animal Action Team by signing up at www.mspca.org/JoinTheTeam.
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 visitwww.mspca.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mspcaangell