On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary met to hear testimony on 19 specific animal protection bills, with the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) testifying in favor of a proposed citation bill.
A citation statute does currently exist in Massachusetts, however it only applies to dogs. ARL believes the law needs to be expanded to include other animals, including livestock and farm animals.
An Act enhancing the issuance of citation for cruel conditions for animals (S.1097/H.1840) would define cruel conditions and appropriate shelter for most animals.
It would also allow animal control officers and law enforcement personnel to issue civil citations for violations, which would include a $50 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Additionally, after a third offense, the animal(s) involved could be subject to seizure.
Currently, animal cruelty in Massachusetts is a felony offense, subject to a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison, however ARL believes that a lesser penalty is necessary to give law enforcement a tool to intervene before cruelty or neglect rises to a felony level, particularly with farm animals and overcrowding/hoarding situations.
“This bill would give law enforcement an extra tool to allow us to get to the root of the problem before it reaches a criminal level,” ARL Law Enforcement Investigator Lt. Alan Borgal, stated to the committee.
The need for such a statute came to light in 2016, following the largest farm animal cruelty case in New England history that involved well over 1,000 animals at a tenant farm in Westport, MA, and resulted in 151 counts of animal cruelty levied against more than 20 individuals.
The case involved chronic neglect, however advocates believe that had civil citations been available to law enforcement, it may have been possible to intervene earlier.
“In the case of many of these animals, there was no ability of animal control officers or law enforcement to intervene until the situation became dire,” ARL Director of Advocacy Allison Blanck, told the panel.
With the hearing concluded, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary will now discuss the proposed bills internally and determine which pieces of legislation will move on to the next step of the legislative process.
How you can get involved
Thanks to a new rule this session, it’s not too late to ask your legislators to sign on as co-sponsors!
To learn more about other hearings and opportunities to get involved, fill out the form here.
Advocating for animals in Massachusetts
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) monitors and advocates for statewide legislation on issues critical to animal welfare in the Commonwealth. Our legislative agenda highlights our priorities for the two year session.
To view ARL’s legislative agenda in its entirety and to track the progress of proposed legislation click here!