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Category: Advocacy
ARL Testifies for Virtual Legislative Hearing

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!

If your legislator is on the Judiciary Committee, it’s even more important to ask for their support! Find your legislator here.

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!


Benji’s Remarkable Transformation

ARL granted bond request in case

In 2017, legislation was enacted in an effort to strengthen financial protections for animal care facilities like the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), who provide long-term care for an animal who is the subject of an active animal cruelty investigation and prosecution.

The legislation allows the prosecuting agency to request a court order for the accused to post a security bond, which can be used to recuperate costs of shelter, food, medical care, behavioral training, and other related costs.

If granted, the accused would have to either cover the bond or forfeit the animal.

ARL staunchly advocated for this piece of legislation, and in early 2021 ARL was granted a bond in a case dating back to late 2019. It was the first time since the passage of the legislation that ARL was granted such a bond.

Benji’s Story

ARL’s Law Enforcement Department took custody of Benji, now a four-year-old pitbull-type dog in November 2019 – along with dehydration, skin issues, foreign material in his stomach and other medical concerns, he was severely emaciated, weighing just 30 pounds, about half of what he should’ve weighed at the time.

Animal cruelty charges were filed, and while the case made its way through the judicial system, the incredibly friendly and resilient dog began his long journey to recovery.

Given the level of his emaciation, he was put on a strict feeding program and placed into foster care.

With dozens of shelter medicine visits and plenty of love and care, over time Benji got back to a normal weight, and his persistent skin issues were treated.

Case Closed

In early 2021, ARL was granted the security bond, and the accused ultimately agreed to forfeit Benji.

Caring for Benji for well over a year, his foster family had formed an amazing, loving bond, and wound up adopting him!

Benji Adopted

Advocating for Animals

The 2021-2022 Massachusetts legislative has begun and ARL’s Advocacy Department will continue to push for statewide legislation on issues critical to animal welfare in the Commonwealth.

Click here to see ARL’s legislative agenda and for more information on how you can be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.


Southbridge Animal Control Officer Named 2020 “ACO of the Year”

Southbridge, MA – The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) are proud to announce that Southbridge Animal Control Officer (ACO) Katelyn Spencer has been named Animal Control Officer of the Year for 2020.

ACO of the Year Katelyn Spencer.

ARL and MSPCA established the ACO of the Year award to honor an animal control officer whose efforts in their local community throughout the year have promoted responsible pet ownership by:

  • manifesting a dedicated, humane attitude toward the treatment and well-being of all animals
  • effectively enforcing pet responsibility laws
  • conducting public awareness and humane education programs
  • maintaining cooperative working relationships with other agencies involved with animals, such as state and local government departments, other ACOs, and animal protection groups

Officer Spencer has been Southbridge’s ACO since 2017, and has consistently demonstrated dedication and compassion for both wild and domestic animals in distress throughout the community. Along with responding to hundreds of calls, Officer Spencer held vaccination and microchip clinics for residents in 2018 and 2019 (2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic), and spearheaded efforts to update the town’s Keeping of Pets bylaw, which was enacted in August 2020.

Spencer exemplifies the traits ARL and MSPCA look for each year in an ACO.

“ARL Law Enforcement has worked with Officer Spencer on a number of occasions and in each instance she was professional, dedicated and compassionate for the animals involved,” stated Joe King, ARL Director of Law Enforcement. “Officer Spencer is a credit to the profession and a true asset to the Southbridge animal community.”

“We are excited to recognize Katelyn as the ACO of the Year. Her nominations were stellar and she clearly embodies the traits we look for. She sets an example for the profession,” stated Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the MSPCA.

Officer Spencer’s nominations for ACO of the Year included a number of accolades, heralding her dedication to animals and community, professionalism, and compassion.

From those who nominated her:

  • “Katelyn has worked tirelessly to rescue animals both domestic and wild. Her dedication and compassion has saved a multitude of lives”
  • “I have worked as a law enforcement professional for more than 25 years… and in my experiences with ACO Spencer, I have not worked with a more professional or dedicated person to the proper treatment of ALL animals.”
  • “There is absolutely no task she cannot perform…she puts her heart on the line with every animal that crosses her path and the families that they belong to.”

ARL Offering Temporary Housing for Pet Owners Facing Eviction

Keeping pets and families together more important than ever

The Massachusetts eviction moratorium expired on October 17.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is now offering temporary housing assistance for pets whose owners may be forced to vacate their current living situation due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the core of its mission, ARL believes in keeping people and pets together, and is offering temporary shelter for animals whose owners may be experiencing housing instability or may be at imminent risk of homelessness. This is an imperative service for individuals facing eviction due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any pet owner who is experiencing housing instability is potentially eligible for this service, however, priority will be given to existing clients of ARL’s Wellness Waggin’.

The first step in the process is to contact ARL’s Admissions Office depending on location: Boston (617) 426-9170 x140; Dedham (617) 426-9170 x404; Brewster (617) 426-9170 x305.

Animal admissions is being coordinated through ARL’s animal care and adoption center management staff as space allows.

A prescreening process determines eligibility, and once accepted, the client is responsible for transporting the animal to the specified location.

The animal is held at the animal care and adoption facility temporarily to receive a veterinary exam and behavioral evaluation, and is then placed into a foster home.

Animals  have a maximum 120-day stay within ARL’s foster care network, and pet owners must agree to parameters of conditional surrender to ARL including maintaining bi-weekly check-ins throughout the pet’s placement period.

Additional Resources

The Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI) includes new programming and resources for tenants and landlords to avoid evictions and maintain household stability throughout the COVID-19 emergency. Learn more at Mass.gov. 


ARL Advocacy: Poaching

While Massachusetts has one of the country’s oldest animal welfare laws and has made strides to protect companion animals over the past decade, laws regarding poaching are woefully outdated. Poaching includes illegal hunting, trapping, and fishing. Many of the penalties for violating these laws have not been updated for almost a century.

Poaching is often depicted as something that targets exotic animals; we see pictures of endangered species illegally hunted as a trophy. However, poaching is not limited to endangered or exotic species. Poaching is simply a violation of hunting laws and include many animals that are lawful to hunt.

Concerns about violations of hunting laws lead to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, an agreement signed onto by 48 states to suspend hunting privileges for violations in other states. Massachusetts is one of only two states not signed onto this compact. What does this mean? It means that Massachusetts does not automatically consider out-of-state violations from for those with a hunting license in Massachusetts.

An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices (H.4131, text here) filed by Senator Michael Moore, Representative Lori A. Ehrlich, and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante would bring Massachusetts penalties in line with those commonplace in other states, join Massachusetts with the 49 other states as members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, and strengthen protections for wildlife in Massachusetts. This bill was reported favorably from Committee and is in House Ways and Means.

Poaching harms wildlife populations, impacting conservation efforts and lawful hunters alike. Enforcement and appropriate penalties for such violations across the country is a crucial component of protecting animals in their habitats.

Learn more about ARL’s position on hunting here: ARL Position Statement on Hunting


How a Bill Becomes a Law: PAWS II

As we talked about a few weeks ago, the PAWS bill of 2014 was a wonderful example of how the legislature can be truly committed to protecting animals in Massachusetts.

After the tragic finding of a dog who had been sadistically tortured in 2013, the legislature acted to make sure other animals would not suffer this fate.

With the bill moving on a rapid timeline, concerns were raised that more laws regarding animal welfare needed strengthening. The legislature convened a task force to examine some of these issues. The task force included representatives from animal welfare groups including ARL, law enforcement, attorneys, animal control, and human service providers.

The Task Force

The task force report had numerous recommendations to improve animal welfare in the commonwealth:

    • It proposed ending the cruel requirement that animals seized from fighting operations must be euthanized, instead allowing individual assessment of animals.
    • It would clarify that drowning animals was inhumane.
    • Another recommendation was that landlords be required to check vacant properties for pets.

There were many other more technical suggestions that would strengthen animal welfare ordinances across cities and towns.

The results of the Task Force’s findings would be the basis for an extension of the PAWS bill, this one appropriately called PAWS II.

Legislation

Governor Charlie Baker signing PAWS II into law

Governor Charlie Baker signing PAWS II into law.

PAWS II was filed in January in 2017, largely mirroring the recommendations of the task force assembled in 2014.

The hearing for the bill was held in October of the first year of the session, and was reported favorably by the committee in December of 2017.

This gave PAWS II a much longer timeframe to get passed than the first PAWS bill.

In March of 2018, the Senate debated the bill.

Two months later, the House debated their version.

The two had to be reconciled, and on July 17, a conference committee was appointed to settle the differences between the two branches. The group had two weeks to come to an agreement.

The final agreement came late in the final day of the session on July 31.

The conference committee was able to secure many important proposals of the task force, including:

    • allowing increased reporting of animal cruelty by human service agency staff;
    • making animal control officers mandated reporters of abuse of elders, individuals with disabilities, and children;
    • requiring landlords check vacant properties for abandoned animals;
    • prohibiting the drowning of animals, update laws regarding animal sexual abuse, including prohibition on future ownership of animals;
    • ending mandatory euthanasia of animals seized from animal fighting operations and allows for individual evaluation of animals;
    • updating penalties and making technical changes improving enforcement of animal control laws, including improperly kept kennels.

The bill was engrossed in the late hours of the legislative session on July 31.

There were still the steps of enactment and being signed into law by the Governor.

Fortunately, both branches and the Governor recognized the importance of these common sense protections, and ARL was able to celebrate the signing of PAWS II at a ceremonial signing in September 2018.

PAWS II was able to move through the legislative process because of the hard work of legislators, staff, and advocates who contacted the legislature to make their voice known.

Want to learn more about how you can get involved in advocacy? Check out our Advocacy 101 post.


Advocacy 101: Understanding Too Hot for Spot®

For many, August is a time to relax and take in summer.

Similarly, August is usually a quiet time in the legislature. It’s hot, elections are coming up, and formal business is usually on hold.

While August is a laid back time for people, August is a dangerous time for pets. Summer, even in New England, brings hot days and the risks that come with them.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Too Hot for Spot® Campaign annually encourages people to think before taking their pets out on the road with them. A minute to a store can quickly turn into 15 or 20 minutes. On an 80 degree day, a car can reach 120 degrees in minutes. For an animal, this can mean injury or even death.

A bill becomes a law

In the summer of 2016, Massachusetts became one of a limited number of states allowing private individuals to rescue animals from cars when their health is threatened by extreme temperatures.

Passage of this law was not easy, and required determination on the part of legislators, advocates, and the public.

The bill that would eventually become law was actually originally sent to study.

This is often the end of a bill’s consideration in the legislature. Fortunately, this was not the case here.

The bill was removed from study, and sent to the Senate where it passed 39-0. But it was the end of June, and with only a month left in the session, it was up against the clock.

The House saw this bill as a crucial effort to save animals lives, and took the unusual step of passing the bill in August.

After July 31 of even numbered years, any legislator can object to a bill, killing it. However, there was no controversy here, and the bill was passed and signed into law by the Governor in August of 2016.

This law is most known for its authorizing of civilians freeing animals in danger from vehicles. This is only part of the law.

The law, called “An Act preventing animal suffering and death” also limited the amount of time and the conditions in which dogs may be left outside. Prior to this change, dogs could be left outside for up to 24 hours, regardless of weather conditions.

What does the law really say?

View the full text of Ch. 140, Sec. 174F here.

The prohibition on leaving an animal in a car is clear:

“A person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.”

If you see an animal in a car, you must first try and locate the owner. If you can’t find the owner, call your law enforcement or your local animal control. They will try and find the owner as well, and will enter the vehicle if need be.

“After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner, an animal control officer…, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter a motor vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal”

What if you can’t find the owner and help isn’t arriving in time?

“After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner,  a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter shall not enter a motor vehicle to remove an animal to protect the health and safety of that animal in immediate danger unless the person:

You have to notify law enforcement or 911.

  • notifies law enforcement or calls 911 before entering the vehicle;

If the door is unlocked, you can open the door. If the door is not unlocked, you need to be reasonable. This is not an excuse to damage someone’s car; you must only use as much force as is necessary to enter the vehicle and remove the animal.

  • determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit and uses not more force than reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and remove the animal;

You have to actually and reasonably think that the animal is in imminent danger in the vehicle. If you see an animal in distress and you truly believe that you have to enter the vehicle to save the animal, you may do so.

  • has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal; and

You must stay with the animal until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.

  • remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.

This is the part of the law that allows you to break a window to save an animals life. You must follow every step. Not calling law enforcement, causing more damage than is necessary to remove the animal, or leaving the animal is likely to result in you being held responsible for the damage to the vehicle. Additionally, there must really be an animal in distress.

“A person who removes an animal from a motor vehicle pursuant to subsection (e) shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.”

The law empowers individuals to save animals in distress from hot cars. ARL continues to advocate for people to think about what their trip entails before they bring their furry friends along—and never leave an animal unattended in a car!


Legislating in the Time of COVID-19

All of our lives have been changed drastically by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Massachusetts Legislature is no different.

What is usually a flurry of activity in April, May, June, and July, the legislature saw a very different pace this year.

A series of interim budgets replaced the usual days-long debate in the House and Senate in April and May. For the first time in its history, members used video conferencing software to hold hearings and were able to call into legislative sessions to vote and debate.

The State House building itself, usually bustling with legislators, staff, press, school groups, tourists, and advocates, sat dormant except for a limited number of legislators and staff.

Lobby days, including ARL’s event geared towards animal protection legislation, were first postponed then ultimately canceled, and advocates turned to phone and email to connect with legislators.

In another historic measure, last week, the Massachusetts Legislature took the unprecedented step of suspending the rule requiring formal session end on July 31 on the second year of the session. While unprecedented, it was all but inevitable as the scope and reality of economic and health impacts became clear.

The formal legislative session will now run through the end of the year.

There are several bills in conference, as small groups of legislators from the House and the Senate try and come to final agreement. The legislature still used the last few days of July to take up and pass a number of bills, but the timeline is extended through the fall.

What does this mean for ARL’s bills?

The legislature will still be able to do business and are likely to debate a full budget this fall. In the meantime, there is a focus on those issues that are directly related to COVID-19.

We are constantly monitoring the legislature, so stay tuned to our social media to learn about any updates. View ARL’s Legislative Agenda.


ARL Position Statements: Our Guiding Documents

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) drafts position statements to inform the public of our principles. These position statements include a variety of animal welfare issues, and are regularly evaluated.

ARL’s position statements can be found here.

This week, we spotlight ARL’s position statement on Declawing.

Declawing is not a simple nail trim, it is an amputation of part of a cat’s toe. While many who seek out declawing do so because of undesired scratching, cats who are declawed often see more behavioral problems due to pain and inability to exercise a natural instinct to scratch.

A year ago this week, New York made history by being the first state in the country to prohibit the procedure outside of limited exceptions.

Here in Massachusetts, a bill to prohibit declawing, filed by Senator Mark Montigny, emerged from the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure with a favorable report earlier this year.

ARL testified in favor of the bill at the hearing last July, coincidentally on the same day that New York signed their ban into law.

The hearing was an example of how powerful advocacy can be, with dozens of advocates and grassroots organizations testifying in support of the legislation.

ARL supports a ban on declawing, outside of when medically necessary for the animal’s health, because it puts the animal’s health first.

Understanding about this elective practice is spreading.

Earlier this year, VCA Animal Hospitals, Banfield Pet Hospitals, and BluePearl Pet Hospitals updated their policies to end elective declaw procedures, only doing so to treat pain or illness of the animal. With over 2000 locations in the US, this change in policy will have a monumental effect on elective declaws across the country.


Updated: ARL Caring for 80 Cats from Edgartown Law Enforcement Case

Breeder facing animal cruelty charges

This past week, the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Law Enforcement Department, along with Edgartown (Martha’s Vineyard) Police and Animal Control and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) personnel, executed a search warrant at an Edgartown home and removed 65 cats from the property.

The cats were transferred to ARL’s care for veterinary care and will likely need weeks of treatment.

Update: Two litters of kittens have been born and ARL is now caring for approximately 80 cats and kittens.

The cat breeder, Jennifer Winsper, 48, will be charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty (MGL.272/77/B: Animal Cruelty by a Custodian).

ARL Law Enforcement inspected the property in 2019 following complaints of sick cats being sold off island. A similar complaint was lodged with Edgartown Animal Control in late June 2020. Edgartown Animal Control Officer Betsy Buck and MDAR personnel inspected the property following the complaint and determined the conditions were detrimental and dangerous for the animals.

ARL Law Enforcement sought and was then granted a search warrant for the property to take custody of the cats.

With the help of Edgartown Police and Animal Control and MDAR, 65 cats were safely removed from the property. Conditions inside the building where the cats were being kept had poor air quality, an overwhelming odor of animal waste, and was incredibly hot.

“We are very appreciative of the strong partnership we have with the Animal Rescue League of Boston,” said Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee. “Their resources and expertise are invaluable to a small police department, especially one out here on Martha’s Vineyard, in cases like these.”

ARL wishes to thank Edgartown Police and Animal Control and MDAR for their assistance and resolve in rescuing these animals from difficult circumstances.

How You Can Help

An influx of this many animals causes a strain on ARL’s resources, and an emergency gift today can support:

  • Veterinary care and rehabilitation for the sudden influx of animals that have suffered
  • On-going investigations of cruelty to pursue justice for animals
  • Emergency response when crisis strikes and animals are in dire need

Thank you for supporting ARL’s ongoing efforts to combat animals suffering cruelty, neglect and abuse.

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