The Dog Files salutes Massachusetts for taking a smart, thoughtful approach to dog-related issues.
Dog Files Creator
Boston, Massachusetts – In a move praised by animal advocates everywhere, the State of Massachusetts made huge strides in animal protection on August 2, 2012, when Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Senate Bill 2192, “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.”
The landmark bill includes several key components to help protect both animals and people:
It creates a state fund, contributed to by a voluntary check-off on state income tax forms, that will help pay for spay/neuter programs, which will reduce the number of homeless animals in the state. The fund will also provide financial support for cities and towns to shelter homeless animals, and help fund low-cost vaccination clinics.
It requires training for animal control officers, which is currently not mandatory. Training will include animal capture techniques, animal CPR and education regarding cruelty statutes and animal health. It will also institute oversight of animal control officers by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. The new training and oversight will be funded by the voluntary tax return check-off.
It strengthens the provisions of the state’s existing spay/neuter deposit law for animals adopted from shelters and animal control facilities by requiring adopters sign a written agreement for animals that are adopted out without being spayed/neutered and increasing the deposit collected in such cases.
It prohibits inhumane methods of euthanasia, such as by carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas (the “gas chamber”).
It creates kennel licensing categories, both residential and commercial.
It creates consistency in the holding time for stray animals.
It requires health certificates for dogs and cats entering the state.
It increases fines for animal cruelty.
But perhaps the two most groundbreaking provisions of the bill are those regarding domestic violence and breed-specific legislation.
The new bill allows pets to be included in restraining orders. This means victims of domestic violence can seek help without having to leave a pet behind.
“Adding a provision that anyone seeking a restraining order can include pets is paramount,” said Hilary Cohen, Animal Control Officer for Norfolk, Massachusetts. “Study after study has shown that victims in abusive relationships will not leave that relationship if they cannot take their pets with them. They fear retaliation onto the pet by the abuser if/when the victim does leave. I have seen animals that have been harmed, some fatally, when a party walked out of an abusive relationship and left their pets behind.”
The bill improves the dangerous dog law in a breed-neutral manner. This means that no specific breed of dog can be prohibited in the state of Massachusetts, and dangerous dogs will be dealt with on an individual basis.
North Attleboro Animal Control Officer Karen Fontneau applauds the fact that there will be no laws penalizing specific breeds that may have been singled out, such as pit bulls.
“I’ve been bitten twice since I’ve been on the job and both were Pomeranians,” Fontneau said.
The bill was six years in the making, and was brought into being by the hard work of many organizations and individuals, including the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Department of Agricultural Resources, the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, along with countless animal welfare advocates, dog owners and officials.
“This important legislation bolsters animal control laws in the Commonwealth,” said state Senator Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville, the sponsor of the bill. “The current laws are out of date; this bill will help municipalities deal with the problems they face today. Furthermore, it manages to modernize and improve animal control without raising fees or taxes, due to the voluntary donation via the Massachusetts state income tax forms.”
The new law takes effect in 90 days.