Animal House: Animal Laws Up for Debate in Massachusetts

A look at some of the animal-based laws to come before the Massachusetts Legislature.

When it comes to animals, the laws in this state are very outdated and have gone largely unchanged since their inception in the 1800s.

Some of the laws still on the books today speak of not overworking horses and other beasts of burden on farms. Though a very good law, it speaks to where our current animal laws are based; on farms and before automobiles.

As an example, animal cruelty only became a felony within the last eight years.

Fortunately, there are groups of very well educated animal people working with our legislature to introduce some modifications to some laws and introduce some new and important laws as well. 

The best part is a mere phone call from a citizen regarding these bills can help get them passed.  Most of the bills have until July 31 of this year to be passed or they will need to be reintroduced.  Some of the more important bills currently in the Massachusetts house and/or senate are below, and are in need of everyone’s support.

Senate Bill S. 2192 deals specifically with animal control as there are a number of issues with the outdated statutes that impact our animal control that leave the public and animals unprotected. 

This bill creates a statewide spay/neuter fund, strengthens the dangerous dog law, improves the spay/neuter law for shelters, ensures animal control officers actually receive training, prevents inhumane euthanasia methods and saves cities and towns money by reducing the number of homeless animals cared for. 

This bill saves cities and town’s money and more importantly ensures that every person in an animal control position actually receives the training to do their job.  This bill has several key components to it and needs to be passed.

The next senate bill that is long overdue is Senate bill 682 and this bill deals with animal abuse and domestic violence.

Research has shown that there is a link between animal abuse and violence towards humans. 

This bill would specifically permit the inclusion of pets in abuse prevention orders.  By ensuring the pet is safe this bill will remove a potential barrier that at times prevents victims from leaving a violent situation. 

I currently volunteer for a group that works on transporting and fostering pets for people who choose to leave a violent situation, and have seen firsthand the need for this type of legislation, as often a family pet is used as leverage by an abuser to control their victim. 

There are also a few bills currently being debated that change the current hunting laws, equipment that can be used when hunting and times and days of hunting.  These bills hopefully will not pass. 

The most disturbing one of all is House bill 3315, which would effectively repeal the wildlife protection act of 1996. 

This bill would allow the use of leg snares and other type of trapping devices for recreational hunting.  It is important to note that the Wildlife protection act was passed by 64% of voters. These traps are often seen as inhumane and can cause a great deal of suffering to the animals caught in them. 

House bill 2399, 1994, and 3119 would allow hunting on Sundays. Currently, hunting is prohibited on Sundays, but allowed the other six days of the week. 

Given the shared use of the natural space between hikers, bird watchers, kayakers, etc, allowing one day of no hunting so others may enjoy the natural beauty Massachusetts has to offer is a very reasonable compromise.

There is no current reason to allow hunting seven days a week in season.  With everyone’s support this will not pass.

It is important to realize that this is just a small sample of the current laws that are being debated in the Massachusetts House and Senate, and each registered voter with a phone call or e-mail can let their legislator know how they feel on these bills. 

Though animal laws are slow to change and catch up with current day since their inception over 150 years ago, we now have an opportunity to update these laws to reflect the needs of our law enforcement officers, hunters, and the general public.


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