Session Law

2014

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Chapter 293 AN ACT PROTECTING ANIMAL WELFARE AND SAFETY

     Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
     SECTION 1.  Chapter 112 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 58B, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     Section 58B.  A veterinarian who, while in the normal course of business, observes an animal whom such veterinarian knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of animal cruelty prohibited under sections 77 or 94 of chapter 272 shall report said suspected animal cruelty to a police officer or special state police officer appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C.
     A veterinarian duly registered under section 55 who reports, in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected act of cruelty to animals prohibited under said sections 77 or 94 of chapter 272 to a police officer or special state police officer appointed under said section 57 of said chapter 22C, shall not be liable in a civil or criminal action for reporting such act.
     Any veterinarian who fails to report such an act of animal cruelty shall be reported to the board of registration in veterinary medicine.
     SECTION 2.  Section 112 of chapter 266 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 5 to 8, inclusive, the words “five years or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- 7 years in state prison or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by both fine and imprisonment; provided, however, that a second or subsequent offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 10 years or by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     SECTION 3.  Section 77 of chapter 272 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 19 to 21, inclusive, the words “5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- 7 years in state prison or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by both fine and imprisonment; provided, however, that a second or subsequent offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 10 years or by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     SECTION 4.  The first paragraph of said section 77 of said chapter 272, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following sentence:- Notwithstanding section 26 of chapter 218 or any other general or special law to the contrary, the district courts and the divisions of the Boston municipal court department shall have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the superior court, of a violation of this section.
     SECTION 5.  (a) There shall be a task force established to complete a systematic review of the laws pertaining to animal cruelty and protection. The task force shall consist of: the attorney general or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association or a designee; the colonel of the state police or a designee; the commissioner of agricultural resources or a designee; a representative from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; a representative from the Animal Rescue League of Boston; a representative from the Massachusetts Bar Association; a representative of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council; and 2 persons appointed by the governor, 1 of whom shall be an animal control officer or representative of an association organized in the commonwealth for animal control officers and 1 of whom shall be a veterinarian or member of a veterinary medical association organized in the commonwealth. The members of the task force shall appoint a chair. 
     (b)  The task force shall:
     (i)  assess the adequacy, effectiveness and necessity of laws pertaining to animal cruelty and protection including, but not limited to, the laws pertaining to the protection of animals contained in chapters 266 and 272 of the General Laws and the duties of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Rescue League of Boston under chapter 129 of the General Laws, the process of charging for animal cruelty and the issuing of citations under section 174E of chapter 140 of the General Laws;
     (ii)  identify and review the existing services, facilities and funding to meet the needs of animals seized in cruelty cases and explore interagency options for coordination and funding to care for these animals;
     (iii)  evaluate approaches and offer recommendations for education and training opportunities for law enforcement, animal control officers, judges, veterinarians and other professionals including, but not limited to, methods to identify animal abuse, the link between domestic violence and animal abuse and animal hoarding;
     (iv)  examine the feasibility and effectiveness of participating in a national animal abuse registry or other similar registry, if created;
     (v)  examine existing methods to report animal abuse and explore additional mechanisms, if needed, and ways to promote these reporting mechanisms;
     (vi)  recommend ways to develop and promulgate educational materials to children to educate them about animal abuse; and
     (vii)  assess the impact of housing issues including, but not limited to, homeowners insurance and abandonment in vacated housing, on the surrender or abandonment of animals.
     (c)  The task force shall submit a report of its findings and legislative recommendations to the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives and the chairs of the joint committee on the judiciary not later than 18 months after the effective date of this act. The task force shall determine if subsequent reports shall be necessary to properly address animal cruelty and protection.

Approved August 20, 2014.