Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to improve several areas of existing law dealing with the sale and treatment of animals.

“As a proud dog owner, and having served as an Environmental Police Officer, I certainly recognize the importance of protecting vulnerable animal populations,” said Senator Moore. “I was pleased to offer my support for this legislation which offers commonsense reforms to enhance breeding, safety and care standards to protect pets and pet owners.”

The first piece of legislation, S.1155, ensures that puppies and kittens are bred and sold in safe and healthy environments, and strengthens the Massachusetts “Puppy Lemon Law” to give pet owners more options if they unknowingly purchase a sick pet.

The bill applies safety and breeding standards to protect pets and pet owners. It prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens younger than eight weeks old, increasing the likelihood that they will grow to be healthy dogs and cats, and outlines a process for a veterinarian to declare an animal suffering from a significant adverse health condition “unfit for sale.”

To protect pet owners who unknowingly purchase a sick pet, the bill outlines remedies available to buyers of animals declared unfit for sale, including exchange of the animal or a refund and reimbursement for reasonable veterinary fees. The bill also sets forth a procedure for a seller to contest these demands.

The bill regulates commercial breeders and pet shops to further protect the health and safety of animals. It prohibits pet shops from selling dogs or cats originating at or purchased from breeders that are not properly licensed or have committed certain violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Pet shops would also be required to maintain certain compliance records and conspicuously post identifying information for the animal and the breeder.

The legislation also empowers the Department of Agriculture to create rules and regulations to ensure commercial breeders maintain humane conditions.

The second bill, S.2332, encompasses several key components recommended by the Animal Cruelty and Protection Task Force which was constituted under the original PAWS act. Task force members include the Massachusetts District Attorneys’ Association, State Police, Attorney General’s Office, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, veterinarians, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and others.

Key components of the bill include provisions to:

• Require animal abuse be reported by the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs, and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission. Adds animal control officers as mandatory reporters of child abuse, elder abuse, and abuse against disabled persons;
• Increase penalties in animal control laws that provide non-criminal penalties for abuse. Double the existing penalty of a $50 fine for a second offence to $100, and increased the $100 penalty for a forth offense to $500;
• Declare that drowning of animals as a violation of law;
• Prohibit engaging in sexual contact with an animal punishable by up to 7 years in prison or a fine of not more than $5,000;
• Remove a requirement to automatically kill animals involved in animal fighting. This bill creates other options for these animal victims;
• Include the crimes of animal cruelty to serve as the basis for a request for a determination of detention and or release upon conditions;
• Prohibit insurance companies and housing authorities to refuse insurance coverage or housing with breed restrictions;
• Property owners and landlords must check property for abandoned animals within three days following a foreclosure or termination of tenancy.

Sponsors of the bill also point to a recent Massachusetts study which found that a person who has committed animal abuse is five times more likely to commit violence against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes.

Both bills now go before the House of Representatives for consideration. To continue tracking the legislation, S.1155 and S.2332, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.