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Massachusetts: HB 422 Threatens Dog Owners' Due Process Rights - ACT NOW!

(Friday, February 03, 2012)

Massachusetts House Bill 422, which seeks to severely restrict the rights of animal owners who are alleged to have committed, but have not been convicted of, acts of animal cruelty, will be considered by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners oppose this bill. It is imperative that concerned dog breeders and owners in Massachusetts contact the committee members and urge them to vote no on HB 422.

The AKC abhors the mistreatment of dogs and supports full enforcement of reasonable animal cruelty laws. House Bill 422, however, could result in permanent forfeiture of animals that are impounded based only on alleged violations of animal cruelty laws. Our concerns with HB 422 include:

  • Lack of procedural due process protections for defendants – HB 422 would allow a court to order forfeiture of animals seized under allegations of animal cruelty unless the defendant posts security to pay the costs of animal care for 30 days, without the procedural benefit of a show cause hearing. If the owner does not pay the costs of care, his property is forfeited, he relinquishes the right to challenge the potentially extensive costs, and loses the opportunity to defend his ownership rights at trial. In 2009, a federal court struck down a similar Louisville, Kentucky, law as unconstitutional.
  • Loss of property ownership rights for animals owned jointly – HB 422 provides that a respondent’s failure to post security within the appointed time shall be deemed an immediate forfeiture of the seized animal. The AKC believes that forfeiture should not result until other persons claiming interest in the animal (i.e., joint or co-owners not party to the complaint/indictment) are offered the opportunity to also post security and fail to do so.
  • Burdens on low-income citizens – HB 422 removes a court’s ability to waive the security requirement for good cause shown. There is no provision for defendants with low incomes who cannot pay boarding and other fees for animals seized.

While not perfect law, the American Kennel Club believes the current wording of Chapter 272, Section 104 provides better due process protections. The AKC finds no evidence that the current statute does not adequately provide localities an opportunity to recover care costs for dogs seized or does not provide more appropriate due process protections.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Concerned dog breeders and owners in Massachusetts are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Respectfully urge them to vote against HB 422.

SENATE MEMBERS:

Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate Chair
State House
Room 405
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1639
Fax: 617-722-1266
Email: Cynthia.Creem@masenate.gov

Senator Gale D. Candaras, Senate Vice Chair
State House
Room 309
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1291
Fax: 617-722-1014
Email: Gale.Candaras@masenate.gov

Senator Patricia D. Jehlen
State House
Room 513
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1578
Fax: 617-722-1117
Email: Patricia.Jehlen@masenate.gov

Senator John F. Keenan
State House
Room 413B
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1494
Fax: 617-722-1055
Email: John.Keenan@masenate.gov

Senator Thomas M. McGee
State House
Room 109C
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1350
Email: Thomas.McGee@masenate.gov

Senator Richard J. Ross
State House
Room 520
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-1555
Fax: 617-722-1054
Email: Richard.Ross@masenate.gov

HOUSE MEMBERS:

Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty, House Chair
State House
Room 136
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2396
Fax: 617-722-2819
Email: Gene.OFlaherty@mahouse.gov

Representative John V. Fernandes, House Vice Chair
State House
Room 136
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2396
Fax: 617-626-0706
Email: John.Fernandes@mahouse.gov

Representative Colleen M. Garry
State House
Room 238
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2380
Fax: 617-722-2847
Email: Colleen.Garry@mahouse.gov

Representative Sean Curran
State House
Room 473B
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2263
Fax: 617-626-0678
Email: Sean.Curran@mahouse.gov

Representative Carlos Henriquez
State House
Room 33
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2060
Email: Carlos.Henriquez@mahouse.gov

Representative Russell E. Holmes
State House
Room 254
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2220
Fax: 617-626-0205
Email: Russell.Holmes@mahouse.gov

Representative Sheila C. Harrington
State House
Room 237
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2305
Fax: 617-626-0199
Email: sheila.harrington@mahouse.gov

Representative Kevin J. Murphy
State House
Room 172
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2877
Fax: 617-626-0514
Email: Kevin.Murphy@mahouse.gov

Representative Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr.
State House
Room 540
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2090
Fax: 617-722-2848
Email: Angelo.Puppolo@mahouse.gov

Representative Christopher M. Markey
State House
Room 155
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2450
Fax: 617-626-0250
Email: Christopher.Markey@mahouse.gov

Representative Daniel B. Winslow
State House
Room 33
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2060
Fax: 617-626-0296
Email: Daniel.Winslow@mahouse.gov

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 815-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org; or the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners at info@massfeddogs.org.