Thursday, July 06, 2017
The Massachusetts’ General Court’s Joint Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider two bills of great concern to the American Kennel Club at its Tuesday, July 18, hearing. H.2290 seeks to change the legal status of pets from personal property to companion animals, while H.852 seeks to establish an animal abuse registry and impose certain additional duties upon breeders to comply with the provisions of the bill. All concerned Massachusetts residents are strongly encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and urge them to oppose H.2290 and to oppose H.852 as currently written.
HOUSE BILL 2290 – GUARDIANSHIP – OPPOSE
Introduced pursuant to a citizen request, H.2290 seeks to define “pets”, including dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals, as “companion animals”; and to change the legal classification of caregivers to “guardians”. Despite existing animal cruelty laws already in effect in the Commonwealth, H.2290 also seeks to impose punishments for guardians and any person who abuses a companion animal, with prison terms up to 2.5 years, fines up to $10,000, and placement on a “do not adopt to” list.
The American Kennel Club® supports the use of the term “owner” rather than “guardian” when referring to the keeping of dogs. The AKC® believes that the term guardian may in fact reduce the legal status and value of dogs as property and thereby restrict the rights of owners to protect and appropriately care for dogs. It may also subject them to frivolous and expensive litigation. The term guardian does nothing to promote more responsible treatment of dogs. We strongly support efforts to educate the public about responsible dog ownership to ensure that all dogs receive the care, love, and attention they deserve.
For more than two hundred years, laws governing animal ownership and animal care in Massachusetts and throughout the United States have been remarkably consistent. These laws have treated animals as the legal property of their owners, thereby creating a stable legal system that promotes responsible animal ownership, deters animal abuse, and promotes innovative, affordable, and quality animal care. Furthermore, the traditional legal treatment of animals as the personal property of their owners does not undermine the special, emotional bonds of the owner-pet relationship.
Because it runs contrary to these principles, AKC opposes H.2290.
AKC’s Massachusetts federation, the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (MassFed) also strongly opposes H.2290.
HOUSE BILL 852 – ANIMAL ABUSE REGISTRY – OPPOSE AS WRITTEN
With provisions considered in previous legislative sessions, H.852 would create an animal abuser registry, which would list all those who reside in Massachusetts and have been convicted of an animal abuse crime. Abuser registration would remain in effect for five years, and those convicted of animal abuse would be required to pay $50 annually to be included. Those failing to fully comply with the registration requirements would be subject to prison terms up to five years and fines up to $5,000. All animal breeders in Massachusetts would be required to check the registry prior to transferring a pet and would be prohibited from transferring an animal to any person listed on the registry. Breeders failing to comply would be subject to fines of not less than $1,000 and imprisonment of up to five years for failure to comply.
The AKC remains concerned with legislation that provides for the creation and maintenance of animal abuser registries. We believe that the animal abuse registry requirements that would be created by H.852 could easily be evaded. For example, an individual convicted of animal cruelty could easily evade tracking by providing sellers with fake or altered names, or by not providing updated addresses. Furthermore, the provisions of H.852 could unfairly subject animal sellers who performed the required check to fines because an evasive buyer’s actions avoided registry tracking. Furthermore, no evidence exists to show that animal abuse registries reduce the rates of second or subsequent offenses or of deterring other potential animal cruelty violators. The AKC believes a better use of the Commonwealth’s resources would focus on and utilize enforcement activities that are proven effective, and encourages amendments to H. 852 in line therewith.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Concerned Massachusetts residents should contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and respectfully urge them to oppose H.2290 and to oppose H.892 as currently written.
Senator William N. Brownsburger, Chair
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Vice Chair
Senator John F. Keenan
Senator Cynthia S. Creem (Assistant Majority Leader)
Senator Patricia D. Jehlen
Senator Richard J. Ross (Assistant Minority Leader)
Representative Claire D. Cronin, Chair
Representative James M. Cantwell, Vice Chair
Representative Colleen M. Garry
Representative Carole A. Fiola
Representative Daniel J. Hunt
Representative Michael S. Day
Representative Rady Mom
Representative Paul Tucker
Representative Bud Williams
Representative Sheila C. Harrington
Representative James J. Lyons, Jr.
Residents are also strongly encouraged to attend the Tuesday, July 18, hearings on H.2290 and H.852. over 80 bills are scheduled for consideration by the committee. In the interest of time, the Chair will limit oral testimony to three minutes and reserves the right to call public officials out of turn. The hearing will begin at 1PM in Room A-1 of the State House, 24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02133.