The Joint Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts General Court is scheduled to consider four dog-related bills at its upcoming hearing on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports two of the proposals, while it opposes another. The AKC encourages all concerned Massachusetts residents to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee to express support of H. 2277 and S.866 and express opposition to S.882.
BILLS TO SUPPORT
House Bill 2277 – This bill would make it a civil infraction for an individual to misrepresent a pet dog as a service dog. Specifically, a person will commit a civil infraction if they expressly or impliedly represent that a dog in their possession is their service dog, or a service dog in training, for the purpose of obtaining any rights or privileges afforded disabled persons accompanied by service dogs but that are unavailable to people and their pets, and who knew or should have known that the dog in question did not meet the definition of a service animal/service animal in training. It will also be a civil infraction if a person takes a dog into a public accommodation where pets are not permitted, and a dog in their possession is wearing a cape, vest, special leash, or other form of identification that states or implies that the dog is a service dog entitled to be present in that location when it is not.
The AKC strongly supports public accommodations that allow individuals with disabilities to use service dogs. The AKC strongly condemns characterizing dogs as service animals when they are not, or attempting to benefit from a dog’s service dog status when the individual using the dog is not a person with a disability.
AKC’s Massachusetts federation, the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (MassFed), supports H.2277.
Senate Bill 866 – This bill would protect owners of sporting dog training areas from criminal or civil responsibility for noise pollutions/nuisances resulting from normal and accepted dog training activities if they remain in compliance with such laws that were in place at the time the training area was established.
Responsible dog trainers have purchased and developed property for the purpose of training sporting dogs. Creeping urbanization has encroached on their land, with new neighbors complaining about the noise involved in dog training. S.866 will protect owners of such property that were in compliance with applicable noise control laws and ordinances at the time the land was developed from noise complaints by adjacent property owners. AKC joins MassFed in support of S.866.
BILL TO OPPOSE
Senate Bill 882 — The AKC opposes S.882, which would require courts to award new, noneconomic damages in addition to existing damages in cases involving the death or injury of a companion animal. Currently, owners whose pets are negligently injured or killed can recover the economic value of a pet, the cost of any veterinarian bills resulting from an alleged injury, and in some instances, other reasonable and necessary costs arising out of the injury. Long-standing legal principles limit the availability of noneconomic damages to only the close family of victims who have died or who have been severely injured. Non-economic damages are typically not available in cases involving damage to personal property, including animals. Legal scholars and animal experts agree that significant negative consequences would flow from allowing non-economic damages to be awarded in pet injury and death cases. The risk of increased legal liability will result in increased ownership costs to cover that liability for all parties in the animal care chain (which will ultimately be passed on to animal owners), while posing increased risks to public health. We believe the harmful unintended consequences of S.882 for all owners will far outweigh the benefits for a few individuals if the bill is enacted. MassFed also opposes S.882.
For more information about this issue, read Issue Analysis: It’s About the Dogs! Non-Economic Damages Claims Ultimately Harm General Animal Wellbeing.
House Bill 3683 – Under current Massachusetts law, dog owners are liable for the damage done by their dogs. This bill creates a new fine of up to $2,500 for owners of such dogs, and shall serve as primary evidence in any action brought to recover for damage or injury incurred. MassFed opposes H.3683.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Concerned Massachusetts residents are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee to express support of H. 2277 and S.866, and express opposition to S.882.
State Senator William N. Brownsburger, Chair
State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Vice Chair
State Senator John F. Keenan
State Senator Cynthia S. Creem (Assistant Majority Leader)
State Senator Patricia D. Jehlen
State 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.
Massachusetts residents are also encouraged to attend the September 12th hearing and express their concerns in person. Please note: With over 100 bills on the committee’s September 12 agenda, testimony will be limited to three minutes, and the Chair reserves the right to call public officials out of turn. The hearing will take place in Room A-1 of the State House, 24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02133.
The AKC will be providing additional information regarding additional committee hearings scheduled for September 12 shortly. For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at 919-816-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or the MassFed at email@example.com.