The Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee of the Massachusetts General Court is scheduled to consider 14 legislative proposals at its next meeting on Thursday, January 21, 2016. Included in the agenda are bills pertaining to dogs. All concerned Massachusetts dog owners are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee and express any concerns they may have with the proposals.
Of the bills scheduled for consideration at Thursday’s hearing, the following impact dogs or are related to dog ownership:
House Bill 1826 and Senate Bill 1103 seek to establish consumer protection laws to cover the purchase of puppies in Massachusetts, as well as expanded criteria for inspections and limitations on the purchase of animals for pet shop resale. Originating in the previous legislative session, these bills represent the current work product of animal interest stakeholders from across the ideological spectrum. They include:
- A prohibition on the transfer of puppies less than eight weeks of age. Violations shall result in a $100 fine per offense.
- Consumer protection provisions that address cases where a veterinarian has declared an animal unfit for purchase (within 14 days of transfer) due to contagious or infectious diseases or severe parasitism that is likely to have been contracted on or before the sale and delivery of the animal, or (within one year of transfer) due to a congenital or hereditary condition that significantly and adversely impacts the health of the animal, requires hospitalization or non-elective surgical procedures, or caused the animal’s death. These protections do not apply to animals acquired from shelters or non-profit rescue organizations.
- Exceptions to buyer protections include cases involving injuries sustained or illnesses likely to have been contracted subsequent to the date or sale or transfer, health problems or hereditary or congenital conditions separately disclosed by the seller verbally and in writing and signed by both the seller and buyer at the time of sale, documentation proving that the parents of animals with hereditary or congenital conditions were screened for health issues established by the Canine Health Information Center or comparable recognized animal health registry, or a finding of non-severe parasitism.
- Remedies for buyers of living animals include returning the animal, exchanging the animal, or retaining the animal, along with case-dependent financial remuneration. Buyers of deceased animals would be entitled to a replacement animal or refund of the original purchase price plus veterinary fees paid up to the original purchase price. Sellers are not required to provide a buyer with a replacement animal.
- Procedures to allow a seller to challenge a veterinarian’s finding that an animal is unfit for purchase.
- Expanded rules for inspections of kennels. Inspections are to take place between 7AM & 7PM, unless an alternate time is mutually agreed upon by an inspector and a licensee. The licensee must be given prior notice of the inspection (unless deemed necessary to adequately perform the inspection), and the licensee or an authorized representative must be present during the inspection. Inspections at private residences must be limited to areas used for kenneling and for the maintenance of records. Those found with minor violations shall be issued written notice, requiring compliance within a reasonable specified time. Those found with major violations will have their licenses summarily revoked or suspended. Failure of those with minor offenses to come into compliance within the specified time period offered shall have their licenses revoked. Refusal to allow an inspection will also serve as grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation of a person’s kennel license.
- Empowers the department to create rules and regulations for commercial breeder kennels and personal kennels where at least 10 sexually intact female dogs between 1-8 years of age are kept for the purpose of breeding and selling the offspring as household pets.
- Limits pet shops from purchasing animals for resale, or selling or offering for sale, animals that are required by law to be licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act that is not in possession of a current federal or (if required) state license, that was found to have committed a direct violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act during the two year period prior to purchase, was found to have committee three or more indirect violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act that pertained to the health or welfare of an animal (not administrative), or has been cited in two most recent USDA inspection reports for no-access violations. Pet shops would also not be allowed to purchase dogs from sources not incompliance with Commonwealth requirements.
- Pet shops are required to maintain records for two years after the sale of each animal.
- Localities are allowed to adopt ordinances that are stricter than the state’s law.
House Bill 1866 and Senate Bill 1085 seek to expand the parties that may enforce Chapter 140, Section 174E of the Commonwealth’s General Laws, which regulates the tethering of an animal, to include the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Rescue League of Boston officers appointed under Chapter 22C, Section 57.
House Bill 3266 seeks to further regulate commercial breeder kennels, which are defined as establishments, other than personal kennels, engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale or exchange to wholesalers, brokers, or pet shops in return for consideration. The bill requires commercial breeder kennels to acquire an annual license from the locality where the facility is located. Localities are charged with administration of the oversight of such facilities, which includes setting the license fee amount. Commercial breeder kennel licenses would replace the individual dog license requirement. Licensees would be required to ensure that dogs kept in the facility wore tags bearing licensee information when at large. The tags would be conveyed to buyers upon delivery, and buyers would have to return the tags or other identifying information to the licensee within two weeks of purchase. The bill would also empower the Commissioner of Agricultural Resources or an animal control officer to inspect at licensees facilities at any time. The Commissioner is also required to develop regulations regarding the standards of care afforded dogs in licensees’ facilities.
Senate Bill 1092 seeks to further limit the practice of tethering. If enacted, the bill would reduce the permitting timeframe during which a dog may be humanely tethered, from no longer than 24 consecutive hours to five hours in a 24 hour period. It also increases fines for a second tethering offense, from up to $100 to up to $200; and for third and subsequent offenses, from up to $300 to up to $500.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
It is imperative that Massachusetts’ dog owners concerned with any of the bills scheduled to be heard by the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee on Thursday, January 21 contact the committee members and express their concerns.
Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee Members from the Senate:
Senator Barbara L’Italien, Senate Chair
Senator Joan B. Lovely, Senate Vice Chair
Senator William N. Brownsberger
Senator James E. Timilty
Phone: 617 722-1222
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Senator Robert L. Hedlund
Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee Members from the House:
Representative James J. O’Day, House Chair
Representative Thomas M. Stanley, House Vice Chair
Representative Walter F. Timilty
Representative Sean Garballey
Representative David M. Rogers
Representative Kevin J. Kuros
Representative Adrian Madaro
Representative Stephen L. DiNatale
Representative Paul R. Heroux
Representative Carole A. Fiola
Representative Susannah M. Whipps Lee
For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee of the Massachusetts General Court is scheduled to consider 14 legislative proposals at its next meeting on Thursday, January 21, 2016. Included in the agenda are bills pertain to dogs. All concerned Massachusetts dog owners are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Municipalities and Regional Government Committee and express any concerns they may have with the proposals.