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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Joint Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts General Court is scheduled to consider 20 legislative proposals concerning animals at its next meeting on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.  Included in the agenda are bills that deeply concern both the American Kennel Club and the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (Mass Fed), including bills that allow for non-economic damages and 3rd-party plaintiff status in cases involving animals.  All concerned Massachusetts dog owners are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and express their concerns. 

Of the bills scheduled for consideration at Wednesday’s hearing, the following impact dogs or are related to dog ownership: 

  • Under SB 832, owners of sporting dog training areas in Massachusetts would be immune from civil action or criminal prosecution in any matter relating to noise or noise pollution resulting from normal and accepted dog training activities as long as owners of training areas are in compliance with any applicable noise control laws or ordinances in existence at the time the establishment of the training area was initiated.  The American Kennel Club joins Mass Fed in support of SB 832

 

 

  • SB 876 would allow a vast expansion of parties able to sue under the guise of protecting animals and ensuring their humane treatment to include “any person even if the person does not have any legal interest or possessory right in an animal.”  The AKC is concerned that, should they become law, the provisions of SB 876 would create a judicial system ripe for abuse by radical interests aimed at ending animal ownership by creating a “sue-until-forfeiture/bankruptcy” legal environment. 

 

  • HB 1367 seeks to increase the upper limit of fines that may be assessed against an individual who willfully injures a police dog or horse.  Current law limits fines to $500 per incident, but will be increased to a $1,000 maximum should the bill become law.  Mass Fed supports HB 1367. 

 

  • HB 1385 and HB 1423 seek to establish animal abuser registries in the Commonwealth.  Under HB 1385, an individual required to add their name to the registry would be listed for five years.  Further, the bill imposes an affirmative duty upon those who transfer animals, including breeders, pet stores, and shelters, to check whether the name of an individual who intends to purchase an animal appears on the non-public registry prior to sale.  Under HB 1423, those required to register would appear on the registry for 15 years, and the registry would be available to the public via the internet.  The AKC believes a registry type system is ripe for fraud and will likely take important resources away from other more effective enforcement activities. 

 

  • HB 1220 seeks to amend the Massachusetts law that provides bond requirements for those from whom animals are seized.  Specifically, it allows a seizing authority or prosecuting agency to seek court permission to access the entirety of the security posted if expenses incurred in caring for seized animals are greater than a bond posted by the defendant.  The American Kennel Club opposes bond for care bills that are constitutionally suspect because they deny procedural due process protections for defendants. 

 

  • HB 1151 seeks to specifically permit children and adults with disabilities to have a trained service dog with them during court proceedings unless a defendant’s rights are prejudiced by the presence of the animal.  Such dogs must have at least two years of training, and owner and handler must hold a public access certificate from Assistance Dog International. 

 

  • HB 1310 seeks to increase penalties associated with animal cruelty convictions. 
  • HB 1273 and SB 878 seek to prohibit the confinement of animals in motor vehicles that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animals due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.  Officers establishing probable cause that the new law is being violated would be permitted to enter vehicles to enter the vehicle for the purpose of removing the animal.  Such officers shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that may otherwise result from the removal of the animal.  Penalties for violations would range from $75 – $300. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
It is imperative that Massachusetts’ dog owners concerned with any of the bills scheduled to be heard by the Joint Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, October 21 contact the committee members and express their concerns.   

Joint Judiciary Committee Members from the Senate:

Senator William N. Brownsburger, Senate Chair
Phone: 617-722-1280
Email: William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov

Senator John F. Keenan, Senate Vice Chair
Phone: 617-722-1494
Email: John.Keenan@masenate.gov

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz
Phone: 617-722-1673
Email: Sonia.Chang-Diaz@masenate.gov  

Senator Patricia D. Jehlen
Phone: 617-722-1578
Email: Patricia.Jehlen@masenate.gov

Senator Cynthia S. Creem
Phone: 617-722-1639
Email: Cynthia.Creem@masenate.gov

Senator Richard J. Ross
Phone: 617-722-1555
Email: Richard.Ross@masenate.gov

Joint Judiciary Committee Members from the House:

Representative John V. Fernandes, House Chair
Phone: 617-722-2396
Email: John.Fernandes@mahouse.gov

Representative Claire D. Cronin, House Vice Chair
Phone: 617-722-2396
Email: Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov 

Representative Colleen M. Garry
Phone: 617-722-2380
Email: Colleen.Garry@mahouse.gov

Representative John C. Velis
Phone: 617-722-2582
Email: john.velis@mahouse.gov  

Representative Michael S. Day
Phone: 617-722-2582
Email: Michael.Day@mahouse.gov

Representative Paul Tucker
Phone: 617-722-2400
Email: Paul.Tucker@mahouse.gov

Representative James J. Lyons, Jr. 
Phone: 617-722-2460
Email: James.Lyons@mahouse.gov  

Representative Jeffrey N. Roy
Phone: 617-722-2020
Email: Jeffrey.Roy@mahouse.gov

Representative Evandro C. Carvalho
Phone: 617-722-2460
Email: Evandro.Carvalho@mahouse.gov   

Representative Carlos Gonzalez
Phone: 617-722-2080
Email: Carlos.Gonzalez@mahouse.gov

Representative Sheila C. Harrington
Phone: 617-722-2305
Email: Sheila.Harrington@mahouse.gov

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org; or contact Mass Fed at info@massfeddogs.org.  

The Joint Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts General Court is scheduled to consider 20 legislative proposals concerning animals at its next meeting on Wednesday, October 21, 2015. Included in the agenda are bills that deeply concern both the American Kennel Club and the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners (Mass Fed), including bills that allow for non-economic damages and 3rd-party plaintiff status in cases involving animals. All concerned Massachusetts dog owners are encouraged to contact the members of the Joint Judiciary Committee and express their concerns.

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