Friday, October 18, 2013

Senate GOP Press Release Updating the PAWS Act

Senate Republicans’ Animal Cruelty Bill Draws Strong Bipartisan Support

Seventy-five legislators agree to co-sponsor ‘PAWS Act’ to combat animal abuse

BOSTON - A Senate Republican Caucus initiative seeking to strengthen the state’s laws against animal abuse and cruelty has drawn strong bipartisan and bicameral support from Massachusetts legislators.

Since its filing on October 7th, An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety, also known as the PAWS Act, has been co-sponsored by 75 legislators, including 21 state Senators and 54 members of the House of Representatives.  A total of 22 Republicans and 53 Democrats have signed on to the comprehensive bill, which would create a statewide animal abuse registry while increasing the fines and penalties associated with the state’s animal abuse laws.

The PAWS Act was filed in response to the tragic case of “Puppy Doe”, who was euthanized on August 31st after being discovered in a Quincy park starving and suffering from extensive injuries, including a stab wound to her eye; a split tongue; a dislocated shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle; and burns to her body.

“I am extremely pleased with the strong outpouring of support for the PAWS Act,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  “The co-sponsors of the PAWS Act have proven that animal welfare transcends parties and houses of the Legislature.  It’s heartening to know that so many people are willing to take a stand against those who would commit such heinous acts against a defenseless animal, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this legislation passed and on the Governor’s desk before the end of the session.”

Highlights of the PAWS Act include:

the establishment of an anonymous animal abuse tip hotline;

the expansion of the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund to include the rehabilitation and care of abused animals, and the addition of a special state police officer from an animal humane organization and a member of local law enforcement on the board that administers the fund;

fines of up to $1,000 for any veterinarian who knowingly and willfully fails to report a suspected act of cruelty to an animal;

expanded penalties for cruelty to animals, or maliciously killing, maiming, disfiguring, or exposing them to poison, which would increase from the current $2,500 penalty to a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000, in addition to imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years;

increased penalties for a second or subsequent offense, ranging from 5-10 years state imprisonment and a fine of between $5,000 and $20,000;

added discretion for the courts to expand these penalties for up to 5 additional years imprisonment and an additional $10,000 fine based on certain aggravating factors, including but not limited to: the number of animals involved; the degree of premeditation or planning; whether the abuse occurred in the presence of a child; whether the abuse occurred as a result of acts undertaken for financial benefit (i.e., dogfighting); and whether the abuse was systematic or isolated;

provisions allowing district attorneys to file a petition asking the courts to order a defendant to post a security or bond for the care of animals that have been impounded as a result of abuse or cruelty;

enhanced penalties for a hit and run conviction involving a cat or dog when the driver fails to notify the animal’s owner or the local police department, which currently carries a $50 fine but would increase to a fine of up to $2,000, up to 60 days in a house of corrections, or both a fine and imprisonment;

the creation of a statewide registry of individuals convicted of animal abuse crimes, which all animal shelters, pet stores and animal breeders would be required to check prior to offering, selling, delivering, or giving an animal to any individual; and

the establishment of a 9-member commission to review the state’s animal cruelty laws, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The PAWS Act will now be referred to a joint legislative committee, which will schedule a public hearing on the bill for a future date.