While our political leaders in Washington D.C. can’t seem to agree on much, there are plenty of examples here in Massachusetts of Democrats and Republicans working together to find solutions.
One such effort is a bill to crack down on animal abuse in the wake of the horrific “Puppy Doe” case. The Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) act toughens animal abuse penalties and notably creates an animal abuser registry to allow breeders, shelters and pet stores to ensure that companion animals don’t end up in the hands of known abusers.
The legislation was originally drafted by Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, and has now earned broad bi-partisan support and has the backing of the MSPCA. I was pleased to add my support as a co-sponsor of this important bill.
Many readers have already heard the horrific details about the Puppy Doe case in Quincy. The young animal was found abandoned with a stab wound to her eye and a dislocated shoulder, elbow and ankle. Her tongue had been split to look like a serpent and there was evidence she had been burned and starved. The PAWS act would help to prevent similar atrocities and toughen penalties for animal abusers.
In addition to the animal abuse registry, the PAWS act establishes an anonymous animal abuse tip hotline and imposes of a fine of up to $1,000 for knowing and willful failure to report a suspected act of cruelty to an animal.
Additional highlights of the bill include:
• Expansion of the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund to include the rehabilitation and care of abused animals.
• Enhanced penalties for cruelty to animals, or maliciously killing, maiming, disfiguring, or exposing them to poison, with increased penalties imposed for a second or subsequent offense.
• Expanded discretion for the courts to impose additional penalties in cases involving aggravating factors, including cases where the abuse is systematic or involves multiple animals.
• Increased penalties for a hit-and-run conviction on a cat or dog.
• Creation of a statewide registry of individuals convicted of animal abuse crimes, to be cross-checked by all animal shelters, pet stores and animal breeders prior to offering, selling, delivering, or giving an animal to any individual.
These are common sense steps we can take to address the issue of animal abuse in Massachusetts. It is unfortunate that a heart-wrenching incident such as “Puppy Doe” happened in the first place, but if positive change can occur as a result then it will not be for naught.
The legislation, which now has 75 co-sponsors in the Mass. House and Senate, has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and a hearing date will be set later this year.
Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) represents the Sixth Plymouth District and is the former editor and publisher of The Pet Gazette.