An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS)

An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS)-1

The following is a Section by Section Summary

An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) – Section by Section Summary

SECTION 1. Authorizes the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund, which consists of revenues received from a voluntary tax check-off, to collect and expend money for the care and protection of abused animals.
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SECTION 2. Requires the State Police or their designee to establish and advertise a toll-free telephone hotline and website for reporting suspected cases of animal cruelty.
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SECTION 3. Imposes a fine of up to $1,000 on any veterinarian who knowingly and willfully fails to report a suspected act of cruelty to an animal. Also requires that the veterinarian be reported to the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine.
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SECTIONS 4 & 5. These sections amend, respectively, MGL Chapter 266, Section 112 (maliciously killing, maiming, or disfiguring any animal or exposing them to poison) and MGL Chapter 272, Section 77 (cruelty to animals) by expanding fines and jail time for repeat offenders or cases involving aggravating factors. (NOTE: The penalties associated with these crimes were last increased in 2004.)

Under current law, offenders who violate either one of these two sections of the General Laws are subject 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 OR by a fine of not more than $2,500, OR by both a fine and imprisonment.

Under the proposed bill, first-time offenders would be subject to the same jail time AND a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000. For a second or subsequent offense, the penalty would be 5-10 years state imprisonment AND a fine of $5,000 to $20,000.

The court may, at its discretion, expand these penalties for up to 5 additional years imprisonment and an additional $10,000 fine based on a finding of the existence of 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.
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SECTION 6. Increases the hit and run penalty for motorists who strike and injure or kill a dog or cat and fail to report the accident to the animal’s owner or the local police. Current law imposes a $50 fine for a violation of this section, but this bill would set the penalty as imprisonment for not more than 60 days, a fine of not more than $2,000, or both.
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SECTION 7. Improves the judicial process involving the cost of caring for abused animals during the time the animal is held and being cared for until the case is adjudicated. It allows a district attorney to file the petition for bond and acknowledges the substantial expenses and unexpected events that can be incurred before a judicial determination.
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SECTION 8. Creates a statewide registry of individuals convicted of animal abuse crimes, to be administered by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services and made available to animal shelters, breeders and pet stores. Requires all offenders to register within 10 days following either the date of judgment or their date of release from incarceration, whichever is later. Also requires out-of-state residents convicted of an animal abuse crime to register within 10 days of moving to Massachusetts.

Individuals who fail to register within 10 days, fail to verify their registration information, fail to provide notice of a change of address, or knowingly provide false information would be subject to imprisonment for up to 2 ½ years in a house of correction, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both for a first offense. A second or subsequent offense would be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years.

Any animal shelter, pet store or animal breeder that fails to check the registry or knowingly offers, sells, delivers, gives or provides an animal to any individual registered on the registry would be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 or imprisonment for up to one year for a first offense. Each subsequent offense will be punishable by a fine of not less than $5,000 and imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than five years.
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SECTION 9. Adds two members to the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Advisory Board, one officer from a local police department and one officer from a humane society.

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SECTION 10. Allows law enforcement officers, in cases of emergency, to enter private property without a warrant to protect against the imminent death or serious injury of an animal.

SECTION 11. Creates a nine-member commission to conduct a systematic review of the laws pertaining to animal abuse and welfare, with the intent of assessing the adequacy, effectiveness, and necessity of these laws, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and have not been updated in decades. The commission will consist of:

• the Attorney General or a designee;
• the Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police or a designee;
• the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources or a designee;
• the President of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association or a designee;
• the President of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation or a designee;
• 1 representative from the Massachusetts Bar Association; and
• 3 members appointed by the Governor, one of whom shall be from a humane society, animal rescue or sheltering organization; 1 of whom shall be an animal control officer or representative of an animal control association organized in the Commonwealth; and 1 whom shall be a veterinarian or member of a veterinary medical association organized in the Commonwealth.

The commission will report back to the Legislature with its findings and legislative recommendations within 90 days of the bill’s passage, including any potential changes which would improve the state’s ability to deter abuse and neglect and promote animal welfare.

The following is the Act:

An Act Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety

SECTION 1. Section 35WW of chapter 10 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “residents” in line 7, the following words:-
“, to protect against cruelty or abuse of domestic animals, to promote the welfare of abused or cruelly treated domestic animals”.

SECTION 2. Chapter 20 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting at the end thereof the following new section:-
“Section 33. The State Police or their designee shall establish and advertise a toll-free telephone hotline and website that shall be capable of responding to suspected cases of animal cruelty. The State Police or their designee shall determine the administration of said hotline, response service, and coordination with appropriate authorities to investigate cases of animal cruelty.”

SECTION 3. Section 58B of chapter 112 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking said section and inserting in place thereof the following:-
Section 58B. “A veterinarian who, while in the normal course of business, obtains knowledge of or observes an animal whom he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of animal cruelty prohibited under section 77 or section 94 of chapter 272 shall report said suspected animal cruelty to a police officer or a special state police officer appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C.
A veterinarian duly registered under section 55 who reports, in good faith and in the normal course of business, a suspected act of cruelty to animals prohibited under section 77 or section 94 of chapter 272 to a police officer, or a special state police officer appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C, shall not be liable in a civil or criminal action for reporting such act.
Any veterinarian who fails to report such an act of cruelty shall be punished by not more than $1,000 and shall be reported to the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine.”

SECTION 4. Section 112 of chapter 266 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking, in lines 5-8, the words “for not more than five years or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment” and inserting in place thereof the following:-
“for not more than 5 years in state prison or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years and by a fine of not less than $2,500 but not more than $10,000; provided, however, that a second or subsequent offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 5 years but not more than 10 years and by a fine of not less than $5,000 but not more than $20,000. The court may, at its discretion, expand these penalties for a period of years not to exceed 5 years or an additional fine not to exceed $10,000 for an individual who has violated this section based on a finding of extreme atrocity and cruelty, including but not limited to: the number of animals involved; premeditation and planning by the defendant; whether the abuse occurred as a result of acts undertaken for financial benefit; whether the offense occurred in front of a minor child, or whether the abuse was systematic.”

SECTION 5. Chapter 272 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended, in section 77, by striking lines 19 through 21, inclusive, and inserting in place thereof the following wording:-
“for not more than 5 years in state prison or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years and by a fine of not less than $2,500 but not more than $10,000; provided, however, that a second or subsequent offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 5 years but not more than 10 years and by a fine of not less than $5,000 but not more than $20,000. The court may, at its discretion, expand these penalties for a period of years not to exceed 5 years or an additional fine not to exceed $10,000 for an individual who has violated this section based on a finding of extreme atrocity and cruelty, including but not limited to: the number of animals involved; premeditation and planning by the defendant; whether the abuse occurred as a result of acts undertaken for financial benefit; whether the offense occurred in front of a minor child, or whether the abuse was systematic.”

SECTION 6. Section 80H of chapter 272 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking the section in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:-

Section 80H. Whoever operates a motor vehicle upon any way or in any place to which the public has right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public shall have access as invitees or licensees, and without stopping and making known, to a police officer or owner of the dog or cat, his or her name, residence and the registration number of the motor vehicle, goes away after knowingly colliding with or otherwise knowingly causing injury or death to said dog or cat shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 60 days or by a fine of not more than two thousand dollars, or both.

SECTION 7. Chapter 272 of the General Laws is hereby replacing section 104 with the following section:-
Section 104. (a) As used in this section the word “Authority” shall mean an organization or authorized agent thereof that seizes or impounds an animal pursuant to the General Laws.
(b) If an animal is lawfully seized or impounded pursuant to the General Laws relating to cruelty to animals or animal fighting resulting in the issuance of a criminal complaint or a criminal indictment, the authority or prosecuting agency, including the district attorney or attorney general, may file a petition with the court that is exercising jurisdiction over the criminal complaint or criminal indictment requesting that the person from whom an animal is seized or a person claiming an interest in the seized animal, be ordered to post a security. The authority shall serve a copy of the petition on the person from whom the animal was seized, or if the person cannot be found, by posting of copy at the place where the animal was taken into custody. The authority shall also serve a copy of the petition on the district attorney or the attorney general, whichever is appropriate. The court may order that person to post a security.

(c) The security shall be in an amount sufficient to secure payment for all reasonable expenses incurred, and to be incurred, by the authority having custody of the seized animal from the date of seizure or impoundment and thereafter for a period of at least 30 days. The amount of the security shall be determined by the court upon the recommendation of the authority. Reasonable expenses shall include, but shall not be limited to, estimated medical care, shelter, and board.

(d) When security is posted in accordance with this section, the authority may draw from the security the actual reasonable costs incurred for medical care, shelter, and board. If the expenses already incurred by the seizing authority at the time of judicial decision on the petition exceed the petitioned for security amount, the court may permit the security amount to be paid in its entirety to the seizing authority through the court, or directly from the respondent to the authority, as the court deems appropriate in the interest of justice.

(e) If the court orders the posting of security, the security shall be posted with the clerk within 10 business days of the court’s decision on the petition. The respondent’s failure to post security as determined within the appointed time shall be deemed an immediate forfeiture of the seized animal to the authority, with the full force and effect of a court order. The court may waive the security requirement or reduce the amount of the security for good cause shown.

(f) Posting of the security shall not prevent the authority from disposing of the seized or impounded animal for humane reasons and in a humane manner before the expiration of the period covered by the security.

(g) The authority may humanely dispose of the animal at the end of the period for which expenses are covered by the security, if the court orders the disposition. If the disposition order is denied, the court may require the owner or custodian or any other person claiming interest in the animal, to provide additional security to secure payment of reasonable expenses and to extend the period of time pending adjudication by the court of the charges against the person from whom the animal was seized.

(h) The owner or custodian of an animal humanely euthanized pursuant to this section shall not be entitled to recover damages or the actual value of the animal if the owner or custodian failed to post security.

(i) The court may direct a refund to the person who posted the security in whole or part for any expenses not incurred by the authority. The court shall direct a refund to the person who posted security upon acquittal of the charges.

SECTION 8. Chapter 272 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby further amended by inserting at the end thereof the following new section:-
Section 106 Animal Abuse Registry
(a) DEFINITIONS.
The following words as used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, shall have the following meanings:
1. “animal abuse crime” means the commission of any crime against an animal under Chapter 272, Sections 77 through 81, inclusive, of the General Laws, and comparable animal cruelty statutes of this state or any other state.
2. “animal breeder” means any entity engaged in the practice of facilitating the reproduction of animals for the purpose of distributing the resulting offspring to one or more other individuals or entities.
3. “animal shelter” means a public animal control facility, or any other facility which is operated by any organization or individual for the purpose of protecting animals from cruelty, neglect, or abuse.
4. “convicted of” means an adjudication of guilt by any court of competent jurisdiction, whether upon a verdict or plea of guilty, nolo contender, or a finding of sufficient facts.
5. “pet store” means every place or premise where birds, mammals or reptiles are kept for the purpose of sale.
(b) CREATION OF AN ANIMAL ABUSE REGISTRY.
1. The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services shall establish and maintain a central computerized registry of all persons convicted of an animal abuse crime who are required to register pursuant to section 3, to be known as the Massachusetts Animal Abuse Registry.
2. The registry shall be updated based on information made available to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, including information acquired pursuant to the registration provisions of section 3.
3. The registry shall include the following information: the offender’s name, the offender’s residential address, the date and a description of the crime for which registration is required, and an identifying photograph of the offender.
(c) REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT AND REQUIRED INFORMATION.
1. All persons eighteen (18) years of age or older, or minors who have been tried as an adult, who reside in Massachusetts and are convicted of an animal abuse crime on or after the effective date of this law, shall register within 10 days following either the date of judgment or date of release from incarceration, whichever is later. Residents of other states who are convicted of an animal abuse crime and who subsequently reside in Massachusetts, on or after the effective date of this law, shall register within their first 10 days of residing in Massachusetts.
2. Each person required to register under this section shall submit to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services for inclusion on the registry:
a. Their name;
b. Their residential address;
c. A description of the offense for which registration is required, the city or town where the offense occurred, the date of conviction or adjudication, and the sentence imposed; and
d. An identifying photograph.
3. A person required to register under this section shall update registration information to reflect any change in address which may occur, or if no change in address occurs, annually from the date of their first registration.
4. Registration pursuant to this section shall remain in effect for a period of 15 years following either the date of judgment or date of release from incarceration, whichever is later, provided that such period shall be extended for an additional 15 years; provided further, however, that a registrant may, after the initial 15 year period, and every 15 years thereafter, petition the department to have his or her registration information removed from the registry upon a written finding by the department that the circumstances of the offense, in conjunction with the offender’s criminal history and any other factors the department considers relevant, do not indicate a risk of reoffense or a danger to the public or the welfare of an animal.
(d) FEES.
Every person required to register under section 3 shall pay an annual fee of $50 to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. These funds shall be used to pay the administrative costs of maintaining the registry; provided, however than any surplus in a fiscal year shall be transferred to the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund of section 35WW of chapter 10.
(e) FAILURE TO REGISTER.
Any person required to register under section 3 who knowingly: (i) fails to register; (ii) fails to verify registration information; (iii) fails to provide notice of a change of address; or (iv) knowingly provides false information, shall be punished in accordance with this subsection.
a. A first conviction under this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years in a house of correction or by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by both such fine and imprisonment.
b. A second and subsequent conviction under this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years.
(f) APPEALING REGISTRATION.
1. Anyone convicted of an animal abuse crime who would otherwise be required to register under Section 3, may appeal for a determination that registration is not required. The department may, upon making specific written findings that the circumstances of the offense, in conjunction with the offender’s criminal history and any other information the department deems relevant, do not indicate a risk of reoffense or a danger to the public or the welfare of an animal, and the reasons therefore, relieve such offender of any further obligation to register, and shall remove such offender’s registration information from the registry.
(g) AVAILABILITY OF REGISTRY.
The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services shall keep confidential and shall not publish the information contained in the registry, except that the information contained in the registry shall be made available for inspection by any animal shelter, pet store, animal breeder, and local or state police department in Massachusetts.
(h) REQUIREMENT TO CHECK REGISTRY.
1. All animal shelters, pet stores, and animal breeders in Massachusetts shall determine whether the name and address of any person seeking to purchase, own, or adopt an animal appears on the registry. Any individual, not in the context of a transfer from an animal shelter, pet store, or animal breeder, who transfers ownership of an animal for compensation shall contact local or state police to determine if the person or persons acquiring ownership appear on the registry.
2. No animal shelter, pet store, animal breeder, or individual shall knowingly offer, sell, deliver, give or provide an animal to any person registered on the registry.
(i) PUNISHMENT FOR NOT CHECKING REGISTRY.
Any animal shelter, pet store, or animal breeder who violates the provisions of this act shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000 or imprisonment for a period of not more than one year for a first offense, provided that each subsequent offense shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $5,000 and imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than five years. Any individual who violates the provisions of paragraph (h) and who transfers ownership to a person or persons required to register pursuant to this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.

SECTION 9. Section 53 of chapter 193 of the acts of 2012 is hereby amended by inserting after the words “consist of:”, the following words:-
“2 representatives of law enforcement, one of whom shall be a special state police officer appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C, and one of whom shall be a local, state or environmental police officer;”
and further in said section 53 of said chapter 193 of the acts of 2012, by inserting after the words “pet population control”, the following words:-
“or experience promoting animal welfare or preventing animal cruelty or abuse.”

SECTION 10. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, a law enforcement officer of the commonwealth or a political subdivision of the commonwealth, including special officers appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C, while in the course of duty, may conduct a warrantless entry, upon exigent circumstances, to provide immediate assistance due to a reasonable belief of an imminent threat of death or grave injury to an animal protected by section 77 of chapter 272; provided, however, that the totality of the circumstances demonstrate said warrantless entry is reasonable, said warrantless entry is caused by the need to provide assistance against the death or grave injury of said animal, and said warrantless entry is limited to the time and place of the emergency.

SECTION 11. There shall be a special commission established to complete a systematic review of the laws pertaining to animal abuse and welfare. The commission shall assess the adequacy, effectiveness, and necessity of said laws, including but not limited to, section 57 of chapter 22C, section 85 of chapter 119, and the animal welfare laws contained in chapters 266 and 272.
The commission shall consist of the attorney general or a designee; the president of the district attorneys association or a designee; the colonel of the Massachusetts state police or a designee; the commissioner of the department of agricultural resources or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation or a designee; a designee from the Massachusetts bar association; and 3 members appointed by the Governor, 1 of whom shall be from a humane society, animal rescue or sheltering organization, 1 of whom shall be an animal control officer or representative of an association organized in the commonwealth for animal control officers, and 1 whom shall be a veterinarian or member of a veterinary medical association organized in the commonwealth. Said members of the commission shall appoint a chair.
The commission shall submit a report of its findings and legislative recommendations, examining any potential changes, expansions, reductions and laws which would improve the ability to deter abuse and neglect and promote animal welfare, to the clerks of the senate and house of representatives and the chairs of the joint committee on the judiciary not later than 90 days after the effective date of this act.