Society

Animal Cruelty Bill in Massachusetts Proposes Tougher Laws For Abusers After "Puppy Doe" Case

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

The Protective Animal Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, will  ensure that the welfare and safety of animals remain a priority in the state.

The PAWS Act would impose fines and penalties, establish an anonymous tip service, create a commission to review the state’s current animal welfare laws and create a statewide registry of individuals convicted of crimes against animals, according to Massachusetts Voters for Animals.

Tarr held a hearing to draw attention back to the PAWS Act and encourage passage of the bill by July.

BILL INVOLVES PUBLIC IN ANIMAL SAFETY

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Ami Bowen, director of marketing and communications for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said the bill would allow the public to...help in resolving the current issues with animal safety.

“Four out of five cases of animal cruelty remain undiscovered,” she said. “So it’s great when there are laws and control officers who are aware. We need the public’s help to bring concerns to authorities. There are things that can be done to make sure that the animals and the people get help.”

Animal welfare activists and animal-control employees alike have supported Tarr in his crusade against mistreatment of animals, which would emphasize and support prompt reporting of situations involving abuse or neglect in neighborhoods as soon as they are noticed, rather than waiting until the animal has endured prolonged suffering.

“Typically if someone witnesses a case of abuse, they call the police or they call the [Massachusetts Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals],” said Rob Halpin, director of public relations for MSPCA.. “If they call us first, we go in with police experts, and if there is enough evidence, we will see it through to a court case. The most common cases are things like abandonment.”

Bowen said people often report suspected incidents of animal abuse anonymously because they are afraid of retaliation, but the important thing is that they do make a report so that situation can be investigated.  Everyone benefits from early intervention--especially the animal who may be a victim.

However, sometimes people just don't know how to care for animals.  In those cases, "...we like to give them the opportunity to make the adjustment,” she said. “Other times, they just can’t handle owning an animal anymore. Often times, the owners also need assistance. There are things that can be done to make sure the animals and the people get help.”

"PUPPY DOE" CASE SHOWS NEED FOR TOUGHER ANIMAL ABUSE LAWS

But the PAWS Act is also geared to those who deliberately harm animals, and other members of the Senate and House of Representatives have joined Tarr in his efforts. The issue became more prominent after the August 2013 case of “Puppy Doe,” in which a dog was euthanized after being found brutally beaten in Quincy Park. The injuries included a stab wound to her eye, the splitting of her tongue to look like a serpent, as well as being burned and starved.

“Our laws are woefully outdated regarding the subject of punishing those who abuse animals,” Tarr said in the release. “As a society, we need to stand up against those who would inflict pain so ruthlessly and coldheartedly, and tell them these actions cannot and will not be tolerated.”

PEOPLE MAY NOT BE AWARE 

“I don’t know much about animal cruelty, but that’s an issue in itself. It’s something that people need to be educated on,” said Alexis Extract, 30, of Brighton. “When these issues are made public, people begin to understand how bad the issue is. If it was in the news more, people would have more opinions about it, because I don’t think anyone would be okay with it.”

Tom McLoughlin, 54, of Back Bay, said “Abuse comes in all forms, whether it be a farmer who cannot afford to take care of his animals properly, someone who hoards animals or those who participate in cockfighting and dog fighting,” he said. “[But] there shouldn’t be abuse at all.”

Heather Nickle, 36, of Back Bay, said the PAWS act is a proactive approach to solving a problem in the community before it happens.

“Animal cruelty is the worst because there creatures are helpless,” she said. “I’m glad that it’s on the minds of [officials] because it’s our job to protect them. I hope eventually we can stop the abuse before it even happens, instead of just helping the animals afterward.”

Source: Daily Free Press