12 July 2016

LEGISLATION - Bills Propose Sweeping Changes in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Senate has unanimously passed multiple bills aimed at protecting animals, and the bills are now headed to the Massachusetts House.

The first bill extends the ability of law enforcement to rescue animals from vehicles in extreme weather, and allows concerned citizens to use “reasonable means” to rescue animals from hot or cold cars.

This is an issue that comes up in jurisdictions across North America. Animals are often left in hot vehicles during the summer months, with 1,000 reports of animals in hot cars in 2014 in British Columbia. NDP MLA Selena Robinson hopes to pass a bill that echoes some of the concerns addressed in Massachusetts’ new legislation, and would allow bylaw officers to rescue animals from hot cars.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says “Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles.”

The second Massachusetts bill addresses the sale of unhealthy pets by unlicensed or unethical breeders. Veterinarians would have the ability to declare any sick pet “unfit for purchase” and the bill would ensure that buyers could return these pets for a full refund.

Another bill forbids the sale of puppies or kittens under 8 weeks old.

Nova Scotia passed a law last year that also addresses these issues. The law allows SPCA investigators and law enforcement further power to rescue animals in hot cars (but does not extend this power to private citizens), and also ensures that animals being sold are healthy and responsibly bred. Before an animal can be sold, a veterinarian must sign off on its health.

The Massachusetts laws go even further, banning pet stores from selling animals from unlicensed breeders. Pet stores would also be required to post information about each animal, and the breeder that the animal came from.

A third bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate ensures that abandoned animals will be found more quickly. Property owners will be required to check buildings vacated because of foreclosure, eviction, or abandonment.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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