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PAWS Act signed into law

Many readers have already heard the horrific details about the Puppy Doe case in Quincy. I’m please to report new legislation called the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) act designed to prevent similar atrocities and toughen penalties for animal abusers has just been passed by the legislature.

Credit to my colleagues Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Bruce Ayers for drafting this important legislation. I’m proud to support it and make a bipartisan statement that animal abuse will not be tolerated. 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 law will impose tougher sentences for animal abusers. It will also:

  1. Expand discretion for the courts to impose additional penalties in cases involving aggravating factors, including cases where the abuse is systematic or involves multiple animals.

  2. Require veterinarians report acts of animal cruelty.

  3. Create a task force to complete a systematic review of laws relating to animal cruelty and examine whether Mass. should participate in a statewide animal abuse registry.

Prior to the passage of this new legislation, Massachusetts had some of the most lenient fines in the nation for animal abuse, with a maximum of $2,500. Many other states maintain longer prison sentences as well. The new law marks the first update of these penalties in nearly ten years.

“We know people who are willing to abuse animals are a threat to us all because they are a bully and bullies will bully anyone who’s vulnerable whether it’s a child or an elder or someone with mental difficulties. So protecting animals is part of protecting all of us,” said Martha Smith-Blackmore, a veterinarian with the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

The bill passed both branches of the legislature and has been laid before the governor for his signature (Update: the Governor has signed the bill and it is now law). The final legislation is S. 2345.

The Patriot Ledger has good coverage of the legislation here and the MSPCA covers the bill here.


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