State lawmakers on Thursday sent Gov. Charlie Baker a compromise bill that adds new requirements for reporting animal abuse, steps up penalties for animal control violations, and requires vacant properties be checked for abandoned pets.
The animal welfare bill (S 2646) emerged Tuesday night from a House-Senate conference committee that had been negotiating on it for two weeks and was unanimously approved by both branches just before midnight, but lawmakers did not take the final votes needed to get the bill to Baker’s desk. They did so on Thursday.
“There were some issues that folks felt very passionate about, and certainly wanting to make sure we had strong laws but not laws that would accidentally ensnare someone who was innocent or not culpable in some cases, so like many things, the discussions continued,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, one of the six conferees, said when asked about the negotiations. “I would have hoped that we could have done it earlier, but sometimes in a busy schedule it’s hard to get things done right away,” he said.
Baker’s signature on the bill would create a new penalty for putting an animal to death by drowning — a sentence of up to 18 months in a county jail, up to seven months in state prison, or a fine of up to $5,000, with harsher terms for second and subsequent offenses.
The Department of Fish and Game would also be charged with reporting by June 1, 2019 on “best practices related to trapping and pest control, to include alternatives to drowning.”
The bill also officially prohibits sexual contact with animals and eliminates a requirement that animals who had been involved in fighting be killed. Instead, the seized animals would be individually assessed to determine if they are suitable for adoption.