Because April is Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, members of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives gathered to revise a bill to ensure that the welfare and safety of animals remain a priority.
The Protective Animal Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, will 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 Thursday to draw attention back to the PAWS Act and encourage the body pass the bill by July.
Ami Bowen, director of marketing and communications for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said the bill would allow the public to take a stand and 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 rights activists and employees alike have supported Tarr in his crusade against mistreatment of animals.
“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 Angell. “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, and there is commonly a connection between cruelty to animals and other forms of violence.
“Sometimes, people just don’t know, so 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.”
Other members of the Senate and House of Representatives have accompanied 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.”
Several residents said animal abuse should not be accepted or tolerated, although people may not be aware of the prominence of the issue.
“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 should not be tolerated, both in the city of Boston and in the state as a whole.
“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 dogfighting,” 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 and they just want love,” 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.”