Mass. considering legislation that would require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are attempting to crack down on animal abusers, and their proposed legislation would ensure that veterinarians play a major role in the effort.

The bill, Senate Bill 2345, has already passed through the House and Senate and is awaiting Gov. Deval Patrick's signature, according to Salem News.

Senate Bill 2345 would increase the maximum sentence for the first abuse offense to $5,000, up from $2,500. The maximum prison sentence would rise from five years to seven years. Repeat offenders will face felony charges, fines of up to $10,000, and up to 10 years in jail.

Senator Bruce Tarr, who sponsored the bill, told the Boston Globe that the legislation "sends a very clear message that this is a serious crime and that there can be serious consequences for committing it, particularly in the second-offense category."

In addition to increasing penalties for animal abusers, the legislation would require veterinarians to report suspected abuse to either a police officer or a special state police officer appointed under section 57 of chapter 22C. Veterinarians who report suspected animal abuse in good faith and in the normal course of business will not be liable in a civil or criminal action for reporting such act. If a veterinarian fails to report suspected abuse, he or she will be reported to the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine.

If passed, the legislation will also mandate the creation of a task force charged with carefully evaluating Massachusetts laws pertaining to animal cruelty and protection. The task force would include:

  • The attorney general or a designee
  • The president of the district attorneys association or a designee
  • The colonel of the Massachusetts state police or a designee
  • The commissioner of the department of agricultural resources or a designee
  • A designee from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • A designee from the Animal Rescue League of Boston
  • A designee from the Massachusetts bar association
  • A designee of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
  • Two members appointed by the governor, one of whom shall be an animal control officer or representative of an association organized in the commonwealth for animal control officers, and one whom shall be a veterinarian or member of a veterinary medical association organized in the commonwealth

According to Salem News, Massachusetts has not updated its animal cruelty laws since 2004, and has some of the nation's oldest animal protection laws dating back to the early 1800s. 

More information

Here is the AVMA list of states with laws addressing mandatory reporting of animal abuse by veterinarians.

NEWStat Legislation & regulation