The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) is lobbying for a bill that would make failing to take a suffering pet to a veterinarian an offense under the state’s animal cruelty law.
The organization describes the legislation as a "clarification," rather than an expansion, of the state’s animal cruelty statute.
In part, the law defines cruelty as depriving an animal of "necessary sustenance." In Massachusetts and other states that use similar language, this has been interpreted not to include necessary veterinary care, the MSPCA said in a brief on the bill.
Many states have taken steps to update their animal cruelty laws to expressly include veterinary care, said Linda Huebner, MSPCA’s deputy director of advocacy.
The measure is aimed at cases where animals clearly are unnecessarily suffering due to a lack of care, not situations where an owner might be unaware of a medical problem, Huebner said. As an example, she cited a pet suffering from a giant tumor.
"We’re talking about cases where it’s blatantly obvious to any person that doesn’t need any particular training," she said.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Louis Kafka, D-Stoughton, also would require animal control officers to maintain a list of resources for people who are unable to care for an animal in such circumstances.
The MSPCA is backing several other bills this session, including legislation to:
Require landlords to inspect recently vacated or foreclosed homes within five days and notify authorities if an abandoned animal is found, sponsored by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton;
Require emergency plans to address evacuation and sheltering of people with household pets and service animals in a disaster, sponsored by state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland;
Prohibit confinement of farm animals in veal crates, battery cages or other types of devices that do not allow them to turn around, lie down, stand up or fully extend their limbs, sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester;
Require hunters and trappers to get written permission from a property owner before going on private land, sponsored by Rep. Martin Walsh, D-Boston.