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Bill looks to modernize animal control

By Ashley Studley/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Oct 20, 2010 @ 12:06 AM

BOSTON -

Massachusetts animal rights advocates are urging legislators to pass a bill that would fix what they say are outdated statutes by streamlining the state's dangerous dog laws and enacting tighter requirements for the spaying of dogs and cats.

Kara Holmquist, spokeswoman for Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said some of the state's animal control laws are from the 1800s and use antiquated language based on a county system of government that is no longer relevant.
These outdated laws make it difficult for animal control officers to do their jobs, she said.

Cheryl Rudolph, an Ashland animal control officer who is also vice president of the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts, agreed.

Rudolph said animal control officers and municipalities often struggle over how to define or identify a dangerous dog because of vagueness in the existing law. The new bill would provide guidelines and establish criteria for determining dangerousness that would help separate truly dangerous dogs from one-time offenders.

Several cities and towns, including Worcester and Boston, have passed legislation restricting pit bulls and pit bull ownership, but dog bites have not been reduced because any dog can become aggressive, according to the MSPCA. For that reason, the new law would prohibit cities and towns from enacting breed-specific legislation.

"Pit bulls can be dangerous, but so can chihuahuas. We need to look at more broad ordinances," Rudolph said. "Breed-specific bans aren't going to work."

But the updates don't stop at dangerous dog laws. The bill, which has passed the Senate and is awaiting confirmation by the House, would also include measures to reduce the population of unwanted pets, ban certain methods of euthanasia deemed inhumane such as carbon dioxide gas, and set up a fund to train animal control officers and help pay for spaying and neutering.

The bill would require that all dog and cat owners, with the exception of licensed breeders, sterilize their pets. Only animal shelters are currently subject to a spay and neuter mandate.

The measures included in the bill would be funded by voluntary taxpayer donations. People interested in making a donation could check a box on their tax return. The money would go to a state fund to provide low-cost sterilization services for dogs and cats and pay for an animal control officer training program.

The program would reduce the population of homeless animals, saving communities money, Holmquist said.

"Even if you're not an animal lover, it's good for cities and towns and people all around," Holmquist said. "It's not perfect, but it's a start at making these laws more reflective of the world we live in today and gives animal control officers the tools they need to protect animals and people."

Representatives from the MSPCA will be at the State House tomorrow to ask legislators to support the passage of the House bill.

Bill looks to modernize animal control - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News
 
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