Why You Should Always Look Before You Lobby: "Puppy Doe" Law Passes, Stripped of Important Animal Protection Provisions
A new Massachusetts state law filed in response to the Puppy Doe tragedy isn't what most animal lovers expected. Had it passed as introduced in October 2013, the PAWS Act would have established an animal abuser registry similar to those for sex offenders.
Instead, the heart and soul of this law--and the protections they afforded animals--were stripped from it. According to the State House News Service:
"The bill does not include provisions sought by Senate Republicans calling for an animal abuse hotline, and creating an animal abuse registry."
DOES THIS WEAKENED LAW PROTECT ANIMALS?
The enacted law does require vets to report suspected animal abuse.
How many animal abusers do you think take pets to the vet?
The "Puppy Doe" law also increases penalties for abuse--a good thing if the perpetrator is caught and convicted.
But the abuse hotline, which would have aided the capture of these perpetrators, was removed from the legislation. And an abuser registry--which would have helped prevent animals from being handed over to sadistic people--was removed too.
Finally, the law creates an animal abuse taskforce to "investigate current animal abuse laws," according to State House News Service. The taskforce must submit a report not later than 18 months after the effective date of the law. (The effective date is generally 90 days after the governor signs the law.)
Essentially, the new law replaces action--that animals need to protect them--with talk.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU... NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE
The key provisions of the "Puppy Doe" law may or may not be introduced in future legislation. Regardless, their removal from this law points to the importance of actively following bills that matter to you.
Had you known the abuser registry and hotline were removed from the Puppy Doe legislation, for example, you might have lobbied your lawmakers to keep them. Or not. The point is to make informed decisions. Don't rely on blind faith in animal protection organizations that ask you to support laws.
They can get it wrong; no one's infallible. Or they may agree to support compromises, like removal of key provisions or addition of loopholes--sneaky amendments that turn legislation on its face--but not alert animal advocates.
Weak or bad laws aren't always stepping stones. Too often, they're dead ends.
IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HELP ANIMALS, BE AN INFORMED ADVOCATE.
A few more minutes of your time can prevent a lifetime of suffering--or a terrible death--for the animals you want to protect.
Read the legislation. You can find the text and history of pending state bills on your legislature's website. In Massachusetts, it's www.malegislature.gov
If you don't know what something in a state bill means, call your Beacon Hill (not Capitol Hill!) lawmakers; their legislative directors can explain it to you.
Call your lawmakers periodically; ask where the bill you're following is and if any provisions have been changed or added.
Stay on top of legislation every step of the way! Bills can be modified for better OR worse any time before the governor signs them into law.
After legislation passes is too late to discover it's a different law than you thought it would be.
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