By Senator Richard T. Moore
We were all shocked and outraged by the horrific news about a young, female pit bull which came to be called “Puppy Doe.” The dog was found abandoned in a Quincy park towards the end of August in a condition so sadistic. Puppy Doe suffered “from long term, irreversible damage to her body, which included a stab wound to her eye; the splitting of her tongue to look like a serpent; dislocated shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle; burned, and starved.” In the end, it was determined that the dog’s condition could not be saved, and veterinarians were forced to untimely euthanize the young pup.
Joanne and I currently care for four cats (we’ve sometimes had up to seven), most of whom were abandoned by someone and arrived at our door. As a youth, my family had a succession of four dogs. Consequently, I guess we qualify as “animal lovers.” It should be no surprise, therefore, that I quickly joined with Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, in co-sponsoring “An Act protecting animal welfare and safety,” also known as the “PAWS Act.” The bill’s aim is to protect animals statewide from the cowardly and disgraceful treatment that “Puppy Doe” endured. More than fifty other legislators have joined as additional co-sponsors.
Some of our more cynical friends may think too much is being made of this incident. They’ll say it was “just a dog.” However, it is a disturbing fact that research has repeatedly shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among those who are responsible for other all too common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder. Mental health professions believe that those who abuse animals to be “budding psychopaths.” The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970’s when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most, as children, had killed or tortured animals. The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much narrower than most people care to think.
The “Puppy Doe” case was in Quincy, but we’ve had similar cases in our own back yards. In 2006, a Northbridge man pleaded guilty to trapping and burning a feral cat in the previous year, and was sentenced to a year in jail. The cat survived and was found later and treated for burns at Tufts Veterinary School. He was among the first to be punished under an updated law (Chapter 319 of the Acts of 2004) that I sponsored making animal abuse a felony. The animal abuse bill was filed following the killing of a family dog, found in the woods in a plastic garbage bag in Douglas in 2004. Earlier in my legislative service, I successfully sponsored legislation to prevent abuse in the training of guard dogs for which I received a commendation from the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
The new bill dealing with animal abuse that Sen. Tarr, a number of additional legislators and I are sponsoring will establish new abuse prevention initiatives. The 11-section measure would, broadly: allow the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund to raise and allot money towards abused animals; impose a $1,000 fine for veterinarians who consciously fail to report suspected acts of cruelty; bolster the penalty for those convicted by sentencing them to no more than 2.5 years in prison and levying a fine between $2,500 to $10,000 for just the first offense; create a registry of animal abuse offenders; and create a 9-member commission, which includes the Attorney General, to investigate and review the effectiveness of the law.
While passage of this strong animal abuse prevention law will not bring back “Puppy Doe,” and won’t stop animal abuse, it will increase the penalties and provide for more effective monitoring of those who have shown a tendency to abuse animals. Let’s hope that the bill can be quickly passed and signed into law and that it will make future animal abuse less likely to occur.
In the meantime, to report suspected animal cruelty anywhere in Massachusetts, including western New England, please call the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at 617-522-6008 or 800-628-5808. For after-hours and emergencies, please call your local Police Department.
Sen. Richard T. Moore represents fourteen towns in South Central Massachusetts. He is currently the Senate President Pro Tempore and is co-sponsoring legislation to reduce animal abuse.