Mass. Senate OKs bills to protect pets, boost recycling

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BOSTON >> Every dog has its day, but the dogs on Tuesday had to share the spotlight with cats as the Massachusetts Senate approved three bills aimed at protecting canines and felines as well as a measure intended to boost recycling and reduce solid waste headed to Bay State landfills.

The Senate approved a bill (S 2370) titled "An act relative to protecting puppies and kittens" that would prevent the sale of dogs or cats less than eight weeks of age, update the "Puppy Lemon Law" to give pet owners more options if they unknowingly purchase a sick pet, and regulate certain breeders and prevent pet shops from obtaining puppies and kittens from USDA breeders with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

"It's a serious bill. Currently, Massachusetts is one of the very few states in the nation that leaves commercial breeders, including what's commonly referred to as puppy mills, unregulated, totally unregulated," the bill's sponsor Sen. Karen Spilka, who referred to herself as an "occasional small-scale breeder," said. "With more and more states recognizing the need for this legislation, by passing this bill we make sure the commonwealth does not become a haven for the worst breeders of cats and dogs."

Before passing the bill, the Senate added an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mark Montigny to establish a fine structure for anyone who runs a kennel without a license. The amendment would allow an unlicensed kennel keeper to forfeit custody of the animals if they cannot afford the fines.

The Senate also passed legislation (S 2369) that would provide civil penalties for abandoning an animal in a hot car and would make clear that police officers, firefighters and animal control officers may enter a hot car for the sole purpose of releasing an animal believed to be in danger.

Montigny, who sponsored the bill, said the title of the first bill was "warm and fuzzy," unlike his bill titled "An act to prevent animal suffering and death."

"It sounds pretty morbid because it is," Montigny said of the bill title. "If you don't know your pet should not be in a car when it's hot or extreme cold, you shouldn't own a pet. It's as fundamental as waking up in the morning and assuming you don't have to give your cat or dog food and water. It is akin to torture. That's not hyperbole."

Montigny suggested the best way to "disprove any contention that that's hyperbolic" would be to put a pet owner in a hot car.

"They wouldn't last two minutes," the New Bedford Democrat said.

The Senate rounded out its pet-themed day by passing a bill (S 2174) which would require that landlords or foreclosing owners inspect any property vacated by foreclosure, termination of tenancy, or abandonment within three days for the presence of abandoned animals or animal remains and immediately notify animal control or police officers if any animals are found.

Also Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a measure intended to increase recycling and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Sen. Marc Pacheco bill (S 2308) would require most municipalities to reduce their solid waste to no more than 600 pounds per capita by July 2018 and no more than 450 pounds per capita by July 2022.

According to Pacheco, 53 percent of Massachusetts communities are already in compliance with the proposed 2018 per person cap and 26 percent of municipalities already meet the 2022 requirement.

The bill mirrors the structure of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which Pacheco also sponsored. The GWSA mandates that the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 statewide levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

During debate on the bill, Minority Leader Bruce Tarr raised concerns that the bill amounts to an unfunded mandate on municipalities, an argument the Massachusetts Municipal Association made in a letter to each senator earlier this month.

"The measure would clearly place a new unfunded mandate on cities and towns, primarily by imposing a set of solid waste 'performance standards' on communities and instituting new annual reporting requirements," MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith wrote in the letter. "The bill includes no funding to pay for these mandates, and also omits any tangible technical assistance to help communities."

The Senate did exempt some communities from the requirements of the bill. The chamber adopted an amendment filed by Sen. Anne Gobi, who represents several rural towns in central Massachusetts, that exempts any municipality that does not operate trash and recycling collection as long as it confers "with its residents and private waste disposal companies to establish solid waste performance standards for the municipality."

And in an effort to make recycling available to all citizens, the Senate adopted a Sen. Jamie Eldridge amendment that requires all privately-contracted waste disposal or trash hauling companies to provide recycling collection for their customers.


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