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Massachusetts Senate passes bill to protect abandoned animals

A pit bull that jumped out a third floor window after being abandoned for two months in an apartment in New Bedford in 2011..
A pit bull that jumped out a third floor window after being abandoned for two months in an apartment in New Bedford in 2011..

The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill Thursday that would help protect animals that have been abandoned on vacant properties. S942: An Act protecting abandoned animals in vacant properties, sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge, aims to give animals another layer of protection by requiring landlords, mortgagees and foreclosing owners to search vacated properties within five days. Should an abandoned animal be found, animal control must be contacted immediately.

Willful abandonment is considered animal cruelty and is a felony in Massachusetts. Unfortunately in many incidents, animals are found too late – they have already perished due to neglect and starvation. This bill, while not necessarily preventing the abandonment, will help save the lives of animals left behind.

The bill was prompted by a realtor out of Marlborough, Lyn Gorka, when she came across a deceased two year old Labrador retriever in one of the bathrooms of a vacant Hudson apartment. Phantom, the Labrador, had been dead a long while before he was discovered. Charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence of who was responsible.

The plight of Phantom touched a chord with Senator Eldridge. Eldridge sponsored the bill that outlines when an animal is considered to be abandoned and what is to be done when an abandoned animal is found.

Not only does bill S942 require landlords, mortgagees and foreclosing owners to check vacated properties within five days, it specifies they notify an animal control officer, a police officer or an authorized agent immediately as to the presence of the animal. The landlord, mortagee or foreclosing owner will not be considered the owner of the animal when making a prompt report of the abandonment.

Dogs and cats can only survive several days without water and dogs for several weeks without food, according to the MSPCA. Their bodies begin to deteriorate almost immediately, however, and there is no guarantee that an animal will bounce back once they receive urgent medical care.

Bill S942 is now headed to the House.

Abandoned pit bull jumps from third-story window to escape confinement

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