Sen. John Velis Joins Animal-welfare Advocates for Roundtable on Animal-cruelty Laws

WESTFIELD — State Sen. John Velis hosted a roundtable on Feb. 25 for stakeholders involved in animal welfare to discuss current animal-cruelty statutes in the Commonwealth and see where improvements could be made.

Velis partnered with various Massachusetts animal-advocacy groups, including the MSPCA, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the Human Society of the United States, and the Animal League Defense Fund, to host the event, which was attended by district attorneys, law-enforcement officials, and animal-control officers from throughout Hampden County and Hampshire County.

“Massachusetts has worked diligently to be a leading state in animal welfare and holding those accountable that inflict harm on these often-helpless creatures,” Velis said. “Today’s roundtable is one step to continue this commitment by working collectively with those actually responding to and investigating reports of animal neglect and abuse. Discussions like this will help us ensure that they have the tools needed to hold individuals accountable for the suffering of any animal in the Commonwealth.”

Lynsey Legier, staff attorney for the MSPCA, added that “we are pleased to speak with a variety of stakeholders who seek to ensure our animal-cruelty laws are working effectively in order to secure the most appropriate outcomes for the cases. Learning more about how animal-cruelty cases are handled across the state and what improvements could be made is a key step to ensuring fair and just outcomes for both the animal victims and for those humans impacted by these cases in the criminal justice system.”

In 2021 alone, animal control in the Greater Springfield area responded to more than 600 reports of animal abuse or neglect. The roundtable’s discussion ranged from the cost of care for animals held during abuse trials that fall on local animal control to the gaps in existing state law for unintentional neglect of animals. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only two states in the country without a misdemeanor for animal neglect. Velis and the MSPCA both said they hope to host similar roundtables in other districts across the Commonwealth.

“The Northwestern District Attorney’s office recognizes that, as with most violent crime, animal cruelty often targets the most vulnerable of society. The investigation and prosecution of these crimes can face many challenges and often requires a collaborative effort amongst our partner agencies,” said Erin Aiello, an animal-cruelty prosecutor in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. “District Attorney David Sullivan and I are thankful to Senator Velis for hosting a roundtable discussion amongst animal-welfare professionals and law-enforcement agencies so that, with our combined experience, we can continue to address these challenges and achieve a fair and just outcome for animal victims in the criminal-justice system.”