Massachusetts

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Titlesort descending Summary
Commonwealth v. Szewczyk In this Massachusetts case, defendant was charged with animal cruelty after he shot a dog that had wandered onto his property with a pellet gun. The pellet was lodged in the dog’s leg and caused significant pain and discomfort to the dog. Following conviction, defendant appealed the District Court’s ruling arguing that the judge erred in denying three of his eleven requests for rulings of law.Specifically, defendant's principal argument was that he had a lawful purpose in shooting (to scare the dog off his property), his intent was justified (to insure his wife's safety on the property), and the pain inflicted by defendant shooting the dog does not fit the statutory meaning of "cruel." At the close of evidence, defendant submitted a written request for ruling under Mass. R.Crim. P.26 setting out these issues. The court held that the District Court judge correctly denied the three requests because they were clearly outside the scope of rule 26 because they called upon the judge as a fact finder to weigh the evidence presented at trial. Next, the court reviewed the facts of the case to determine whether or not a rational trier of fact could have found the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Ultimately, the court held that a rational trier of fact would have been able to find that defendant did commit animal cruelty by shooting the dog. The court focused on the fact that the defendant could have used other means to ensure that the dog did not enter the property again without causing pain and suffering to the dog by shooting the dog in the leg. The judgment was affirmed.
Commonwealth v. Thorton


The defendant was convicted of causing his dog to be bitten, mangled and cruelly tortured by another dog.  The defendant appealled and the Supreme Court affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Turner


Defendant released a fox from his possession and a number of other people then released various dogs, which pursued and killed the fox. Defendant was charged and brought to trial. Defendant moved to dismiss the charge on the basis that there was no such crime, which the trial court denied. Defendant also moved to dismiss for lack of evidence, which the trial court also denied. Defendant was convicted and he appealed. The court found that there was a statutory basis for the charge and that the word "animal" in Mass. Pub. Stat. ch. 207, § 53 encompassed wild animals in the custody of a man. The court denied the exceptions brought by defendant and affirmed the order of the trial court, which convicted defendant of willfully permitting a fox to be subjected to unnecessary suffering.

Commonwealth v. Waller Tasha Waller was convicted of animal cruelty for starving her dog to death. As a result of this conviction, Waller was placed on probation which prohibited her from owning animals and allowed for random searches of her property. Waller appealed this decision for the following reasons: (1) the animal cruelty statute under which she was convicted was unconstitutionally vague; (2) the expert witness testimony was improper and insufficient to support her conviction; (3) she may not as a condition of her probation be prohibited from owning animals, and the condition of probation allowing suspicions searches should be modified. The court reviewed Waller’s arguments and determined the statute was not unconstitutionally vague because it is common for animal cruelty statutes to only refer to “animals” in general and not specifically mention dogs. The court noted that dogs are commonly understood to fall within the category of animals and therefore the statute was not vague. Also, the court held that the expert witness testimony from the veterinarian was not improper because the veterinarian was capable of examining the dog and making a determination as to how the dog had died. Lastly, the court held that it was not improper to prohibit Waller from owning animals, but did agree that the searches of her property should only be warranted if authorities have reasonable suspicion to search the property. Ultimately, the court upheld Waller’s conviction and probation but modified the terms in which authorities are able to search her property.
Detailed Discussion of Massachusetts Great Ape Laws The following article discusses Massachusetts Great Ape law. Although Massachusetts does not have a law that specifically addresses Great Apes, several state laws cover them as protected endangered species. Its Endangered Species Act (MA ST 131A § 1 - 7) bans just about all activities related to the acquisition, possession, transport and sale of an endangered species. The Act's definition of “endangered species” specifically includes animals covered under federal law, encompassing Great Apes. The article argues that compared to other states, Massachusetts has perhaps slightly better than average laws with respect to the ownership and possession of Great Apes. The Commonwealth does not have any specific standards for keeping Great Apes in captivity, however it does reference federal standards in both its endangered species law as well as its exotic animal ban. It also does not contain the broad exception for research that many other state cruelty laws do.
GOODWIN v. E. B. NELSON GROCERY CO.


Plaintiff brought her dog into a store. The dog fought with the store owner's cat. After the fight was over, and the animals were calm, plaintiff reached down and grabbed the cat's front paw. The cat scratched and bit plaintiff, who brought a negligence action against the store owner. The court held that plaintiff could not recover because plaintiff did not exercise due care when she interfered with a strange animal, and there was no evidence that the cat was vicious.

Irwin v. Degtiarov In this case, Degtiarov's unleashed dog attacked Irwin's dog without provocation. Though Irwin's dog survived, there were significant veterinary costs. Irwin brought this suit for damages in the form of veterinary costs, which were granted by the district court and affirmed by the appellate court. The sole issue on appeal considers whether damages should be capped at the market value of the dog, despite the reasonableness of the veterinary costs necessary to treat the dog's injuries. The appellate court affirms the damages for reasonable veterinary costs that were incurred for damage caused by a dog, even if these costs exceed the market or replacement value of the animal injured by the dog.
Knox v. Massachusetts Soc. for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


In this Massachusetts case, the plaintiff, a concessionaire at the Brockton Fair intended to award goldfish as a prize in a game of chance. The defendant, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), asserted that such conduct would violate G.L. c. 272, s 80F. In the action for declaratory relief, the court considered whether the term "animal" in the statute includes goldfish. The court concluded in the affirmative that, "in interpreting this humane statute designed to protect animals subject to possible neglect by prizewinners," former G.L. c. 272, s 80F applies to goldfish.

Krasnecky v. Meffen


In

Krasnecky v Meffen

, the plaintiffs sought damages for emotional distress, loss of companionship, and society when defendant’s dogs broke into plaintiff’s backyard and killed their seven sheep. The plaintiffs loved their sheep like a parent would love a child, and went so far as to throw birthday parties for them. Plaintiff’s counsel, Steven Wise, Esq., also instructed the court to consult a text on veterinary ethics, which defined companion animals to include the plaintiff’s sheep within the definition. The court did not address the issue concerning the emotional distress claim, but instead stated that the class of persons authorized to recover were “persons” closely related to the injured person. Furthermore, Justice Jacobs noted that it would be irrational for plaintiffs to have greater rights in the case of a companion animal than in a case of the tortious death of an immediate family member.

Lieberman v. Powers


In this Massachusetts case, Noah Lieberman sustained injuries when he was scratched and bitten by a cat while visiting a “cat lounge” at the Sheldon branch animal shelter, which was operated by the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL). Plaintiff alleged that his injuries resulted from the defendants' negligent design and maintenance of the cat lounge. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk reversed the lower court's grant of summary judgment for defendants. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiff has provided sufficient evidence, in the form of expert opinion, that an ordinarily prudent person in the circumstances of this case-which include the defendants' knowledge regarding the behavior (and potential for aggression) of cats-would have taken additional steps to ensure the safety of visitors to the cat lounge. At the very least, the defendants should have foreseen that the small size of the room, as well as the set-up (one food bowl, one litter box, two perches) and unsupervised operation of the cat lounge was such that it was more likely than not to increase stress in cats, which in turn made it more likely than not that the cats would behave aggressively.

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