State Gets Tough On Animal Abusers By Passing ‘PAWS Act’

The legislation was inspired by the brutal beating of 'Puppy Doe,' who was left to die in a Quincy park in 2013.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

A bill meant to protect animals across the state and strengthen penalties against those who harm pets is headed to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk for his signature.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives and Senate passed the PAWS Act, which stands for Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety, in response to the painful death of a female pit bull who became known to the world as “Puppy Doe” in 2013.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, drafted the original version of the bill after Puppy Doe was found severely beaten and left for dead in a Quincy park last August. The dog was later euthanized due to the extent of her injuries, which included burns, broken bones, stab wounds, and a split tongue.

Shortly after she died, people launched and created Facebook groups aimed at finding and locating Puppy Doe’s abuser. Police later launched their own investigation and within months arrested Radoslaw Czerkawski, a 32-year-old Polish national, and charged him with the dog’s death.

Elected officials on Beacon Hill, who tweaked the language of the bill during the last legislative session, hope that by enacting the PAWS Act it will prevent these types of abusive behaviors in the future, and keep pets out of harm’s way.

To do this, the bill, once signed by Patrick, will increase the fines for animal abuse from $2,500 to $5,000 for a first offense, and up to $10,000 for repeat offenses. The PAWS Act will also raise the maximum penalty for prison time from five to seven years for a first offense, and up to 10 years for subsequent convictions. The new law marks the first time the state has updated these penalties in nearly a decade, officials said.

“Animal abuse in our Commonwealth is simply unacceptable, and legislation to confront it has been a major priority in this session,” said Tarr in a statement. “Now we have acted to increase penalties to send a clear and immediate message.”

Beyond increasing penalties for violent offenders that beat and torture defenseless animals, the PAWS Act will also set up a special task force of experts from law enforcement and animal protection agencies, as well as veterinary practice groups, to review methods on how to further prevent animal abuse.

Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for MSPCA-Angell, called the passage of the bill “crucial.”

“We extend our thanks to Senator Tarr and all of the bill’s supporters who championed these reforms,” she said in a statement. “Animal lovers around the state can today celebrate these efforts and hopefully can find some peace knowing that from such tragic incidents, like Puppy Doe and others, awareness has been generated that will now prevent harm to other helpless animals.”