Rep. Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster) has sponsored a Bill to Promote Safe Dog Ownership that includes a fine of up to $2,500 for owners of dogs that damage property or cause injury to people or animals.
CapeCodToday asked Rep. Whelan why he filed the bill and what he expects it to accomplish. His repsonse:
In general, I worked on this bill with Yarmouth PD Deputy Chief Xiarhos to patch a gap in state law that does not (in our opinion) sufficiently incentive responsible dog ownership. It was with the loose dog attack in Yarmouth last month in which a pet was killed and the owner of the pet seriously attcked, that we started our discussion about this.
I worked on this bill with several attorneys and also researched like legislation in other states. It imposes a fine of up to $2,500 only on dog owners who keep their animal negligently so that said animal causes damage to property or injury to person or animal, including transmission of disease such as rabies. It also states a finding or responsibikity will serve as Prima Facie evidence of liability in later civil actions.
According to the Representative, the bill will make it much easier to establish civil liability in cases like the recent pit bull attack in Yarmouth, which left a small dog dead and the owner injured. It also raises the bar on fines that can be imposed on dog owners who do not properly restrain their animals, leaving the dog free to attack people, animals or property.
Tim Whelan is a dog owner himself and says he has kept dogs most of his life.
Rep. Whelan has provided the full text of the bill below.
HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 3840 FILED ON: 3/8/2017
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the One Hundred and Ninetieth General Court (2017-2018)
An Act to promote safe dog ownership.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
Section 155 of Chapter 140 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking the section in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:
If any dog owner negligently permits their dog to cause damage to the property of any person, including their pet, companion animal, or service animal, or to cause injury to any person, then the owner or keeper thereof; or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such owner or keeper thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,500.
A conviction or findings of sufficient facts on any charge brought under this section shall be prima facie evidence of liability in any action brought in connection with the following:
a. Any damage to any property, whether privately or publicly owned;
b. Any injury, illness, transmission of disease (such as rabies), or death to any person or animal which is reasonably attributable to or caused by a violation of this section;
But no such evidence of civil liability shall be found if such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog.