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Massachusetts lawmakers have given final passage to a bill that would toughen penalties for those who abuse animals.
The House and Senate gave final approval to the so-called PAWS bill -- short for Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety — during the legislature's informal session this week.
The bill would raise the maximum prison time from five to seven years for a first offense and up to 10 years for any subsequent offenses. It also would increase the possible fine for committing animal abuse from $2,500 to $5,000 for a first offense, and up to $10,000 for any subsequent offenses.
The bill now heads to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk for his signature before becoming law.
The bill's sponsor, Gloucester Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr, has pointed to the need for stiffer penalties by citing the case of a dog that was euthanized after being found beaten and tortured in Quincy last year.
"Animal abuse in our commonwealth is simply unacceptable," Tarr, the Senate's Republican leader, said in a written statement Thursday. "Now we have acted to increase penalties to send a clear and immediate message."
The bill also would require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse - similar to the requirement for medical staff who suspect child abuse.
The legislation also would create a special task force of experts in law enforcement, animal protection, veterinary practice, and legal and industry professionals to review methods to prevent animal abuse and punish those who commit animal abuse.