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Every state has laws prohibiting animal cruelty. Learn about Massachusetts laws and what to do if you are concerned about an animal in harm's way. 


Massachusetts Animal Cruelty Laws

Chapter 272, Section 77 of Massachusetts General Law prohibits animal abuse, neglect and cruelty. You can read the statute in full here. In Massachusetts, violation of this statute constitutes a felony crime. Anyone convicted under M.G.L. chapter 272, section 77 is subject to five years imprisonment in state prison, 2.5 years in the house of corrections and/or a fine of up to $2,500.  

What is animal cruelty?

Examples of animal abuse, neglect or cruelty:

  • Failing to provide an animal with food and water, sanitation, shelter or protection from the elements, proper veterinary care for disease or injury.
  • Overworking an animal to the point of exhaustion and collapse.
  • Willfully allowing an animal to be tortured, to suffer or to be put in danger of bodily injury or death. This can include mutilation, beatings, burnings and other physical abuse.
  • Leaving an animal in a parked car on a hot (even 70 degrees can be too hot!) day. 
  • Hoarding a large quantity of animals in a single small location.
  • Willfully abandoning an animal on the side of a road. 

How to report animal cruelty

ANY animal abuse, neglect or cruelty should be immediately reported to local or state law enforcement agencies. 

If you know or suspect that an animal is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency or the Massachusetts State Police for emergency assistance.  

In non-emergency situations where you know of or suspect animal abuse, neglect or cruelty, contact your municipal animal control officer (often listed on your town's website). If you cannot contact the animal control officer, then reach out to your local police. You may have to make a few calls, but be persistent! 

To report animal abuse, neglect, or cruelty, contact the Animal Rescue League of Boston at 617-426-9170 (Option 2) or email cruelty@arlboston.org or the MSPCA Law Enforcement Department at 617-522-6008 or 800-628-5808. You can leave a message after hours or contact your local police.