Who doesn’t like to talk about their pets?
The top three topics of conversation in the US, according to preply, a language tutoring app, are the weather, weekend plans, and work. But pets also fit there. Especially as an icebreaker when tackling tough topics like end-of-life legislation, protecting children from sexual assault, or directing more state funds to local projects.
In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a special website designed that way: state mascots. It collects photos and biographies of many of the pets that share housing with state legislators, staff members, and other state employees.
“It’s a good icebreaker for people,” said Kara Holmquist, the MSPCA’s director of advocacy and curator of the website.
The organization participates in an annual Lobby Day at the Statehouse on Beacon Hill, where they review animal-friendly legislation, visit legislators and, yes, talk about pets.
“It’s a lot of fun hearing about your pets,” Holmquist said.
Legislators, staff and state employees love their pets
There are cats and dogs, ducks and chickens, and more recently teda Russian tortoise belonging to Lizzie Donovan Noonan, a counsel to the Joint Committee on Public Service, was added to the page, along with the two cats. Dupont (Dewey) and Declanwho also lives with Donovan Noonan.
The website serves as a way for animal-minded residents to find common ground with lawmakers.
“They have something to talk about,” Holmquist said, adding that while many Massachusetts residents want to help animals, they may not be sure how to approach lawmakers. “This makes legislators more accessible, makes it easier to start discussions. It’s not controversial.”
In Worcester, several legislators have animals; some have several animals: Senator Ryan Fattman, R-Webster, has two dogs, Millie, and a new pup, Maggie. The family cat, Boots, now lives his best life with friends after the birth of his youngest child.
LeBoeuf, who grew up with dogs but can’t keep one in her apartment, adopted a rescue cat, Wyatt, on a visit to a shelter.
“I went to a rescue day event and I thought I couldn’t leave this little guy here,” LeBoeuf said of his new partner. He has spent the last three years learning the differences between cats and dogs in personality and enjoying Wyatt’s company. The feline enjoys preening on Zoom calls, knocking over cups, and chasing lasers.
“When he’s hungry in the morning and I don’t feed him at exactly 7:30 a.m., he comes to sit on my chest until I feed him,” LeBoeuf said.
The legislator endorsed the Beagle Bill, a measure that allows the adoption of laboratory animals, many of them beagles, when their time in service in the multiple laboratories of the state ends, and is a strong advocate of prohibiting feline declawing.
In Defense of Animals: Ollie’s Law
Next on the MSPCA’s advocacy agenda is Ollie’s Law, introduced by Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, and Rep. Brian Ashe, D-Longmeadow. The bill was prompted by the 2020 death of Ollie, a Labradoodle puppy at a Longmeadow doggy daycare. The dog was injured in a dog fight.
Ollie’s Law would address the lack of supervision at commercial kennels, pet boarding facilities, and pet boarding facilities in Massachusetts.
Currently municipally licensed, the basic requirement is that a kennel must be “maintained in a sanitary and humane manner,” according to a summary of the proposed legislation on the MSPCA website.
If passed, Ollie’s Law would standardize licensing requirements, set fines and fees for violations, and ensure that injuries, both human and animal, are reported and investigated in a timely manner. Violations and fault findings will be posted so that consumers can make informed decisions about where to house their pets.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources He would be in charge of supervising the facilities. This would ensure that all animal control officers are fully informed of their duties and recognize their authority to revoke licenses. Oversight would ensure clear language for guidance on the maximum number of animals allowed in a facility determined by the licensing municipality. It would also ensure that animals are cared for and ensure their health and safety.
“Pets are a family that provide unlimited love and affection that we are lucky to receive,” Montigny said. “For this reason, it’s critical that we make sure all of our family’s care businesses adhere to proper health and safety protocols, no matter what city they operate in across the state. Too often, we’ve heard stories devastating pets like Ollie who have been injured or killed due to negligent care. These people have no place to care for such precious creatures, and it’s time we implement consistent standards throughout Massachusetts.”
The MSPCA has scheduled an advocacy day on May 17 to demonstrate in support of Ollie’s Law. And an adoption day is not out of the question.
“It can’t be too hot or too cold,” Holmquist said, explaining that only service animals are allowed in the House of Representatives. “But if we have an adoption day, we usually do it outside in Ashburton Park.”