Animal Law is a recently-developed and evolving area of law. While animals are still property, their care and protection are now coming under increasing statutory control. This is in addition to existing laws regarding animals as a nuisance or threat.
Massachusetts has several statutes specifically addressing dangerous and nuisance dogs. A dog owner is liable for all damage caused by his or her animal per M.G.L. c. 140, § 155. A dog which, while not on its owner's property, attacks a person or livestock, may be killed per M.G.L. c. 150, § 156. Owners of dogs with a vicious disposition, prone to excessive barking or creating other disturbances are subject to complaint per M.G.L. c. 140, § 157. If a dog which has been ordered to be restrained again attacks or harasses people or livestock, the owner is subject to treble damages per M.G.L. c. 140, § 159.
Attorney Langer successfully defended a farmer who had to shoot a dog attacking his animals and himself from criminal charges brought as the result of that lawful protection of himself and his animals. He is also a member of the Animal Law Practice Group of the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Animal Law Committee of the Rhode Island Bar Association and contributed an article to the RIBA Journal.
Massachusetts is now a state in which owners can continue caring for their animals through a trust. Because animals are property, not people, they could not receive funds as beneficiaries of wills or trusts as a matter of law. Massachusetts law changed in that regard. The animals so covered are those living at the time and identified when the trust becomes effective.
Massachusetts pet owners should consider creating a trust for their companion animals to ensure they will be properly cared for when their owners pass.