Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
The case involves the defendant, Maryann Russo, who was charged with animal cruelty under G. L. c. 272, § 77, for her treatment of her terminally ill fourteen-year-old cocker spaniel, Tipper. Russo brought Tipper to a veterinarian who recommended euthanasia due to Tipper's severe health issues, including a large necrotic mass, bed sores, and open wounds. Russo declined euthanasia, falsely stating she would take Tipper to another veterinarian, and instead took him home. The Animal Rescue League (ARL) later removed Tipper from Russo's care after the veterinarian reported her suspicions. Tipper was found in poor condition and was subsequently euthanized.In the Quincy Division of the District Court, a criminal complaint was issued against Russo in February 2021. Russo filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing it lacked probable cause. The District Court judge granted the motion, concluding that the statute did not impose an affirmative obligation to euthanize an animal. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Appeals Court affirmed the dismissal, reasoning that the statute did not criminalize the failure to euthanize an animal. The Supreme Judicial Court granted further appellate review.The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the dismissal, holding that the Commonwealth failed to establish probable cause that Russo acted with the requisite criminal intent. The court concluded that the statute required proof that Russo knowingly and willfully authorized or permitted Tipper to be subjected to unnecessary suffering. The court found that Russo's actions, including seeking medical care and attempting to make Tipper comfortable, did not indicate an intent to cause unnecessary suffering. The court emphasized that speculation alone was insufficient to establish probable cause. View "Commonwealth v. Russo" on Justia Law

The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s determination that information such as names, addresses and telephone numbers contained on animal health certificates in the custody of the Department of Agricultural Resources is protected from disclosure under two exemptions from the statutory definition of “public records.” The two statutory exemptions at issue in this case were Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, 7, twenty-sixth (n) and (c), which implicate public safety and privacy. After analyzing the scope of exemptions (n) and (c) and setting forth the appropriate constructions of the exemptions, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Department of Agricultural Resources" on Justia Law

Posted in: Animal / Dog Law