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Massachusetts SJC considers animal cruelty case involving ill dog

The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, home of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court.
Robin Lubbock
The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, home of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court.

Massachusetts' highest court is considering a case about whether a dog owner should be brought up on cruelty charges for refusing to euthanize their ill pet despite such advice from a veterinarian.

A lower court threw out the charge saying state law does not require pet owners to put sick animals down. And the state's appeals court agreed.

The case stems from a complaint filed against Maryann Russo, of Quincy. According to court documents, she brought the dog, named Tipper to a veterinarian late in 2020. The animal had a large mass and the doctor recommended surgery. Russo declined, but a few weeks later brought Tipper back to the vet looking to have the surgery. Instead, it was recommended that the dog be put down because of its condition.

Russo then allegedly said she was taking the dog to another veterinarian for a second opinion. The doctor followed up by filing an animal cruelty complaint. A visit to Russo’s home by police found the dog allegedly was barely breathing, appeared stiff and was allegedly suffering.

During oral arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court, Attorney Jason Bolio, representing Russo, contended despite police finding the dog near death after a complaint was filed, the dog was well cared for and not being abused. And Justice Scott Kafker disagreed.

“I would suggest the physical condition of the animal and the condition in which the animal was found would suggest there's no evidence of abuse. That everything was being done to provide pallative care...,” Bolio said before being interrupted by Kafker, who said “come on.”

“There's no evidence that this was the right way of dealing with this dog?" Kafker asked.

Bolio replied: “There’s no evidence that she actively and intentionally abused this animal.”

And Kafker responded: “I get that she doesn’t want the dog to suffer, but the dog is suffering and that’s different.”

Prosecutors from the Norfolk District Attorney's office are seeking to reinstate the charge against Russo. The SJC took the matter under advisement.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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