NEW BEDFORD — State Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford has been recognized by a national organization for his efforts to protect animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has named Senator Montigny one of America's Top Ten Animal Defenders of 2019.

"I think because we've done some really aggressive animal protection stuff that the national associations are mindful of it," said a pleasantly surprised Montigny. "We hadn't sent them (ALDF) anything, so they obviously had paid attention to state laws. I was quite surprised to get the notice from them."

The ALDF said Montigny is deserving of the recognition for his work in passing landmark legislation to prevent and combat animal cruelty.

During the last legislative session in 2018, Montigny sponsored PAWS II, an animal protection bill that prevents the needless euthanization of animals seized from illegal fighting rings, increases the reporting of abuse for animals and vulnerable people, protects animals left on abandoned properties, and increases penalties for drivers who leave the scene after hitting an animal. Montigny chaired the PAWS II conference committee.

Montigny says he's especially proud of the law he drafted in 2016, An Act to prevent animal suffering and death, which allows citizens and first responders to smash the window of a vehicle if an animal inside appears to be in distress and in danger as long as they make a reasonable attempt to locate the animal's owner and call 911.

"That was seen as pretty aggressive all over the nation. I think that saves lives. It really results in people who witness this kind of abuse whether it's abusive tethering in the middle of a snowstorm or a hot or cold car situation. It really does result in saving these innocent creatures' lives."

Senator Montigny also helped draft legislation to create the Massachusetts Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund. Massachusetts residents can contribute to the fund through their annual tax returns. The funding provides increased resources to spay and neuter animals and provide training for animal control officers throughout the state. Since the inception of the fund 10,000 animals across Massachusetts have been spayed or neutered.

Looking ahead through 2019, Montigny has crafted yet another animal rights bill: An Act allowing humane transportation of K9 partners aka Nero's Law. Montigny began working on the bill after Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon was gunned down by the subject of an arrest warrant in April 2018. Sgt. Gannon's K9 partner, Nero, was also injured in the attack. Nero had to be transported to an animal hospital in the back of a police cruiser. Nero's Law would permit an ambulance to safely transport a K9 officer for quicker treatment.

An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals has also been re-filed in the legislature. The bill would help crack down on significant cruelty violations, not unlike those seen in the 2016 Westport farm abuse case and countless hoarding situations across the state.

Though he expressed great passion in the care for and protection of animals, Senator Montigny says his efforts are the result of the efforts given by those who give of themselves to work with animals every day.

"I feel like I accept the award for all the people that are toiling out there rescuing dogs and cats and reporting animal abuse, silently doing things and never getting any credit."