In a surprise verdict in Stoughton District Court yesterday, Alessa Maslansky, 47, of Canton, Massachusetts, was found not guilty of charges relating to fitting her neighbour’s dog with a shock collar in an effort to prevent what she called ‘its incessant barking’.
“I didn’t know I was doing anything illegal,” Ms. Maslansky explained after her victory. “I thought it would be fine since shock collars are legal to use on humans.”
This, unfortunately, is true. It turns out that in 2012, under Commissioner Elin Howe, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services promulgated regulations prohibiting the use of the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED) on any new students of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), but the GED is still legally allowed to be used on students admitted prior to its promulgation. Which, of course, means that hundreds of vulnerable adults and children are being legally shocked with devices that, when at their lowest setting, leave permanent scarring from second degree electrical burns on their skin. All in the name of stopping ‘undesirable’ self-regulatory behaviour such as stimming.
More happily, though, the above is about to change, according to Deval Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 2007.
“Since I personally think it’s disgusting that the JRC’s use of its GED is considered legal when the use of any similar device on an animal would be considered torture, I’ve decided to push a bill criminalising possession of any remote control for the device. This should ensure that the GED is outlawed without mistakenly punishing those forced to wear the infamous backpacks.”
Is it possible that the legalised torture of some of America’s most vulnerable citizens will be coming to an end? I, for one, sure hope so.