Animal Control Bill

An Act Further Regulating Municipal Animal Control 
S. 2192


Signed by the Governor on August 2, 2012.  The law took effect 90 days after it was signed, Oct. 31, 2012.  Read the law here.

Summary of the new law:

  • Creates a statewide spay/neuter program to reduce the number of homeless animals in the Commonwealth and will, in turn, also reduce the cost to cities and towns for housing and sheltering these animals. This is funded by a voluntary tax check off. Thanks to generous taxpayers, this fund raised $250,000 in 2013! More than 17,000 people donated to this fund.
  • Adds enforcement provisions to section 139A (the spay/neuter deposit law for animals adopted from shelters and animal control facilities) to ensure these animals can’t reproduce.
  • Requires animal control officers to receive training. People are often surprised to learn that their local animal control officer is not required to receive training for the complicated work they do to keep the people and animals in their community safe. This is funded by the tax check off.
  • Prohibits carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas as a means to "euthanize" dogs and cats.
  • Reduces dog bites by improving the dangerous dog law in a breed neutral manner.
  • Allows pets to be included in domestic violence protection orders to protect both animals and people.

The law creates some statewide oversight for animal control, which previously did not exist in Massachusetts; create categories for kennel licensing; create consistency in the holding time for stray dogs and provide other meaningful updates to the state's antiquated animal control laws. A House amendment added some restrictions on the tethering of dogs (Ch 140 sec. 174E).

Why were these changes needed?
Many of the laws that govern animal control date back to the 1800s. Quite simply, the laws did not address the current state of animal control in our municipalities, which are no longer based on the county system. The fines are outdated, as is the term “dog officer”; “animal control officer” more accurately describes the role fulfilled.  These proposed changes were made to Chapter 140, sections 136A through 174D to update and make the animal control laws more efficient, current and effective. They will also save cities and towns money. At the beginning of every legislative session, many bills are filed to address a section or issue relating to animal control. For years, organizations, individuals, and legislators have been seeking a more comprehensive revision; this law is the result of stakeholder meetings since 2005 to rework the sections in Chapter 140 relating to animals. 

The Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts (ACOAM), the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), the Animal Rescue League of Boston, the state’s Bureau of Animal Health within the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) worked together to draft these changes.

Co-sponsors:

Rep. Coakley-Rivera
Rep. Benson
Rep. Atkins
Sen. Brownsberger
Rep. Andrews
Rep. Ashe
Rep. Ayers
Rep. Balser
Rep. Brady
Rep. Toomey
Rep. Hecht

Rep. Cabral
Rep. Canavan
Sen. DiDomenico
Rep. Dwyer
Sen. Eldridge
Rep. Fresolo
Rep. Garballey
Rep. Gobi
Rep. Harrington
Rep. Sullivan
Sen. Hedlund
Rep. Lewis
Rep. Linsky
Sen. Montingy
Rep. Peisch
Sen. Rush
Rep. Sciortino
Rep. Speranzo
Sen. Spilka
Rep. Story

Sponsor:  Senator Jehlen