Important Note: If you are undertaking an effort to pass a municipal law to protect animals, please reach out to us! When writing bylaws and ordinances, it’s important to use the most current recommended language. Older bylaw language may no longer be considered the gold standard, and other cities and towns will look to yours as a template. We want to help you craft the strongest animal protection bylaw or ordinance possible!
Why act locally?
Changing the laws relating to animals is something that can happen on a local level, impacting your city or town. In fact, many laws relating to animals are local in nature. Leash laws, dangerous dog laws, and other animal control matters are often under the authority of local government.
Passing a local ordinance or bylaw may be less complicated and timely than trying to pass a statewide law. While local ordinances or bylaws would only impact animals in a city or town, their reach is often far greater. Local ordinances provide a model for other cities and towns to follow and local legislation can gain enough momentum to bring the issue to the state level. The no smoking ordinances in Massachusetts are a great example; the ordinance caught on in municipalities and is now a state law.
In Massachusetts, we have several examples of local ordinances that relate to animal protection:
- Thirteen cities and towns have passed restrictions on the use of exotic animals in traveling shows and exhibits: Amherst, Braintree, Cambridge, Mendon, Quincy, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, Weymouth, and Wilmington.
- Boston, Pittsfield, Holliston, Marshfield, North Adams, Plymouth, Springfield, and Lexington have passed ordinances that prohibit pet stores from selling puppies, kittens, and rabbits unless they are from a shelter or rescue, and also prohibit the roadside sale of these animals. Stoneham passed a similar ordinance relating to puppies and kittens. Cambridge passed a landmark ordinance that covers many types of animals beyond dogs, cats, and rabbits. See the hundreds of local ordinances passed across the country on this issue.
- Wellesley became the first municipality in the United States outside of California to pass a bylaw banning the retail sale of fur. Weston and Brookline both followed suit in 2021.
- Prior to the state bill that restricted dog tethering, six cities and towns (Amherst, Easthampton, East Longmeadow, Greenfield, Milton, and Provincetown) had bylaws that restricted tethering.
- Pittsfield has an ordinance that requires farm animals to have enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs (passed prior to the statewide ballot question).
- Cambridge has an ordinance that requires the city manager to appoint a Commissioner of Laboratory Animals (CLA) for the purpose of overseeing the care and use of laboratory animals in the city.
- Everett passed an ordinance where Pest Control companies and problem animal control agents are required to check roof traps for squirrels and raccoons every 6 hours from June 1 through September 30, to prevent trapped wildlife being exposed to the heat of summer.