Local Ordinances and Bylaws

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 state-wide 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 oftentimes 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:

  • Eleven cities and towns have passed restrictions on the use of exotic animals in traveling shows and exhibits: Braintree, Cambridge, Mendon, Quincy, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, and Weymouth. See the language of Massachusetts’ municipal laws here and read an interview with the woman behind the successful Topsfield campaign.
  • Boston passed an ordinance in 2016 that prohibits pet stores from selling puppies, kittens and rabbits (unless from a shelter/rescue) and also prohibits the roadside sale of these animals. Stoneham passed a similar ordinance relating to puppies and kittens. Cambridge passed a landmark ordinance in 2017 (covers many types of animals – beyond dogs, cats and rabbits). Also, see the over 330 local ordinances passed across the county on this issue.
  • 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.

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