Frequently Asked Questions
Some answers to common questions about Massachusetts animal laws and the MSPCA Law Enforcement Department
Is it against the law to leave a dog (or other animal) outside all winter long?
Not necessarily. According to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 272, Section 77, the owner or keeper of an animal must provide it with proper shelter and protection from the weather. A dog or other animal may remain outdoors provided it is in compliance with Massachusetts General Law Chapter 140, Section 174E, in good health and weight (for its breed), has access to an appropriate shelter, and is not of an age or breed where temperatures could be potentially dangerous (very young or old animal).
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 140, Section 174E restricts how dogs may be kept chained/tethered and kept outside. It sets certain parameters and prevents a person from leaving a dog outside “when a weather advisory, warning or watch is issued by a local, state or federal authority or when outside environmental conditions including, but not limited to, extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or hail pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the dog based on the dog’s breed, age or physical condition, unless the tethering is not for more than 15 minutes.”
The MSPCA does, however, advise that even those domestic animals that are acclimated to the outdoors should be allowed access to the inside during frigid temperatures, whether or not a weather advisory exists.
Do I need to leave my name to make a cruelty complaint?
No. The MSPCA Law Enforcement department accepts anonymous calls, and all calls are treated as confidential.
My neighbor recently moved away and left two cats behind. Is that illegal?
Whether as owner or custodian, any person who willfully abandons an animal is in violation of Massachusetts state cruelty laws.
I know about someone who I believe is neglecting their animal; can the MSPCA come and take it?
It depends. The law can be more complicated than one might suspect or desire, and every determination depends on the facts and circumstances of a complaint. Anyone having a question of this nature is advised to call the MSPCA Law Enforcement department at (617)522-6008 or (800) 628-5808.
Who do I call concerning a problem I saw at a pet store?
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) licenses pet shops and various additional animal businesses in Massachusetts. Complaints about animal health at pet shops may be referred to MDAR. Concerns about other aspects of pet stores may be referred to the Office of Consumer Affairs Office and Business Regulation, the Attorney General, and/or MDAR. If a commission of animal cruelty is alleged in regard to a pet shop, the MSPCA Law Enforcement officers are authorized to inspect pet shops that offer animals, birds, fish or reptiles for sale or exhibit within the state of Massachusetts, and allegations may be referred to the MSPCA.
How do I become a MSPCA Law Enforcement officer?
Individuals interested in pursuing a position as an MSPCA officer should visit the Careers page on our website.
What qualifications does the MSPCA look for in a law enforcement officer candidate and what are the requirements for appointment?
Vacancies are only occasional, and competition for those vacancies is usually intense between those who wish to be considered for a position as a law enforcement officer. Generally, candidates who possess a bachelor’s degree, preferably in the field of Animal Science or Criminal Justice are given preferential consideration. Also given serious consideration are candidates who have a significant level of prior experience working in the field of animal protection/welfare or law enforcement.
In addition, candidates must be able to successfully pass background investigations, a psychological evaluation, and must meet the requirements necessary to secure admission into and successfully complete a 22 week basic police recruit academy program sponsored by the Municipal Police Training Committee.
Note: This only a brief outline; it does not contain all information required, it does not represent a contract or offer, and it is subject to change without notice.