Pet Legislation in Massachusetts – Are You Doing the Right Thing?
When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and stay home order in Massachusetts began, many people decided to buy a new pet as a companion and a distraction to the depressing events happening outside their home. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported an increase in people wanting to adopt pets and there have been less than normal abandoned pets. As restrictions eased, many people have still kept their pets. If this is the first time you have owned a pet in Massachusetts, then there are some important laws you need to know about which protect both you and your pet.
Dog licenses in Massachusetts
Massachusetts state law states that all dog owners must get a license for each dog they own each year. If you fail to get your dog licensed, it could be a costly mistake and you may be fined. When you go to get your dog license you must provide proof of compulsory vaccinations.
Dog vaccination law
If a dog has reached the age of 6 months you must get it vaccinated for rabies. This applies to cats and ferrets as well. A rabies tag is required to worn at all times by a dog, but with a ferret and a cat proof of a rabies immunization is only required and must be shown to an animal control officer on demand.
Leaving a dog in a car
A bill was signed into law in 2016 making it illegal to keep an animal in a vehicle when it could be affected by an extreme weather event.
Pet leash law
One of the most important things about owning a dog is awareness of the pet leash law. This is in force to prevent dog bites which can do serious harm to the victim. The Massachusetts leash law is applicable throughout the state and it prohibits dogs to be off-leash in all public places. In addition, Section 173 gives towns and cities the right to form their own local laws regarding the control of animals within their limits.
Most cities in Massachusetts have laws prohibiting pet owners from allowing their dogs to run freely in public places. Boston’s laws are much the same as the state law and that is that owners must have their dogs under control when not at home or in a fenced yard. In Salem, the law states that a dog needs to have a leash of a suitable length. The precise length is up to the owner to decide. However, in Andover, a dog must be held securely on a leash which is no more than six feet in length. When on the owner’s property, the dog is required to be kept under control by the owner but it does not have to be kept on a leash.
As of 2018, the state requires dogs to be on leashes in the state’s wildlife management areas. However, this does not include dogs which are involved in hunting or training.
State law also has a tethering law and that is if you tether your dog, you must make sure that it cannot leave the property when on the tether.
- You must not use a logging chain and the tether must be attached to a swivel to prevent it from getting all tangled up.
- You must make sure the tether weighs less than 1/8th of the weight of the dog. For example, a dog which is 16 pounds cannot have a tether which exceeds 2 pounds.
- You must attach the tether to a collar or harness so that the collar is loose enough so that it allows two adult fingers to slide between the collar and the dog.
- You can only have one dog per tether.
- You are not permitted to tether a dog outside for a period which exceeds 15 minutes and between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
- You are not allowed to tether a dog for a period of more than 5 consecutive hours in 24 hours. That includes tethering your dog to a fixed object such as a pole, dog- house (kennel) or a tree.
- Any dog which is below the age of 6 months cannot be tethered outside at all.
Dog fouling law
In Massachusetts there is a law in force that requires that all of a dog’s waste must be removed and disposed of. This is applicable to waste defecated onto a sidewalk, street, park and a neighbors’ yard. You are required to use a receptacle like an enclosed bag to retrieve the waste. The law states that the waste must be placed into a trash can or toilet.
Dog bite law
Most states have either a one-bite law or a strict liability dog bite law. The Massachusetts dog bite law is a strict liability law. This means that dog owners are strictly liable if their dog(s) cause(s) injury to someone, whether there was negligence involved in keeping the dog under control or not. The leash law does not affect who is liable for a dog bite or dog attack. Even if at the time of the dog attack the dog owner was obeying the appropriate leash law, the dog owner will be still be considered liable for any harm caused to the victim.
However, there is an exception and that is if the person who was bitten or attacked incited the dog attack or tried to harm or terrorize the dog which caused a dog to attack and bite the victim. Also, if the victim was trespassing on property owned by the dog owner and was attacked or bitten, the dog owner may be exempted from liability.
A personal injury claim for a dog bite can be considered to be negligence, so the victim who has been bitten must be able to provide evidence that the dog bite injury was a result of failure of the owner to take reasonable care when restraining a dog.
Feel free to contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci today for a free consultation at 781-729-3999 or send us a message via our contact page