Massachusetts law about animals

Laws, regulations, cases and web sources on animal law.

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Massachusetts laws

Abandoned animals

MGL c. 186, § 30 When tenants leave a property, the owner or lessor should inspect it for abandoned animals

MGL c. 239, § 14 After property is vacated following summary process, the owner or lessor should inspect it for abandoned animals

MGL c. 244, § 41 After property is vacated following mortgage foreclosure, the owner or lessor should inspect it for abandoned animals

Animal cruelty

MGL c. 19A, § 42 Dept. of Elder Affairs reporting of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect

MGL c. 19C, § 14 Disabled Persons Protection Commission reporting of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect

MGL c. 112, § 58B Reports of suspected acts of cruelty to animals; veterinarians; immunity from liability; failure to report

MGL c. 140, § 174E Chaining or tethering; confinement

up to 7 years  in prison for animal cruelty

MGL c. 140, § 174F Leaving an animal in a hot or cold vehicle; removing an animal in danger from a vehicle

MGL c. 266, § 112 Maliciously killing or injuring a domestic animal

MGL c. 272, § 77 Animal cruelty

MGL c. 272, § 80E Death by decompression chamber 

MGL c. 272, § 80E 1/2 Death by drowning


See Law about sex: bestiality

Burying a pet in your backyard

Varies town to town. Contact your local Board of Health, or find your town's rules at Mass. city and town ordinances and by-laws

Cock fighting and dog fighting

MGL c. 272, § 88 Complaints, warrants, searches, and arrests

MGL c. 272, § 89 Police may enter exhibition place of fighting animals without a warrant and seize the animals

MGL c. 272, § 91 Court proceedings for animal fighting

MGL c. 272, § 93 Expenses of care and destruction of fighting animals

MGL c. 272, § 94 Penalty for keeping or exhibiting fighting animals

MGL c. 272, § 95 Penalty for being present at an animal fight


MGL c. 272, § 80-1/2 Surgery on a dog or cat to prevent them from making a sound

Dog bites

MGL c. 112, § 12Z Reports of dog bites

MGL c. 140, § 155 Liability of owner for dog bite


MGL c. 111C, § 9A Emergency treatment and transportation of police dogs ("Nero's Law")

MGL c. 140, §§ 136A-174F Laws pertaining to dogs

Endangered species

MGL c. 131A, §§ 1-7 MA Endangered Species Act

Exotic pets

MGL c. 131, § 23 License required to propagate or deal in wild birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians

MGL c. 131, § 77A Possessing wild dogs and cats prohibited

Homeless animals

MGL c. 10, § 35WW Homeless animal prevention and care fund

MGL c. 62, § 6M Contribution of tax refund to Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund


MGL c. 90, § 14 Driving rules when driving near animals on the road

MGL c. 140, § 176 Stallions

Internet hunting

MGL c. 131, § 65A Online shooting or spearing

Kennel licenses

MGL c. 140, § 137A

Leash laws

Leash laws vary from town to town. Find your town's rules at Mass. city and town ordinances and by-laws

Leasing or renting dogs

MGL c. 272, § 80I With some unusual exceptions, you may not rent or lease a dog

Livestock health and sales

MGL c. 129

Ordinances and by-laws relating to animals

MGL c. 140, § 173

Registration and licensing of dogs

MGL c. 140, § 137

Research animals, adoption of

MGL c. 140, § 174D 1/2 "Beagle Bill"

Restraining orders

MGL c. 209A, § 11 Possession, care and control of domesticated animal owned by persons involved in certain protective orders; notice to law enforcement upon finding of imminent threat to household member or animal

Shelters; spay or neuter requirement

MGL c. 140, § 139A

Stolen domesticated animals, including dogs

MGL c. 266, § 30

Transporting animals

MGL c. 90, § 22H Safe transportation of animals

Trusts for the care of animals

MGL c. 203E, § 408 

Massachusetts regulations

330 CMR Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources
Includes regulations about domestic animals in Massachusetts. Does not include hunting or wild or exotic animals.

Farm animals

330 CMR 35 Regulations implementing the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals
"...applies only to the production and sale of veal meat, pork meat, shell eggs, and egg products in Massachusetts as defined in St. 2021, c.108."

940 CMR 36 Regulations implementing the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals
"…is intended to prevent animal cruelty by phasing out extreme methods of farm animal confinement, which also threaten the health and safety of Massachusetts consumers, increase the risk of food borne illness, and have negative fiscal impacts on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 940 CMR 36.00 is intended to facilitate the implementation of the law as set out in St. 2016, c. 333."

Domestic animals

321 CMR 9.02 List of domestic animals
Includes dogs and cats.

Exotic pets

321 CMR 2.12 Artificial propagation of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians

321 CMR 9.01 Exotic pets exemption list
Lists "species which are exempt from the licensing provisions of MGL c. 131, § 23. This list includes wild (i.e., non-domesticated) vertebrate animals which may be imported, sold or possessed without a permit."

Kittens and puppies

330 CMR 12 Licensing and operation of pet shops

  • 330 CMR 12.05(3)(b) Restrictions on sale
    Limits the sale of certain pets by licensed businesses. Does not appear to apply to if you are selling your own animal (MGL c. 129, § 39A).
No licensee shall ... acquire, display, offer for sale, sell or give away any dog or cat which is younger than 8 weeks old

Lemon Law

330 CMR 12 Licensing and operation of pet shops

  • 330 CMR 12.05(5) Massachusetts pet "lemon law." 
    Provides, in part: "Each Class A Licensee shall provide a full refund of the purchase price of a dog or cat, or if the Licensee and the customer both consent, a substitution Animal, to any customer who:

    (a) Within 14 calendar days of the Sale, has the dog or cat examined by a Veterinarian of the customer's choice, and the examination indicates the dog or cat is diseased or has a congenital disorder; and

    (b) Presents the dog or cat to the Licensee within three days of the date of the examination, with a Veterinarian's written statement that the dog or cat is diseased or has a congenital disorder, and proof of Sale."

330 CMR 30 Animal rescue and shelter organization regulations
"Provides standards relating to the importation, handling, and care of Animals in connection with their Placement within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by a Rescue Organization."

Court rules and jury instructions

Uniform Magistrate Rules: Rule 5: Petitions for review of dog orders, Mass. Trial Court.

Dog liability (District Court civil model jury instructions)

Selected cases

Selected court cases on the topic of animals

Massachusetts cases, Animal Legal & Historical Center, Michigan State University College.
Provides a table of additional Massachusetts cases and summaries.

Web sources

Animal imports and livestock markets, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources.
Summarizes import requirements for a wide variety of animals.

Animal laws and regulations in Massachusetts, Mass. Animal Fund, Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Division of Animal Health, 2022.
"Massachusetts has a variety of laws that are in place to ensure proper regulation of companion animals. Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 140, Sections 136A - 174E, cover the majority of authorities and responsibilities associated with the performance of the animal control officer (ACO) position." 

Buying a dog in Massachusetts, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources.
Provides basic information on what you should know before buying a dog.

Buying pets,
What to look for, and what to know about sellers' promises and buyers' responsibilities.

Can you be buried with your pet?, Dolan Funeral Home.

Dog bites and other injuries,
Lists commonsense steps to take to keep your dog from biting, and to avoid trouble if he does.

Estate planning for pets,
Provides options for planning your pet’s life after you die.

Flying with pets and service animals: the not-so-friendly skies,
Discusses problems, options, steps to take in preparing your pet for travel, regulations governing pet travel, and rules on emotional support animals

Frequently asked questions (FAQs), Animal Legal & Historical Center, Michigan State University College of Law, 2024.
Provides answers to questions on animals and pets.

Importing and exporting livestock, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources.
Summarizes import requirements for cattle, swine, sheep, goats, horses, and lamas and other domesticated livestock.

Importing and exporting pets, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources. 
Summarizes import requirements for dogs, cat, rabbits and birds.

Orders concerning domesticated animals in conjunction with restraining orders, Memo from Chief Justice of the Trial Court and Court Administrator, October 31, 2012.
Includes explanation of the law and procedures, with forms.

Pet custody, Trial Court Law Libraries, February 2016.
"When two people, either married or unmarried, break up, who gets to keep the pet(s)?  Can the court order joint custody of the dog or cat, as it would a child?  Can one party get visitation rights?  Is a pet treated in a legal sense in the same way as a child, or simply as property?"

Rabies protocols and regulations, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources.
Discusses Rabies vaccination and quarantine protocols and regulations for animal bites.

Table of state laws concerning minimum age for sale of puppies, Animal Legal & Historical Center, Michigan State University College of Law, 2022.

Print sources

Animal control law and procedure in Massachusetts, Commonwealth Police Service, Inc., 2017.

Animal law, Jonathan S. Rankin, et al., MCLE, 2009

Animal law in a nutshell, 3rd ed., West Academic Publishing, 2021. 

Blair, Keshia L. “Criminal law--must love dogs: Zach and Kenji's escape from confinement and the broader context of animal cruelty--Commonwealth v. Trefry, 51 N.E.3d 502 (Mass. App. Ct. 2016)” (89 Mass. App. Ct. 568 (2016))  v. 22 Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy 402 (2016-2017).  

Dog law, Jeremy Moss Cohen, MCLE, 2023.

Every dog's legal guide : a must-have book for your owner, by Mary Randolph, Nolo, 2012. (eBook available with library card).

Guide to representing animal protection organizations, American Bar Association, Business Law Section, 2023.

Harris, Susan. "Woof, woof, we're getting a divorce" : pet custody and the law. v. 30 Issue 3 Massachusetts family law journal 30 (May/June 2012)

The law of trusts and trustees : a treatise covering the law relating to trusts and allied subjects affecting trust creation and administration, with forms, Rev. 2d ed. West Pub. Co., 1977 with supplement. Section 1206 Pet trust – Uniform Probate Code Section 2-907.  

Massachusetts Practice:

Motor vehicle Massachusetts police manual 2024 : the Massachusetts police reference for motor vehicle law, John Sofis Scheft, Law Enforcement Dimensions, 2024. Chapter 22 Animal protection & safe transport. Overview of animal laws.

Neighbor law : fences, trees, boundaries & noise, by Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2020. (2023 eBook available with library card). Chapter 17: Other common neighbor issues: animal problems.

Pet law and custody : establishing a worthy and equitable jurisprudence for the evolving family, American Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2017.

Understanding animal law, by Adam P. Karp, Carolina Academic Press, 2016.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about animals

Last updated: July 8, 2024

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