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 yrs in prison for animal cruelty


Burying a pet in your backyard

Cock fighting and dog fighting


Dog bites


Endangered species

Exotic pets

Homeless animals


Internet hunting

Kennel licenses

Leash laws

Leasing or renting dogs

Livestock health and sales

Ordinances and by-laws relating to animals

Registration and licensing of dogs

Research animals, adoption of

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

Stolen domesticated animals, including dogs

Transporting animals

Trusts for the care of animals

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 12.05(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 12.05(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.”

Importing animals from out of state for shelter or adoption   
Emergency Order 1-AHO-05. See also 330 CMR 30.

Court rules

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

Selected cases

Selected court cases on the topic of animals

More Massachusetts case law
Chart of more Massachusetts case law compiled by Michigan State University College.

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.

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, 2022.
Provides answers to questions on animals and pets.

Helping your clients provide for pets in estate plans , Mass. Bar Association, 2006.
Detailed information on things to consider, appropriate documents, and a sample will provision.

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, 2020.

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).  

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

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 2022 : the Massachusetts police reference for motor vehicle law, John Sofis Scheft, Law Enforcement Dimensions, 2022. Chapter 22 Animal protection & safe transport. Overview of animal laws.

Neighbor law : fences, trees, boundaries & noise, by Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2023. (eBook available at link with library card).

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

Contact for Massachusetts law about animals

Last updated: February 21, 2024

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