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Registering and Operating A Shelter/ Rescue Organization

Regulations, Policies, and Forms for Shelter/ Rescue Organizations

Shelter/ Rescue Emergency Order

Emergency Order: Importer Registration and Management Practices for Animals Imported to MA:

An Emergency Order covering all people and organizations that transfer animals for adoption in Massachusetts is in effect as of May 26, 2005. 

The order consists of four main requirements:

  1. Registration of Facilities that deal with animals.
  2. Isolation of Animals for 48 hours upon entering the Commonwealth
  3. Record-keeping that accurately and clearly indicates the health history of the animal and where it has been housed, transported and otherwise kept or where animal care is otherwise undertaken.
  4. Veterinary Examination prior to sale, adoption, fostering, etc

Click here to link to the Shelter/ Rescue Emergency Order Compliance document.

Additional Resources for

Shelter/ Rescue Organizations Must Register with MDAR

Guidelines for Operating Shelter/ Rescue in MA

Individuals and organizations involved in the transfer of animals in Massachusetts and that are not licensed as pet shops under MGL Chapter 129 Section 39A must register as shelter/ rescue organizations with MDAR.

Massachusetts Approved Shelter/ Rescue Organizations

The list of approved, registered shelter/ rescue organizations can be found on

Animal Shelter/ Rescue Entity Registration

Organizations seeking to become MDAR-approved shelter/ rescues must complete the linked registration form.

Shelter/ Rescue Compliance Guidance

Shelter/ Rescue Emergency Order Compliance


Shelter Rescue Compliance Policy Guidance

The 48-hour isolation period for imported shelter or rescue animals is a critical step in safeguarding against the risk of transmission of infectious or contagious disease between domestic animals. Although 48 hours is not a sufficient time to allow all incubating diseases to manifest in clinical signs, it is frequently enough time for an animal with a preexisting illness that appeared healthy at the time of departure to exhibit signs as a result of an overtaxed immune system associated with the stresses of shipment.  Locations approved by the Department to serve as isolation facilities for shelters or rescues are required to be constructed in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination between imported animals and those already residing in the Commonwealth.

Policy on Rescue Animals in Pet Shops

A number of organizations registered as animal shelters or rescues have sought to reach a wider audience by partnering with licensed pet shops to display their available animals. The Department allows such arrangements, however, it must be with the understanding that the regulations at 330 CMR 12 take precedence over the existing rules for shelters and rescues. As a result, the provisions of 330 CMR 12.07(1) must be strictly adhered to:

All licensees shall isolate all dogs and cats received from sources within or outside of the Commonwealth in a room meeting the requirements of 330 CMR 12.03(2) for a minimum period of 48 hours prior to being offered for sale, barter, gift or other exchange.