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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has proposed new regulations for the operation of animal shelters and animal rescue organizations, and amendments to the Commonwealth’s regulations applying to pet shops.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) encourages potentially impacted entities and individuals to carefully review the proposals, below, and respectfully share their views prior to the conclusion of the public comment period on Monday, April 29.

The purpose of these proposed new regulations is to provide definitions and standards relating to the importation, handling, and care of shelter and rescue animals in Massachusetts. 

These would apply to any entity not otherwise required to be licensed (for example, as a pet shop) whose primary activity is the placement of abandoned, displaced, unwanted, neglected, or abused animals; does not obtain dogs or cats from a breeder or broker for payment or compensation; and is exempt from taxation by the IRS.  The proposed regulations seek to:

  • Require annual licenses of those who operate a rescue organization, import animals, or place animals.
  • Impose inspection, maintenance, sanitation, health, illumination, quarantine, isolation, biosecurity, primary enclosure size, ventilation, environmental, construction, and shelter requirements for rescue facilities.
  • Mandate animal care requirements, including staffing, vaccinations, spay/neuter, and behavior and temperament screening of the animals. The breeding of animals in any rescue facility is to be prohibited.
  • Define “foster home” as a residential location providing interim or temporary in-home housing for animals on behalf of a rescue organization, and require foster homes to sign a written agreement stating that the person may operate the foster home with the approval of and under the responsibility of the named rescue organization.
  • List requirements for animal importation licensees, including requiring all animals be accompanied by an official certificate of veterinary inspection and be kept in isolation for at least 48-hours.
  • Restrict placement of certain animals, including those that are sick or that present behavioral concerns or are younger than eight weeks of age, unless disclosed to the new owner.
  • Provide a 14-day consumer protection period, which allows return and refund of the adoption fee or replacement of the animal if a veterinarian determines that the animal is affected by a medical or behavioral issue not disclosed.
  • Impose record-keeping requirements.

Because of the public health concerns that are increasingly presented by interstate dog trafficking that supplies retail shelters, the American Kennel Club supports policies that seek to provide reasonable oversight of animal shelters and rescues.  The AKC encourages the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to consider the potential for unintended consequences on those who participate in breed-specific rescue activities as overseen by AKC-member breed parent clubs.  Furthermore, the AKC recommends that proposed section 30.10: Reclamation of Owned Pets, be clarified so that the spay/neuter requirements in 30.30(8) do not apply to owner-reclaimed animals.

These amendments will more extensively regulate pet shops in Massachusetts.  They seek to:

  • Require pet shops to be licensed by the Department based on the type of animals sold.
  • Clarify that pet shops that engage in import/export activities other than obtaining animals from a breeder or broker or otherwise acts as a Rescue Organization shall comply with all applicable provisions of the new regulations for shelters, rescues, and importers.
  • Prohibit pet shops from being located in a residential dwelling.
  • Impose inspection, maintenance, sanitation, health, illumination, quarantine, isolation, biosecurity, primary enclosure size, ventilation, environmental, construction, and enclosure requirements.
  • Mandate animal care requirements, including feeding and watering, staffing, veterinary care, and identification of the animals.
  • Mandate that pet shops maintain records for two years.

The AKC believes that the proposed amendments to section 12.02: Licenses is vaguely worded, and recommends it be amended to read: “(1) No Person shall operate a Pet Shop or Sell or Offer for Sale Animals as a Pet Shop within the Commonwealth without an appropriate License issued by the Department….”

Massachusetts residents are strongly encouraged to share their views of the proposed regulations by presenting oral or written testimony at an upcoming public hearing, or by submitting written comments by email or mail.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held from 1PM-4PM on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in Conference Rooms C and D, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02184.

Written comments about the proposal will be accepted until 5PM on Monday, April 29.  Written testimony must be submitted by email to or by mail to Michael Cahill, Animal Health Director, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114.

For more information, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at