Animal Control Bylaw

Preamble / Purpose:

The acceptance of this bylaw under the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 136A through l 74E shall signify acceptance of the provision of said statute.

  1. The purpose of this bylaw is to achieve the objectives of the animal control enabling legislation contained in Chapter 140 l 36A through l 74E of the Massachusetts General Laws, which includes the regulation of domesticated animals within the borders of the Town of Rutland, Massachusetts, the licensing of dogs, and the establishment of fines for violation of this bylaw.
  2. This bylaw is adopted for the above purposes under the authority provided by, and in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 140 §§ l 36A through l 74E of the General Law, as amended.

Section 1 - Definitions

For purposes of this bylaw only, the following definitions shall apply:

  • "Animal Control Officer" ("ACO") - any person or persons designated by the Select Board to enforce this bylaw
  • "Dog" - any animal of domestic canine species
  • "Dangerous Dog" - any dog so designated by the Select Board or the appropriate governing body of another municipality
  • "Domestic Animal" - any dog, cat, or ferret
  • "Kennel" - a pack or collection of five or more dogs, six months of age or older, which are kept on a single premises.
      • Personal Kennel - a pack or collection of five or more dogs kept on a single premises for private personal use
      • Commercial Breeder Kennel - an establishment, other than a personal kennel, engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale or exchange to wholesalers, brokers, or pet shops in return for consideration
      • Veterinary Kennel - a veterinary hospital or clinic that boards dogs for reasons in addition to medical treatment or care; provided, however, that "veterinary kennel" shall not include a hospital or clinic used solely to house dogs that have undergone veterinary treatment or observation or will do so only for the period of time necessary to accomplish that veterinary care
      • Domestic Charitable Corporation Kennel - a facility operated, owned, or maintained by a domestic charitable corporation registered with the Department of Agriculture or an animal welfare society or other nonprofit organization incorporated for the purpose of providing for and promoting the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of animals, including a veterinary hospital or clinic operated by a licensed veterinarian, which operates consistent with such purposes while providing veterinary treatment and care
      • Commercial Boarding or Training Kennel - an establishment used for boarding, holding, daycare, overnight stays, or training of animals that are not the property of the owner of the establishment, at which such services are rendered in exchange for consideration and in the absence of the owner of any such animal
  • "Owner" or "Keeper" - any person(s), firm, farm, corporation, or organization, owning, keeping, harboring, or having an interest in or care, custody, or control of one or more dogs or domestic animals.
  • "Public Nuisance"- any dog shall be deemed a public nuisance if
    • Such dog is free of restraint and permitted on public or private property other than that belonging to the owner/keeper or others' private property who has the knowledge and has expressed permission to be on said private property except if such dog is being used as a so-called hunting/sporting, working, or in a competition/showing trial and is being supervised as such by a person competent to prevent the dog from being a threat to public safety; provided, however, that this section shall apply only while such dog is being used for the above-mentioned events, trials, work, or training for such purposes;
    • Such dog shall be permitted to defecate on public or private property and the owner/keeper of the dog does not immediately clean up and remove such defecation;
    • That dog is allowed to bark excessively or make any other such noise in a fashion as to deny the neighbors peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their property including noise that exceeds five minutes during the quiet time of 9 pm to 7 am or constant noise more than a half (1h) hour during any span of time, as to disturb the neighbor. Proof of such disturbance is the complete onus of the complainant.
  • "Unprovoked" - Means that the domestic animal was not hit, kicked, or struck by the person with any object or part of the person's body, nor was any part of the animal's body pulled, pinched, or squeezed by a person to cause pain or discomfort to the animal, nor was the animal verbally or physically taunted, in any way, whether there be physical contact or not.

Section 2 - Registration & License

  • The owner/keeper of one to four ( 4) dogs more than six ( 6) months old shall annually complete an application for a dog license for each dog and file the same with the Town Clerk on or before March 31 of any given year. Upon presenting said application and a valid certificate of rabies vaccination (along with proof of neutering and spaying, if applicable) for the dog and the appropriate fee, the Clerk shall issue said license and tag. The applicant shall keep the tag securely affixed to the dog with a collar or harness at all times.
  • All initial kennel licenses, other than those for a Personal Kennel, are subject to approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals per the Zoning Bylaws of the Town of Rutland.
  • All kennel licenses, both initial and annual renewals, may not be issued by the Town Clerk until the kennel has passed an inspection by the Animal Control Officer. The ACO shall determine if said premises are safe and secure, and if the animals will be kept in a sanitary area that is adequate to house the number of dogs. Upon a positive finding, the ACO shall notify the Town Clerk to issue a license. Once issued, the applicant shall keep all tags securely affixed to each dog with a collar or harness at all times.
    • Personal Kennel - an application form for a kennel license for five to ten ( 10) dogs, six months of age or older, shall be submitted annually to the Town Clerk. A valid certificate of rabies vaccination with proof of neutering and spaying, if applicable, for each dog must be on file in the Town Clerk's office. The inspection fee and license fee for each dog must accompany the application. A second kennel license is required for more than ten ( 10) dogs.
    • Commercial Breeder Kennel - A renewal application for the number of dogs approved in the initial application must be submitted annually to the Town Clerk along with the required fee. A license will be issued following an inspection with positive results by the ACO. Current rabies certificates for each dog are required to be on file in the Clerk's office for any dog over 6 months of age. The inspection fee and license fee for each dog must accompany the application.
    • Veterinary Kennel - A renewal application must be submitted annually to the Town Clerk along with the required fee. A license will be issued following an inspection with positive results by the ACO.
    • Domestic Charitable Corporation Kennel- A renewal application must be submitted annually to the Town Clerk. A license will be issued following an inspection with positive results by the ACO. An inspection fee will apply. Current rabies certificates must be on file in the Clerk's office for each dog. Individual tags will be provided at no cost.
    • Commercial Boarding or Training Kennel - A renewal application must be submitted annually to the Town Clerk along with the appropriate fee. A license will be issued following an inspection with positive results from the ACO.
  • If an inspection results in a negative finding, the owner will have ten days to rectify the situation before additional action will be taken by the Animal Control Officer.
  • All License Periods shall be from April 1 in any year to March 31 the following year.
  • All fees and fines relating to this bylaw shall be as determined by the Select Board. A list of all fees and fines shall be kept on file by the Select Board and be posted in a conspicuous place at the Town Clerk's office and the Public Safety Building.

There are examples of violations that may result in a fine:

  • Failure to license a dog by March 31st of the given licensing period ( except for a dog that has not attained the age of six months of age during that period and shall be licensed at reaching the age of six months of age with no penalty).
  • Dog found to be a nuisance
  • Dog without an attached license tag.
  • An animal without a current Rabies Certificate
  • Apprehension of loose dog and/or associated costs including for impoundment per day or portion thereof.
    • All fines and impound fees shall be collected by the ACO, shall be itemized in writing, and submitted monthly to the Town Treasurer. The Treasurer shall pay all costs of impoundment to the kennel submitting an invoice for the same.

Section 3 - Prohibition of Permitting a Dog to Become a Public Nuisance

No owner/keeper of any dog in the Town of Rutland, whether licensed or unlicensed, shall allow their dog to become a public nuisance as defined in section I. G.

  • A dog found to be a public nuisance as defined in section l.G. may be picked up and held by the ACO for safekeeping until the owner/keeper can be located and such owner/keeper may be fined as listed.
  • Owner/keepers of dogs who receive a notice of violation of the public nuisance portion of this by-law shall be subject to a hearing before the Select Board under the provisions of chapter 140, Section 157 of Mass. General Laws.

Section 4 - Dangerous Dogs

  • No owner/keeper keeping a dangerous dog as defined in Section 1.C. shall fail to safeguard human beings or other domestic animals from said dog.
  • Upon receipt of a letter of complaint regarding a dog, the Select Board shall notify the owner/keeper of the animal of the complaint with a copy thereof, shall schedule a hearing in accordance with said statute, and shall notify the owner/keeper of such hearing by regular and certified mail. A hearing can also be requested by the ACO if the ACO or the police department feels there are significant safety issues. Prior to the hearing, the ACO shall investigate any claims of a dangerous dog to determine whether such a finding is warranted. If the circumstances support such a finding, the ACO shall notify, in writing, the Chief of Police and the Select Board of such findings. Where appropriate, the ACO shall submit to the Select Board a list of recommendations as to how the owner/keeper can safely
  • Control the dog so that its behavior will not put humans or domestic animals in danger. The Board at its sole discretion may accept the recommendations of the ACO or order other appropriate remedies. Such remedies may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
    • Spaying or neutering the dog within a specified period of time;
    • Micro-chipping the dog to ensure identification should the dog be sold or given to another person;
    • Require ongoing behavior training by a qualified trainer specializing in dogs with problem behavior;
    • Use of a correctly fitted wire basket muzzle whenever outside or off the owner/keeper premises;
    • Containment of the dog on the owner/keeper's property in a fashion provided, however, that a radio-fence alone will not constitute restraint on an owner's property; construction of a secure enclosure of chain link, no smaller than 12 feet x 12 feet with a catchment area at the gate and having a secure top and bottom so the dog cannot escape, to restrain the dog in when it is outside the owner's house and on the owners/keeper's property;
    • The chain link enclosure door must be secured with a padlock when the dog is in the enclosure;
    • Display of a sign indicating that a "dangerous dog" is on the premises;
    • The dog must never be unrestrained in the town boundaries;
    • The dog hand walked by a competent adult, on an adequate leash no longer than (six) 6 feet in length; require that the ACO places the dog in a secure facility, to be held at the owner's expense until all orders to ensure the dog can safely be housed in town are successfully complied with;
    • Humane euthanization of the dog.
  • The owner/keeper of a "dangerous dog" must immediately notify the Police Department Dispatch if the dog is loose or unconfined; bites/attacks a human or domestic animal; is sold, given away, dies, or is to be moved to another address and provide the ACO with any and all information requested under the given circumstances.
  • Failure to comply with an order issued by the Select Board pursuant to Section 5.C. and M.G.L. c.140, s. 157 will result in the following:
    • The dog is being picked up by the ACO and held in the designated pound, at the owner/keeper's expense, until another Select Board hearing is held to determine any additional finding(s) and additional restriction(s);
    • Failure to comply may result in fines or other penalties.

Section 5-Enforcement / Penalties

The provisions of this by-law and/or any regulation of the Select Board adopted hereunder, may be enforced by the ACO and/or any police officer of the Town of Rutland by any available means in the law or equity, including but not limited to enforcement by non-criminal disposition pursuant to the provisions of M.G.L. Chapter 40 s. 21 D. Each day a violation exists shall constitute a separate violation.

The penalties for violating this bylaw are as:

  • First offense $ 20
  • Second offense $ 50
  • Third and subsequent offenses $100

Section 6 - Emergency Treatment of Dogs & Cats Injured on a Public Way

Upon notification of any domestic animal being injured in a public way, the ACO shall immediately contact the owner, if known, and require the owner to care for said animal. Any cost incurred by the ACO for emergency response, care, transportation, treatment, and/or disposal of an animal shall be the responsibility of the owner/keeper.

Section 7 - Severability

Should any portion, section, or provision of this Bylaw be found invalid for any reason, that finding shall not affect the validity and force of any other section, portion, or provision of this bylaw.

Section 8 - Persons Convicted of Cruelty to Animals

Any person or persons found guilty of a violation of any provisions of Section 77, 80A, 94, or 95 of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws, will forfeit the right to own or keep any animal within the Town of Rutland and must immediately, upon conviction, surrender all animals in his/her possession to the Animal Control Officer.

Section 9 - Right to Farm

In the event of a dispute between a person's right to farm and the enforcement of this bylaw, the Rutland Agricultural Commission may be used to resolve the dispute. This dispute resolution option does not supersede the right to request a hearing under state statute.

  • In effect upon Attorney General Approval received June 27, 2014
  • Amended May 2015 / effective September 18, 2015