June 13, 2022

Massachusetts Municipalities to Potentially Limit Number of Dogs Owned

Contact: Joe Bachar, New England States Coordinator

Why it Matters: Dogs play an integral role in many of our nation’s sporting pursuits. From hunting-related traditions, such as tracking big game, pointing, flushing, and retrieving downed fowl, to competing in a variety of field trials across the country, our four-legged friends play an irreplaceable part in field activities. Therefore, requiring local licensing authorities to place restrictions on the number of dogs that may be owned by those already possessing four or more (three months or older) is in fact curbing these pursuits. Many households include hunting and non-hunting dogs alike, all falling within under the same roof with one another. Massachusetts law already requires those in possession of four or more dogs to obtain a kennel license but requiring municipalities to determine a set number of dogs that an individual may own removes the autonomy that sporting dog owners currently enjoy.

Currently, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee is reviewing legislation that is both broad and prohibitive in nature for the state’s sportsmen and women. As written, Senate Bill 1322 (S. 1322) will result in comprehensive changes to not only dog daycare facilities, but also “commercial boarding and training kennels” and “personal kennels,” which would thereby prohibitively affect those who hunt and participate in field trials. As is typical with restrictive kennel legislation, this bill was drafted as a response to an isolated case of irresponsible care at a dog daycare facility. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been working alongside the American Kennel Club (AKC) in opposition to this bill in its current form.

Under current law, municipalities are authorized to issue a personal kennel license to anyone owning four or more dogs in addition to the licenses for each individual dog. If enacted, S. 1322 would require municipalities to issue these licenses set limits on the number of animals each personal kennel is able to own without evidence of neglect or abuse. Additionally, S. 1322 contains no language of how a town or municipality would go about resolving kennels it deems are being kept in substandard conditions.

This places an undue financial and regulatory burden on responsible individual owners and could potentially be used to hold them to the same standards as commercial businesses, such as training and commercial kennels. Additionally, it restricts the hunting and field trial communities by allowing municipalities to arbitrarily cap dog ownership – something that is inherently wrong to all those who enjoy working alongside dogs in the field.

CSF has a tenured history in fighting excessively restrictive kennel legislation in the northeast – something that has been a growing theme in recent years. CSF will continue to work alongside the AKC in opposing this legislation. Additional updates on will be provided as they are made available.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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