15 Sep 2014
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You Can't Have More Than 24 Chickens in Shrewsbury

Animal Control Officer Leona Lease details the laws that pertain to animals in town.

You Can't Have More Than 24 Chickens in Shrewsbury

You can have as many dogs, and cats as you want in Shrewsbury. But only 24 chickens are allowed, and the town strongly urges you to refrain from owning roosters.

Shrewsbury Patch talked to Animal Control Officer Leona Pease about the rules and regulations regarding animals in town. Some may be surprising.

Pease is celebrating her tenth year as ACO in Shrewsbury, and has been working professionally with animals since she was 15. She started as a dog sitter at a Siberian Husky show kennel, and has been training dogs ever since.

She also has been employed by the DMH and DEP for more than 22 years, managing kennels, showing dogs, grooming and working for veterianians on a part-time basis.

Pease understands the laws of the jungle.

Shrewsbury Patch: How many dogs is one family allowed to have? 
Leona Pease: There is no limit on the number of animals that a household may have. Unlike other towns, we try not to over-regulate. Once you have more than three dogs, you must (by state law) get a kennel license.  All dogs Massachusetts must have a rabies shot by the time it is four months old.  If a dog does not have a rabies shot, I can give the owner/keeper a $50 ticket for not having a rabies shot.

SP: How many cats can a family have?
LP: Once again, there is no limit to the number of animals that a household may have. When I get complaints about the number of cats in a neighborhood, I try to ascertain who owns the cats and help them with low-cost or free spay/neuter and shots. All cats in Massachusetts must have a rabies shot by the time it is four months old; this makes it easy to encourage folks to have their cats spay/neutered, as they get the rabies shot in the spay/neuter package I offer them.  I tell them “I can either give you a $50 ticket for every cat that you have that does not have its shot or I can get it spay/neutered and get its rabies shot."

SP: If there are no maximums, when, then, would it be deemed a "hoarding" situation?
LP: A “hoarding” situation is when the animals’ caretaker is unable to manage/adequately care for the number of animals the have in their possession. All suspected cases of animal hoarding are dealt with on a case by case basis. Many situations can be dealt with by spaying/neutering and vaccinating the animals.   

SP: Have you dealt with hoarders in Shrewsbury?
LP: Yes

SP: Are there breed specific laws? 
LP: No. By the end of this month the new animal control laws will be in effect and they do not allow for towns/cities to have breed-specific laws. The new state laws will negate the Worcester pit bull law.

SP: What are the licensing/shot requirements?
LP: Any dog that is housed in Shrewsbury must be licensed with the town by the time it is six months old (they can be licensed with the town as soon as they get their rabies shot). You have to bring your up-to-date rabies certificate to the Town Clerk’s office and they will issue a license. The license tag must be attached to the dog (either on a collar or a harness) at all times. There is a fine ($25) for the dog not having a license tag attached to its collar or harness. 

SP: Leash law? 
LP: Our leash law is Article 14, section 2 of the town’s by-laws “Permitting a Dog to Become a Public Nuisance Prohibited.” It says, “No owner or keeper of any dog shall permit such dog, whether licensed or unlicensed, to become a public nuisance within the Town of Shrewsbury at any time.” Article 14, section 1, (c) “Public nuisance – any dog shall be deemed a public nuisance if such dog is found to be not on the premises of the owner of such or upon the premises of another person with the knowledge and expressed permission of such other person, except (1) if such dog is attached to a restraining device (my interpretation a leash) and under the care and control of a person competent to restrain said dog so that it shall not be a threat to public safety, and the mere muzzling of such a dog shall not satisfy the requirements of this bylaw.

SP: What about other "pets?" In some towns, people have chickens, goats, reptiles, what have you, as pets. What are the laws in Shrewsbury surrounding that?
LP: Shrewsbury residents are allowed to have up to 24 fowl. We strongly suggest that folks do not have roosters as that is when we receive complaints.  All other pets are dealt with on a case by case basis. Certain other pets are not allowed by state law. Those pets would be dealt with with the assistance of the Environmental Police.

SP: Other issues?
LP: At this time, all other complaints (barking, repeated loose dogs, aggressive behavior, etc. are dealt with under MGL. C. 140, s. 157.  “Vicious dogs; nuisance; barking or other disturbance; annoyance to sick person; attacks on other dogs.”  This is when the dog owner and I go in front of the Board of Selectmen.

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