Proposed Legislation in MA Would Impact Shelters, Rescues and Fosters

Massachusetts is considering a set of state regulations that would subject foster homes to inspection by the Department of Agriculture, require rescue groups to register with the state every 12 months and establish minimum standards of care for shelters, rescues and foster homes.  These standards of care include:

  • Animals must be removed from cages during disinfection which is required “periodically and always before introducing a new animal.”
  • Animals must be kept clean and dry.
  • Veterinary care must be provided in a timely manner.
  • Animals must be allowed exercise outside their cages “regularly” and “be housed in compatible groups without overcrowding”.
  • Facility must maintain a temperature between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, including offsite adoption events.

Some additional notes from the proposed regulations:

  • Wire cage flooring is acceptable provided it meets some vague criteria.
  • Euthanasia must be performed by a veterinarian or a trained individual under the direction of a vet in accordance with AVMA guidelines.
  • “No Organization may offer for sale, advertise, or transfer” any animal who tests positive for heartworm or shows signs of other internal or external parasites.
  • Groups wanting to import dogs and cats must register every 12 months with the state.  Imported dogs and cats must have an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued by a vet in the animal’s state of origin and must have been recently vaccinated.  Imported pets, other than owner surrenders from the New England states and New York, must be taken upon arrival to an isolation facility for 48 hours.  After the mandatory isolation period, the pet must be taken to a vet and receive a health certificate in order to be released from isolation.

Some MA animal welfare groups are unhappy with the proposed regulations.  If you live in MA, you have very little time left to make your voice heard:

The Department of Agriculture says it wants to hear your opinion on the proposed rules. You have until October 8th to give the state your feedback.


If you’d like to send the Department of Agriculture your comments regarding the proposed regulations, please email Michael Cahill at:

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

17 thoughts on “Proposed Legislation in MA Would Impact Shelters, Rescues and Fosters

  1. Gee, rescues and shelters having to be held to the same *animal welfare* standards as breeders and other pet sellers? “Sauce for the goose” comes to mind.

    1. The best piece of legislation MA, or any state, could consider is CAPA. The protections offered in the MA proposal fall far short of those prescribed in CAPA.

      That said, there is no perfect piece of legislation and it takes compromise to get most anything passed at the state level. While I think there are some serious flaws within the MA proposal (particularly in what it omits), the need for state oversight for animal shelters and rescue groups is so great that it’s hard to shoot down the proposal as a whole. I am not a MA resident but if I was, I would consider writing a letter in general support of the proposal while picking out what I feel are poorly worded or outright bad line items within it and explaining how they could be improved. I would also include information on CAPA as a model piece of legislation.

      On the one hand, the MA proposal could be an important step in the right direction, especially if more states decide to consider regulating and inspecting animal shelters. OTOH, NC is an excellent example of a state which does inspect its shelters and in fact, has some of the killingest, crappiest shelters in the country. So state oversight can certainly fail to protect shelter animals which defeats the idea.

      I’m no expert on legislation but where the need is so great, it seems like having something is better than having nothing. And there isn’t anything in the legislation that I think would end up being disastrous. I’m also pleased to see the complex problem of importing shelter pets from the south is at least being addressed.

      I would love to hear more opinions, especially from smart people. I rely on you to help me sort things out.

  2. “Wire cage flooring is acceptable provided it meets some vague criteria.”
    This is bullshit. Wire flooring is never acceptable. Ever. And anyone who thinks it’s okay should have to stand/sit/lie on it for 24 hours before they speak.

    ““No Organization may offer for sale, advertise, or transfer” any animal who tests positive for heartworm or shows signs of other internal or external parasites.”
    Uh, what? So you can’t get a dog into a home just because it has heartworm? And what is meant by “organization”? Does that include shelters? Because that sounds like more excuses to kill – oh! fleas! kill!

    “Groups wanting to import dogs and cats must register every 12 months with the state. Imported dogs and cats must have an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued by a vet in the animal’s state of origin and must have been recently vaccinated. ”
    I would much prefer that it state “be current on vaccines”. “Recently” is too vague and if I get a dog who was vaccinated with the 3yr rabies vaccines 1 year ago, I’m not going to run out and shoot it up again. Bit of a touchy subject for me, overvaccination.

    How sad is it that we have to tell people not to hose down cages with animals in them? It’s just depressing that that needs to be spelled out legally and isn’t automatically considered standard of care just by virtue of being a human being.

    1. I should clarify that, except where I placed quotation marks, these are merely my interpretations of the regs. So when I said the animals had to be recently vaccinated, I was summarizing this portion of the proposed legislation:


      (a) Any dog or cat imported into the Commonwealth for the purpose of transfer shall have a minimum of one (1) vaccine for Canine or Feline Parvovirus and Distemper administered between seven (7)to thirty (30) days prior to import into the Commonwealth.

      (b) Any dog or cat older than six (6) months of age shall be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian as stated in M.G.L. c. 140, Section 145B.

      1. Hm. So if I had a dog vaccinated for parvo 45 days prior, I have to revaccinate? No thank you.

      2. I don’t like that either. That portion could possibly be repaired with advice from a veterinarian who is current on vet school vaccination recommendations. MA lawmakers are reacting to the contagious diseases being brought into their state when groups import puppies from the south. But they aren’t taking current science into consideration. Dogs over the age of 4 months with a documented vaccine history should be exempt from the recent vaccination so long at the last vaccine was administered within 3 years (or whatever time period MA vets could agree on).

  3. what is so sad about this is that it once again pits “breeders” and “rescuers” against each other..while the HSUS/ASPCA/PETA train wreck rolls over all of us decimating animal ownership on all levels. Nothing is better than this .. this is draconian. but so are all of the new APHIS rules which will eliminate hobby breeders in the next 10 years as a source of pets for people.. .. so I have to disagree.. we do not need MORE regulations of private citizens..
    so where does that leave us?
    No hobby breeders
    No in home rescues
    No foster homes
    that leaves us with
    USDA/APHIS commercially licensed breeders
    underground breeders..
    public shelters or pounds
    and that leaves us with
    less pets bred
    more expensive pets
    less healthy pets
    more public health concern for people ( less pets seeing vets for rabies shots)
    less socialized pets
    more dead pets
    less animal ownership
    and that my friends is the goal of these groups..they do not care how they do it.. or who gets hurt.. the goal is the same.. NO MORE DOMESTIC ANIMALS
    they do not say these things just for fun:
    “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Animal People, May, 1993. –

    It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership. The first step on this long, but just, road would be ending the concept of pet ownership.” Elliot Katz, President “In Defense of Animals,” Spring 1997.

    “In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.” Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Newsday, 2/21/88.

    “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles–from our firesides, from the leather nooses and chains by which we enslave it.” John Bryant, Fettered Kingdoms:
    People seem to think that just because they said these things a few years ago that somehow they have changed their minds.. they haven’t but they are smart they know that by dividing us they will surely conquer us..every “regulation” that is put into place that is somehow pushed as an “improvement” is another nail in the coffin of pet ownership

  4. The proposed requirements that the facility in which animals are housed must have impermeable walls, ceiling, and floors would be difficult for any in-home operations. It’s not clear to me if these requirements extend to foster homes. They don’t appear to, but they’re also not specifically excluded.

    I’m concerned about the proposed ban on sale or transfer etc. of animals with any signs of internal or external parasites. Does this include to other rescues or to fosters for care? Does it include animals who’ve lost fur due to allergies?

    I’m also concerned that the health requirements – as vague as they are – might be interpreted as preventing special-needs adoptions.

    1. I interpreted it as foster homes being exempt but agree that more clarity would be welcome. In fact, more clarity would be welcome in many areas. For example, I didn’t even mention the regulation that says rescue groups must turn over all strays to the local ACO for 7 days b/c it is worded in such a confusing way, I wasn’t sure whether the strays had to be physically turned over or just reported.

      I too am concerned with the wording on the parasites portion. It says something like if they show any signs of having parasites. I would hate to think of a shelter reporting a rescue group to the state b/c a cat had a speck of dirt (flea dirt?) or a dog had a tiny patch of missing hair (ringworm?). I also dislike the idea that HW+ animals must stay where they are until they are HW free. That makes no sense to me. Some adopter, foster or other rescue may be in a better position to treat a HW+ pet than where he currently sits. Why not let them go?

      1. I think the difficulty is that it’s trying to apply the same standards for shelter/rescues as for pet shops and commercial breeders, without acknowledging (and setting aside ethics issues) that shelters and rescues are very different businesses, or that some adoptable pets in the context of shelter/rescue may have conditions requiring long-term care. I’d much rather see something drafted requiring full disclosure, perhaps with adopters signing off on copies of the adopted pet’s in-rescue medical records (which an adopter would want a copy of anyway). This might also serve to encourage shelters/rescues to keep at least some records.

  5. I agree that some regulation is better than nothing, and MA advocates should focus on major issues.

    What is greatly needed in the MA regulations is a requirement that notices be sent out to rescue groups before any animal is killed. That is the most important life-saving provision in CAPA.

    State inspection of animal shelters is a very important step in the right direction. Delaware’s CAPA does not mandate state inspections, and that has proven to be a major flaw in our law. We expect that to be changed in the near future.

    The emphasis on reuniting pets and guardians in the MA regulations is good, but there should also be a a specific requirement that shelters post photos of animals on their web sites that are good enough so than an owner can recognize the pet. It is amazing what lousy photos are posted by a couple of DE shelters.

    The MA draft regulations states that euthanasia will be performed in accordance with the AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia, which allow gas chambers, gunshot, penetrating bolt, heartsticks, and electrocution for euthanasia of companion animals. The MA regulations should specify that euthanasia may only be by lethal injection. The Association of Shelter Veterinarians provides better guidance than the AVMA on euthanasia of companion animals.

    I think there are some sections in the draft MA regulations that are better than Delaware’s CAPA and give us a good model for how to improve our law. For example, the Section 30.06:(4) prohibition on breeding is something that we need to add to DE law. Too many instances of negligent breeding occurred in a badly managed DE shelter where male and female dogs were put together in kennels.

  6. I guess our cat with medicinally-resistant giardia would have to live at our shelter forever, by these standards.
    And some may disagree with me, but I would be pleased with the fact that this proposal makes it more difficult to import animals into the state. My philosophy is that you need to take care of and save your local animals before you extend your reach to other vicinities. Otherwise all you are doing is transferring the killing, rather than reducing it. An exception might be some of the breed-specific rescues, where there may not actually be any locally that need rescue at a given point in time.

  7. “Groups wanting to import dogs and cats must register every 12 months with the state. Imported dogs and cats must have an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued by a vet in the animal’s state of origin and must have been recently vaccinated. Imported pets, other than owner surrenders from the New England states and New York, must be taken upon arrival to an isolation facility for 48 hours. After the mandatory isolation period, the pet must be taken to a vet and receive a health certificate in order to be released from isolation.”

    So, animals that received a health cert within a few days of transport to the state, now have to be put in a 48hr seclusion (and where are rescues supposed to do this? Pay extra for a vets office to do it?? Like any vets office has room to seclude 10+ dogs in short notice without affecting their own practice.) and THEN they have to get ANOTHER health cert??

    “No Organization may offer for sale, advertise, or transfer an animal which tests positive for or shows signs of any of the following conditions:
    (a) an infectious or contagious disease, including distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, coccidiosis, giardiasis, parvo virus, or rabies;
    (b) any internal or external parasites, including heartworm; or
    (c) any significant behavioral concern, including signs of a temperamental or behavioral issue that may pose a safety risk to humans or other domestic animals”

    Oh goody, so now rescues who have a heartworm positive dog (never mind something as basic as roundworms) cannot have them fostered in the state. Never mind how treatable that is (or Lepto? Treatable as long as its done quickly and aggressively), and they’re including guardia and coccodia?? Seriously??

    And behavioural concerns that could pose a threat to other animals?? So you have a dog who was given up because it killed the owners chickens, does that qualify? What about a dog who’s a know cat chaser?? Hell, what about the sight-hound and terrier breeds who are pretty much guaranteed to chase cats on sight unless trained not to??

    “An animal acquired by an Organization found to be affected by any non-contagious
    medical condition, such as nutritional or metabolic disease, fracture, lameness, or congenital abnormalities, shall be treated and stabilized by a veterinarian prior to being offered for sale or transfer.”

    How are they supposed to do this without a foster home to house the animal in during treatment?? Leave the animal in the care of a vet when that level of care isn’t required?? Are they TRYING to bankrupt rescues?? Oh wait…..

    “Any Shelter, facility, or foster home required to maintain a kennel license in accordance with M.G.L.Chapter 140, Section 137A, is subject to inspection by the Animal Control Officer of the Municipality in which the shelter, facility, or foster home is located.”

    So now they’re requiring foster homes to have a kennel license??

    Um yah, if I lived in MA still I’d not only be voting AGAINST this, I’d be calling every state government member who’s phone number I could get ahold of….Sure, the CONCEPT is great, some BITS of it are great. The law as a whole?? Sucks big time and basically guarantees that rescues are going to stop doing business in the state, to the detriment of the animals involved!

  8. Doug Williams has hit the nail squarely on the head folks- HSUS is a member of the Agenda 21 crowd- for total world control and that includes every facet of our lives.
    Requiring licensing and inspections of foster care homes will absolutely shut down 2/3 of the rescues in America. Will force more animals into shelters which will result in more killing. We are all being funneled to the eutopian end. Depopulation.
    They come first after the things we love.

  9. I fear that this is just another example of legislation that will end up killing more animals than it saves. I understand that there needs to be some oversight of shelters (and rescues), but I would look to those with animal control responsibility or contracts, those with neglect/abuse investigatory authority, those of a certain size and larger, those who receive ANY taxpayer dollars. I am also in favor of standard annual statistical reporting by any shelter/group (including municipal/governmental) that calls itself a shelter or rescue group. I would add one key statistic — and that is the number of animals in care for over 1 year, over 2 years, over 5 years. That ought to provide the red flags necessary for identifying warehousing, with the exception of sanctuaries, who might need to be subject to some special regulations and oversight. I always worry when the number of animals coming in exceeds the number going out, and there has been no corresponding increase in capacity to properly house and care for the animals.

    This legislation reeks of big SPCAs and Humane Societies quashing “pesky little” rescue groups, who are often the ones most critical of the larger organizations. Only large, established groups will be able to comply (and even then, my experience is that the work they do is so “critical” and there are no other options out there that authorities will simply look the other way). They can’t go closing down a “humane society” that is housing hundreds of animals, can they? Where will all the animals go instead? Hmmmm. You can only shut down small operations, then move those animals to the big box SPCAs where the animals will most likely be killed (to bring an “end to their suffering”).

    As in all matters involving legislation: Good intentions are usually usurped by unanticipated undesirable consequences. Legislating it doesn’t make it so.

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