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Girl and her dog

Having a pet is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. Maintaining your pet’s health, ensuring it has the proper identification, and making sure to clean up after it benefits you, your pet, and the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) , the Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) provide you with guidelines on how to responsibly own a pet in Massachusetts.

Pet Health

A healthy pet is a happy pet, so make sure yours gets the care it needs. Some of the most important steps include:

  • Finding a Vet — When choosing a veterinarian, consider factors like cost, location, and customer service, just as you would when selecting a doctor for yourself or a loved one. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) provides an eLicensing Portal that enables residents to search for a licensed vet.
  • Vaccinating Against Rabies — If you own a dog, cat, or ferret, it is required to be vaccinated for rabies in Massachusetts, for its protection and yours. Your vet can help you keep your pet current on its required immunizations or there are a number of clinics throughout the state that can vaccinate your pet for a small fee. Rabies tags should be worn at all times by dogs, while cats and ferrets must have proof of rabies immunization upon inspection by an animal control officer.
  • Spaying or Neutering — Having your pet spayed or neutered can reduce animal homelessness within the Commonwealth by limiting the number of stray and unwanted animals. The Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund dedicates a portion of its funds to help eligible low-income residents spay and neuter their pets. Free spaying and neutering is available at designated clinics across the state. Contact your local animal control officer to find out if you qualify.

Pet Identification

Proper pet identification enables you to be reunited with your missing dog or cat more easily and helps towns and cities keep track of the number of animals in their respective municipalities. Identification tags include:

  • LicensingDog licensing in the Commonwealth is done through the city or town where you live. Proof of appropriate vaccinations is required. Licensing for pets may be available at your town’s registered rabies vaccination clinic. For information about local policies, contact your city or town hall.
  • Microchipping Microchips are small electronic chips the size of a grain of rice that transmit owner identification when scanned. If your dog or cat is found and taken to a clinic or shelter, a microchip enables the staff to quickly contact you. Always make sure to keep your contact information updated in the microchip’s database.

Pet Waste

When pet waste is not disposed of properly, it can travel into storm drains and affect surface water quality. Waste from your four-legged friend can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can put people at risk of infections, including:

Always seal pet waste in a plastic bag and throw it away in the garbage. In some municipalities, picking up after your pet is required by law.

As summer nears, check for seasonal dog bans from May to October at saltwater ocean beaches and freshwater inland beaches managed by DCR before taking Fido out for a day at the beach.

Being a pet owner in the Commonwealth requires more than tender love and care. Responsible pet ownership is not only beneficial for you and your animal, but for the environment as well.

We want to see your pets! Share a picture of your animal best friend with us by commenting or tweeting @MassGov.

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