Massachusetts S.2192 signed by governor

Massachusetts S.2192, a comprehensive overhaul of Massachusetts state animal control laws, was signed by the governor today. The new law specifically states: “No city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.”

In essence, BSL will be illegal in Massachusetts when the law goes into effect at the end of October. Massachusetts joins 12 other U.S. states that prohibit municipalities from passing breed-specific laws.

The big question now is: What about the cities in Massachusetts that currently have BSL in place?

The answer is not as cut and dry as you’d expect. State law generally preempts (takes precedence over) municipal ordinances, but there are several ways that cities can get around the preemption and keep their BSL, most commonly using “grandfathering” (as happened in Miami-Dade) or “home rule” (as is common in Colorado and Illinois) justifications. In particular, every state handles home rule a bit differently; some states severely limit home rule powers, while other states are more flexible. From what I’ve gathered so far, there are differing opinions about whether cities that are in conflict with the new state law (e.g. Boston) can use home rule as a viable defense of their BSL.

I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but unfortunately, we may have to wait for a better answer. I expect that, as news of the law’s passage sinks in, city councils across the state will consult with their attorneys to figure out what, if anything, they need to do in response to the changes in state law. Legislators and judges may also weigh in. We’ll know more as time goes on.

In the meantime, congratulations to Massachusetts for sweeping animal control reform and for making a stand against BSL.

Law bans breed-specific dog regulation

By Steve Decosta,
August 02, 2012 6:06 PM

With New Bedford Animal Control Officer Manny Maciel by his side today, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a new, broad-based animal control bill into law, that, among its many provisions, prevents the regulation of dogs based solely on breed.

Stating clearly that “No city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific to breed,” the legislation ends debate in New Bedford and elsewhere on whether pits bulls should be banned.

The law further states that “no dog shall be deemed dangerous … based upon the breed of such dog.” […]

Full article retrieved 8/2/12 from

Many thanks to the MSPCA for keeping us up to date. Visit their page to learn more about the many changes that this bill brings to Massachusetts:

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