Animal Inspection & Control

Where to Report:

Stray Dogs - Animal Control Officer: Contact Shayla Howe at (413) 522-2632 (leave message).
Dead Animals in the Public Roadway: Contact Bill Turner, Highway Superintendent, at (413) 268-8405.

Animal Bites to Humans or Domestic Animals, Wild Animals Suspected of Carrying Rabies, or Injured Wild Animals: Contact Don Lawton, Animal Inspector, at (413) 268-7487.

Be Wary of Wild Animals

Fox, porcupine, coyote, moose, bear, raccoons, skunks, and many other mammals occupy an important niche in rural environments. However, these animals are wild and should never be encouraged near humans or domestic animals. DO NOT approach, touch or feed wild animals on your property. Keep animal food and watering bowls INSIDE. Keep trash secured and out of reach of wild animals.

Unfortunately, the Animal Control Officer is not able to assist with wild "nuisance" animals on private property.

Sick or Dying Wild Birds

Sick or dying birds, particularly blue jays, robins and crows, may carry West Nile Virus, as may mosquitoes. If you find a dead bird DO NOT TOUCH THE BIRD with bare hands. Bury the bird or double-bag it and dispose of in the trash. Please do not refrigerate, freeze, or keep dead birds for testing unless instructed to do so by the Dead Bird Hotline. If you have come into contact with a dead bird, or any dead animal, wash your hands!

Should I Raise Chickens

Town officials are often asked "Can I raise chickens here? What rules apply?"

Of the many answers available, rule number one is: be a good neighbor.

One man's chicken may be another man's nuisance.

Mass General Law authorizes the town Board of Health to look into and remove sources of nuisances, or otherwise address any nuisance complaint. With increasing frequency, complaints to the Board have been animal-based as people respond to the “green” movement, or head toward a more subsistence-based economy.

Some examples of "nuisances" I have addressed with the Board of Health include: roosters crowing at 4:30am in a thickly settled neighborhood, unattended manure piles causing odors, flies, and filthy conditions, or chickens/roosters crossing the road. Why did the chicken cross the road, you ask? Answer: so your taxes can be raised to pay for the legal fees created to chase after non-compliant rooster owners.

So, here are some simple ways to keep out of the spotlight of town officials, stay happy with the neighbors, and keep your chickens from going afoul (forgive me):

  • Talk with your neighbors before setting up a chicken coop. This common courtesy may positively impact your chicken-raising experience.
  • Purchase only "sex-linked" chicks. These are a bit more expensive, but it virtually guarantees you will get only hens, not roosters.
  • Follow good manure maintenance practices, keep the piles small, compost properly, cover manure with soil regularly, and otherwise keep odors and flies to a minimum.
  • Maintain the chicken coop and fencing to avoid wayward birds getting loose and terrorizing the neighborhood.
  • Should you end up with a rooster, keep him closed up (coop windows closed) until the neighborhood is well awake. If you have an unwanted rooster, call me and I will try to find him a home. If you have small children, you will definitely not want a rooster in the yard.

Many chicken coops, even those in thickly settled neighborhoods, are so unobtrusive the neighbors don't even know they are in the vicinity. Strive for that. Enjoy your chickens and you may never have to meet me except when I purchase eggs.

I might be able to help you with other information. Call me if you have a question.

Valerie Bird
Town Health Agent
(413) 268-8404

Annual Barn and Farm Animal Inspection

Massachusetts General Law requires the annual inspection and censusing of farm animals by the Animal  Inspector, Don Lawton. 

If you have concerns not addressed here, contact the Health Agent at (413) 268-8404. Thank you.