Bedford’s Proposed Keeping of Animals Regulations – Comments due by Wednesday, August 24

Special to The Bedford Citizen

Bedford’s Board of Health will continue its discussion about regulations for the keeping of animals in residential neighborhoods. Household pets (cats, dogs, fish, birds, turtles and such) and commercial farm livestock are exempt from the proposed regulations.

According to a memorandum posted on the Board of Health’s website, public comment must be directed to Health Director Heidi Porter by mail at the Board of Health office, 12 Mudge Way, Bedford, or by email at [email protected] no later than August 24, 2016.

Click to read the Board of Health’s memorandum on the keeping of animals or the July 1 edits of the board’s working document for the proposed regulations

The next meeting of the Board of Health is September 12, 2016.  Like all Board of Health meetings, the public is invited to attend.

Background from the Board of Health’s June 20 meeting

Brad Mitchell, Chairman of the Littleton Board of Health and a member of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, attended the June 20 meeting of the Bedford Board of Health.  He submitted his comments on the draft of the Bedford Keeping of Animals Regulations posted on the Board of Health website.  He pointed out to Board members, and the several town residents attending the meeting, that most Massachusetts communities do not have Keeping of Animals Regulations because Boards of Health already have broad powers to mitigate all community health issues.  Littleton, for example, does not have a Keeping of Animals permit and fee requirement.

Should the Bedford Board of Health continue to promulgate its proposed regulations, which include an annual permit, fee and inspection by the Bedford Health Agent, Mitchell suggested several changes based on the following facts:  (1) animal health and welfare do not fall under the purview of Boards of Health; (2) the detailed space and acreage requirements included in Bedford’s draft regulations are not based on U.S. Department of Agriculture nor Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) guidelines; (3) the manure management and disinfecting requirements in Bedford’s regulations do not agree with standard agricultural practices; (4) expert guidance for keeping backyard livestock is readily available from MDAR and the U Mass Extension Service.

According to Board co-chairman Tom Kinzer, Bedford’s Keeping of Animals Regulations appeared “in the mid-60s” with limited explanation in the public record.  Discussion among Board members indicated the current goal in revising the regulations is to make them easier to understand and to not discourage Bedford residents from reasonable backyard livestock activities that do not negatively impact their neighbors.

Janet Powers, a Bedford goat-keeper in attendance, opined the current draft seemed discouraging to those wishing to begin livestock activities, and Lucy Hand, a Bedford chicken-keeper noted their recent permit application for 8 chickens required notification of more than two dozen abutters at a cost of over $200 in certified mail.

Board of Health members thanked those in attendance for their participation and comments and agreed to review suggestions about the draft guidelines before their final decision.


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