Westport residents petition against town’s new animal regulations

SE Mass
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WESTPORT, Mass. (WPRI) — The Westport Board of Health has approved changes in town regulation mandating residents to register their animals with the town.

Under the new rules, homeowners and renters must share their contact information, the type of livestock and an estimated number of each animal they have living on their property.

The new regulations are specifically for farm animals — including cattle, goats, horses, chickens and turkeys. Pets that are primarily kept indoors — such as dogs, cats, birds and ferrets — do not need to be registered.

But the newly implemented regulations aren’t sitting well with some residents, mainly farmers. A group — called the Westport Farmer’s Alliance — has been collecting signatures for a petition against the new regulations.

“This regulation includes additional farm inspections and potential punishments that challenge our town’s ‘Right to Farm,'” the group said in a statement. “Despite good-faith efforts to come to a compromise by the farming community, the Board of Health voted it through without support from the people it impacts.”

Board of Health Chairman Philip Weinberg told Eyewitness News he’s unsure how the new regulations interfere with the Right to Farm rules.

“I don’t see how simply providing the Board of Health with the kinds of animals and an estimate of the number of animals interferes with their right to farm,” Weinberg said. “We’re not asking for a permit, we’re not charging any fee, it’s a one-time registration form.”

The registry will be shared with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, the board of health and local police and fire departments.

Weinberg said the town’s police and fire departments have submitted letters in support of the regulations.

It’s not uncommon for farm animals to get loose and roam the streets. With the registry, it would be easier for first responders to identify where the animals belong and contact the owner. Also, in case of a fire, firefighters would know what animals to keep an eye out for.

However, the Westport Farmer’s Alliance said these rules go too far.

“We want to be responsible members of our community. But farmers and livestock owners in Westport should not be excessively regulated or punished for owning livestock,” the alliance said.

The regulation changes follow a landmark animal neglect case from 2017 when hundreds of animals, both dead and alive, were removed from a squalid tenant farm off Route 177.

The regulations go into effect on Nov. 25. The deadline to file a completed registration form is January 7, 2020 or 30 days after the first livestock arrive on the property.

Violators who do not have an accurate registration form filled out would be subject to a $10 penalty plus an additional $5 per day each violation continues.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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