Before conducting business out of a residential home, it may be wise to consult with a Massachusetts real estate attorney familiar with the local zoning laws. The property owners involved in a July 6, 2018 case operated a commercial kennel and pet store out of their residentially-zoned property. After the neighbors complained to the local authorities about their activities, the zoning enforcement officer investigated the matter and directed the plaintiffs to cease and desist with their kennel and pet sale operations. When the local zoning board upheld the decision, the plaintiffs filed their appeal with the Land Court.
The plaintiffs in the case owned an eight-acre parcel of land located within a residential zoning district. The property contained a ranch-style house with an attached garage and outbuilding. No one lived at the property. Instead, the plaintiffs kept over 150 puppies and dogs on the premises, using the house as an office and pet store open to the public for the sale of puppies. Almost all of the puppies were purchased from out-of-state breeders, but a few were bred by dogs permanently owned by the plaintiffs. On average, between 1,000 to 1,600 puppies a year could be sold from the plaintiffs’ property.
Under the local zoning by-law, commercial kennels and pet stores were prohibited uses in suburban district zones, which was where the plaintiffs’ property was located. The Land Court held that the plaintiffs’ business, which involved buying hundreds of puppies, food, and pet supplies that were delivered by large trucks in multiple weekly shipments, in addition to accommodating customers on the property to see and purchase the puppies, operated as a commercial kennel and pet store. The plaintiffs’ commercial business was, therefore, in violation of the zoning by-law, unless otherwise protected. One exception from the zoning regulation is for the breeding, raising, and training of dogs as an agricultural pursuit.