Pet Sale Business in a Massachusetts Residence Subject to Zoning Regulations

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.

The Land Court concluded that the plaintiffs’ kennel and pet store did not meet the agricultural exception.  The court explained that the plaintiffs’ activities, which consisted of purchasing puppies for resale, storing them on the property, and selling them to customers, were not an integral part of the breeding or raising of dogs, as required by the agricultural exception.  Nor did the court find that the plaintiffs’ commercial operations met any other exceptions that would allow them to continue.  The court did find, however, that the plaintiffs were permitted to continue breeding the dogs they permanently owned at the property, as that activity was a protected agricultural use.

At Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts real estate lawyers can provide guidance and legal representation in matters concerning residential property.  From home purchase and sale agreements to title actions, our dedicated team of professionals can assist you with any issue you may face regarding your home or condo.  Request your free consultation by contacting our office by phone at (781) 843-2200 or through our website form.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowner Argues Deed Restrictions on Her Property Are Against Public Policy, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published May 8, 2018

Homeowners Operating Commercial Dog Breeding Business Found Incompatible with Deed Restrictions, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published January 9, 2017

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