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Animal Commission

Photo of a dog holding its leash in its mouth

The Cambridge Animal Commission facilitates programs for animal control and welfare in the city and maintains Cambridge as a safe environment for people, pets and other animals, through an educational and enforcement approach. The Commission encourages responsible pet ownership and ensures public safety around domestic or wild animals. The Animal Commission's regular duties include: rescuing injured and/or sick domestic pets and wildlife; enforcement of state laws and City ordinances pertaining to animals; and licensing of all dogs in the City of Cambridge.

Wild Turkeys: Tips for Preventing Conflicts and Making Your Property Less Attractive to Turkeys. Learn More

Donate to the Helen K. Holland Animal Care Trust Fund

In 1997, a fund was established by the Cambridge Animal Commission to provide emergency veterinary care for stray animals in Cambridge. Many lives have been saved because monies were available for necessary medical care which otherwise could not have been provided due to budgetary constraints. This trust bears the name of Helen K. Holland, a lifelong resident and long time employee of the City of Cambridge whose interest in humane issues was a lifetime commitment. All monies donated to the trust are directly used for animal care. Donations to the Helen K. Holland Fund are tax deductible under 170(c)(1).

There’s never a shortage of stray animals in need of assistance. Contributions are greatly appreciated. For more information, contact the Cambridge Animal Commission

Donate to the Helen K. Holland Animal Care Trust Fund

Animal Commission Hours of Operations* 
Mon - Fri 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. | Sat & Sun 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. 

Phone: 617-349-4376 | Fax: 617-349-4726
These hours vary from City Office Hours:

NOTICE: Please note that Animal Control Officers are in and out of the office when responding to calls. Please call the office in advance before planning to come in. If preferred, appointments can be made on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, to obtain a dog license, answer regulatory questions, or provide general assistance. Appointments can be made online, by phone at 617-349-4376, or by email at animalcommission@cambridgema.gov.

What are the Animal Commission's Hours of Operation and do they vary from regular City Office Hours?

The Animal Commission's Hours of Operation do vary from the City's regular office hours.

The Animal Commission is open Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

How Do I Prevent Conflicts with Wild Turkeys and Protect My Garden?

Wild turkeys thrive close to people in suburban and urban areas. Follow these best practices to avoid conflicts and make your property less attractive to turkeys:

  • Don’t let turkeys intimidate you. Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten them with loud noises, an open umbrella, or water sprayed from a hose.
  • Don't feed the turkeys.
  • Keep bird feeder areas clean.
  • Cover windows or other shiny/reflective objects. The turkeys have a pecking order and they see the reflection of themselves and believe it is another turkey.
  • Protect your gardens. Scare turkeys away with loud noises, water spayed from a hose, or a leashed dog; use netting.
  • Educate your neighbors. It requires the efforts of the entire neighborhood to help to keep wild turkeys wild.

Living with Wild Turkeys Fact Sheet

What Do I Do If I Encounter a Coyote?

Be Coyote Aware: Helpful Tips If you Encounter a Coyote

Coyotes are common throughout North America, including in urban areas, and are regularly observed throughout the City of Cambridge.

Below are some key facts about coyotes and helpful tips if you encounter one: 

  • Coyotes are members of the dog family; they are curious, adaptable, and learn quickly.
  • Coyotes often mate for life, are devoted parents, and are highly communicative (barks, yips, howls).
  • Coyotes weigh 18-35 pounds in the West and 30-60 pounds in the East.
  • Coyotes may be more protective of dens/ territories during pup rearing (April-Aug).
  • Coyotes eat large numbers of rodents and rabbits, as well as fruit, vegetation, insects, and carrion. They help keep ecosystems vital, healthy, and clean.
  • Coyotes are naturally wary of people but can habituate to our presence and the reliable food sources that we provide.
  • DON’T FEED COYOTES. Their life and your safety depend on coyotes remaining wild and naturally wary of people.
  • Remove attractants; pick up trash, secure garbage, and feed pets inside. Don’t leave food or pets outside at night.
  • Walk dogs on leashes, especially during pup rearing season (April-Aug). Pick up your small dog if you see a coyote and don’t let pets roam.
  • If approached, don’t run. Wave arms make noise and walk toward the coyote until he retreats. Be “Big, Bad and Loud.”
  • Avoid areas where coyotes may be denning or feeding/hiding pups.
  • Appreciate coyotes from a distance. Share this information with family and friends.

For more information visit https://projectcoyote.org/

Living with Coyotes Fact Sheet

Habituated coyotes

The presence of a coyote alone is not cause for concern, as coyotes are naturally afraid of people. Help keep coyotes wild by scaring or threatening coyotes in your yard with loud noises, bright lights, or water sprayed from a hose. Coyotes that have become dependent on human-associated food can become habituated and exhibit bold behavior toward people. A habituated coyote:

  • Does not run off when harassed or chased.
  • Approaches pets on a leash.
  • Approaches and follows people.

If an immediate threat to human safety exists or animals are exhibiting clear signs of rabies, the Environmental Police 1-800-632-8075, MassWildlife, and police departments have the authority to respond to and dispatch the animal as stipulated in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 2.14 that pertain to handling problem animals.

If possible, MassWildlife should first be contacted to authorize the lethal taking of a coyote at 1-508-389-6300 or Mass.Wildlife@mass.gov.


What do I need to license my dog(s)and how much does it cost?

You will need:

  1. Proof of Cambridge residency (a utility bill dated in last 30 days or 2 pieces of mail with name and address)
  2. A rabies vaccination certificate with an expiration date OR copy of medical records with rabies expiration date;
  3. Proof of spay or neuter (if not shown before), actual surgery certificate OR if noted on Rabies/Medical History;
  4. FEES: Spayed Female/Neutered Male ($10.00)
    Un-Spayed Female/Un-Neutered Male ($30.00)
  5. If licensing by mail, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope;
  6. If applying in person, please be prepared to pay fee by cash, check or money order. Credit cards are not accepted;
  7. Make check or money order payable to: City of Cambridge.

What is a dog license and why is a dog required to wear one?

A dog license is a tag issued by the City that provides the licensing authority with a veterinarian’s certificate which ensures the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. It also works as a form of ID if your dog gets lost and provides the City with a means to count the number of dogs in Cambridge. Your dog's license tag is required to always be attached and displayed on the dog. 
Note: All dogs over six months of age must be licensed.

A current Cambridge dog license is required to utilize the off-leash areas in Cambridge.

How long is the license good for?

Cambridge dog licenses are valid from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. All tags expire on March 31 no matter when you license your dog.  Renewal reminders are sent out yearly.

If my dog never leaves the house/yard does it still need a license?

Yes.  It is a City Ordinance and State Law.

When is the next low-cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic and Licensing Event

For the date and location of the next low-cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic, at which licensing is also available, please contact Cambridge Animal Commission at 617-349-4376 or animalcommission@cambridgema.gov.

Dog licenses can be a ticket home if your dog becomes lost; the number on the tag can be traced back to the owner for a safe return.

What are the different ways I can apply for a dog license?

  • You can apply online
  • You can apply by mail by printing and filling out a license application and mailing it in
  • You can apply in person at the City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway, in the Animal Commission office.

If I showed you the spay/neuter certificate last time, do you need to see it again?

No, if you showed us the spay/neuter certificate before, we will have this information on file.

If I showed you my rabies vaccination certificate last year do I need to show it again?

Yes, as vaccines are good for 1 year to 3 years depending on your dog’s rabies vaccination history. You should contact your vet to confirm status of your pet's rabies vaccinations. You may also contact our office to see if we have a copy on file.

Does my cat need to be vaccinated for rabies or licensed?

Yes, according to State Law and for your pet's protection, even if kept indoors, cats must be vaccinated for rabies. Cats are a risk for rabies as they can come in contact with high risk rabies carriers, i.e. bats and raccoons.

No, cats are not required to be licensed, though the Animal Commission recommends that they wear a safety collar and Id Tag.

My animal is very old/sick and has not been vaccinated for the last 3 years and has not been vaccinated against rabies; does he still need to be vaccinated?

Yes, unless otherwise instructed by your vet.  If so, you will need to provide a letter from the veterinarian stating that they will not vaccinate your pet for medical reasons.

What do I do if my dog is lost?

Call the Cambridge Animal Commission immediately at 617-349-4376. If you get a voicemail, please still leave your name, phone number, address and description of your dog. We will return your call as soon as possible. If this occurs during off-hours/holidays, please call Cambridge Police at 617-349-3300. They will have a list of dogs that have been picked up and placed safely in our kennel. You will be able to claim your dog on the next business morning.

What do I do if I see a dead animal on the street?

Contact the Public Works Department at 617-349-4860 for removal.

Does the animal commission trap any wildlife that becomes a nuisance?

No, the Animal Commission only rescues sick or injured animals. For a list of licensed nuisance wildlife removal companies, visit this Mass.gov webpage, Problem Animal Control agents. If any wildlife appears to display sick, injured or rabid behavior, please call the Cambridge Police Department at 617-349-3300 for animal control radio dispatch.

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