Doggy "Doos" & Don'ts - Responsible Dog Ownership


The warm weather is here, Rockport residents are getting out and about, and visitors by the thousands will visit Rockport over the next several months; many with their dogs in tow, all of whom are more than welcome to the quaint, picturesque, and friendly seaside town. With the number of dogs in town, there are some 'doo's' and don'ts that residents and visitors need to keep in mind; all of which are important.

Dog Waste & Proper Disposal of Dog Waste

There has been a significant rise in complaints (not just in Rockport) about dog owners not picking up after their dogs which is a problem for several reasons (two of which include breaking the law and contributing to unsanitary health issues for people as well as other dogs/animals). While the majority of dog owners are responsible and caring, a number are not; and then some are a mix of the two; dog owners who pick up the waste, put it in doggy bags, but then toss the bags into the nearby bushes (see photo attached; Gap Cove area in Rockport). Proper disposal of dog waste is very important; it must be picked up, bagged, and put in receptacles for proper takeaway/disposal. Not picking up dog waste or tossing it in the bushes are examples of what not to do; these would each be a "don't".

The Town has purchased several new doggy-waste bag dispensers for convenience; they are located at: Millbrook Meadow (at the Beach Street end), Dock Square, Mt. Pleasant Street and Atlantic Avenue, Old Garden Beach, Back Beach, Main Street (by Toad Hall), Millbrook Meadow by the Park, Bearskin Neck (half-way down on right near Ray Moore's Lobster), Bearskin Neck at the end of the circle (by My Place By The Sea), and Beach Street by the Front Beach bathrooms. The bags are environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Please see the photo attached of the new green dispensers. Residents and tourists are encouraged to use them if they do not have bags of their own. Using the doggy-bag dispensers if you do not have bags of your own would be a "do".

There are fines and fees for not picking up after one's dog; the Town and the Rockport Animal Control Officer will be checking on improper disposal, keeping an eye on dog walkers, and will be fining all violators. Pet waste is not only unsightly; it exposes children, adults, and other animals (as dogs and other animals engage in eating stool left behind by other animals) to a host of health risks and disease including roundworms, hookworms, salmonella, e coli, and viruses such as parvovirus and coronavirus (all serious health threats). Pet waste attracts files; the very flies that come into your kitchen and land on your countertops and food.

Dog waste is an environmental pollutant and was labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991 as a non-point source pollutant, placing it in the same category as herbicides and insecticides such as oil, grease and toxic chemicals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that pet waste can contribute to diseases (called zoonoses) that animals can pass on to humans. When infected dog poop is deposited on lawns or the ground, the eggs of certain roundworms and other parasites can linger in the soil for years; those that garden, play sports, walk barefoot, or come in contact with the eggs run the risk of disease…this includes children and dogs.

Left in yards, streets, parks, beaches, and other areas, the pet waste - which contains bacteria, viruses, and other microbes - end up in our precious water sources. Pet waste the size of just a pea contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. Rainwater washes the waste into storm drains, beaches, ponds, and marine water causing bacterial contamination and pollution which people may ingest. Waste that ends up in storm sewers usually flows directly into a body of water without being treated. As well, these bacteria in pet waste ends up in shellfish and pose physical distress, sickness, and disease.

A short list of diseases attributed to pet waste:

  • Whipworms, Hookworms, Roundworms
  • Parvo, Corona, Giardiasis
  • Salmonellosis, Cryptosporidiosis, Campylobacteriosis

Rockport's bylaws with respect to removing and disposing of (in a suitable container) any feces left by their dog(s) on any property except their own; penalties range from $25 - $200. As the Town has seen a significant jump in the number of complaints about dog owners not picking up after their pets, this will become a priority. All residents and visitors should be picking up after their dogs; if you see dog owners not doing so, you may want to remind them that it's the law and it's a health hazard to leave it. The Rockport Animal Control Officer or the Board of Health should immediately be notified of offenders; in particular, repeat offenders so that the issue can be addressed. Letting Animal Control or the Board of Health know about offenders would be a "please do".

Fido's Boundaries/Leash Law/Prohibited Areas

Rockport has a leash law: Dogs may not run "at large"; all dogs need to be on a leash or under direct voice control at all times in Rockport. The owner or keeper must accompany the dog and must have a leash in possession at all times; dogs cannot simply be let out of the house to run. In the downtown area, dogs must always be leashed. Dog are not allowed on the beaches (unless a service dog) from June 1st through September 15th but are certainly welcome during the off season. Dog are not allowed in any of the cemeteries at any time. Walking your dog on the beaches (June 1 through September 15) or the cemeteries (at any time) would be a "don't". Walking your dog on a leash or under direct voice control with a leash in possession at all times would be a "do". In the downtown area, leashing your dog would be a "do".

Licenses & Rabies

All dogs 6 months or older must be licensed per the Massachusetts General Laws. Licenses can be obtained through the Town Clerks office are issued only with proof from your veterinarian of rabies vaccinations. Getting your dog to the veterinarian for a rabies shot and then following up by getting him/her licensed is a "do".

Enjoying your dog and keeping him/her healthy is definitely a "do" and in turn will keep our Town healthy, beautiful, and safe for all.