3 animal-related measures considered; 2 supported

UPDATED April 1: The Select Board last week considered three Town Meeting articles concerning animals; despite a passionate presentation advocating for pets in rentals, that proposal did not receive board support, while the other two did.

Paul Schlichtman of Precinct 9 and Christine A. Dorchak of Precinct 8 presented Article 17: Bylaw Amendment/Right to Pet Companionship to the board at its March 26 meeting.

“The article would require rental agreements and condominium associations to permit residents to own a common household pet or have a common household pet present,” Schlichtman said. The pair described such animal companions as those commonly kept as pets and typically residing and sleeping indoors, including but not limited to dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, fish, hamsters and gerbils.

While this proposal if adopted at Town Meeting (starting April 24) would be the first enactment of an article of this nature in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is modeled after current California laws, they said. Article 17 as written would exempt additional dwelling units, roommate situations and two-family homes where one resident is the property owner.

Schlichtman and Dorchak said they believe that this bylaw should be passed because animals play a large role in many people's lives and can have physical and mental benefits. “Companion animals are members of our family. The petitioner is simply asking the town to recognize this,” said Dorchak. “Those who share their hearts and their homes with four-footed friends should be able to do so peacefully.”

The petitioners then explained that what they consider to be discrimination against pets and their humans is adding to the current housing crisis across the state. When people with pets seek homes, their options are reduced to locations that permit animals; this is something that has happened to Dorchak herself.

Schlichtman noted, “Some people choose homelessness rather than separation from their four-legged family members. Being forced to choose between a beloved pet and a safe home has detrimental impacts on people's physical health and emotional well-being.”

While the board was sympathetic to this concept after listening to both public and board discussion, ultimately, Select Board Vice Chair John V. Hurd recommended no action; this stance was seconded by member Diane M. Mahon and unanimously agreed upon by the board.

Commenters mentioned having worries about possibly unlimited numbers of pets, about the effect of indoor pets on people with allergies and the ramifications to general cleanliness of animal-occupied homes. The board agreed that there could be other negative impacts and took the position that Town Meeting is not the appropriate place to enact these changes and that, instead, the matter ought to be taken up in state or federal legislation.

Restrictions on animal-fur sales, pet sales endorsed

The board was also asked to examine policy concerning the sales of fur and of pets in the town. Elizabeth Dray of Jason Street, TMM from Precinct 10, presented Article 15 Bylaw Amendment/Prohibition of Fair-Trade Restrictions - Fur Products.

“Arlington has been a leader in passing local and state laws that support animal, environmental and human health,” she said. “I’m here to ask the Select Board to continue this proud tradition by voting to prohibit the sale of new fur products in Arlington.”

The proposed bylaw would prohibit the sale, trade and distribution of finished fur products from animals raised in fur farms or from animals trapped and killed only for their pelts; this would apply to in-person retail sales only. The bylaw would not prohibit the sale of leather, cowhide or sheepskin with hair fibers still attached; to used fur sold privately and/or secondhand, or to fur used for Native American tribal purposes, religious purposes or taxidermy.

Comments by both board members and residents seemed to indicate that Arlington should be consistent in its commitment to animal-welfare issues. “It says a lot about a community and town in how we treat the vulnerable and those without a voice,” said Board Chair Eric Helmuth. “I include our animal friends in that, and I appreciate the heart and hard work that went into this -- and I hope the Town Meeting also does as well.”

Accordingly, Article 15 was unanimously approved.

The same was true with Article 16: Bylaw Amendment/Pet Sale Restrictions/Retail Pet Sales. The third and final animal-related warrant article brought to the board’s attention that evening was Article 16, which would prohibit the sale of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in pet shops within the town of Arlington.

This bylaw would not apply to breeders or to animal shelters. Instead, pet shops would be encouraged to partner with shelters promote the adoption and rescue of animals in need of homes.

Water, sewer rates to rise slightly

In addition to animals, the board entertained a discussion concerning Fiscal Year 2025 water/sewer rates led by Town Manager Jim Feeney and Director of Public Works Mike Rademacher.

The pair asked for a “modest increase” of 3.05 percent for water rates and of 3.13 percent for sewer rates. With these changes, the expected increase for a three-month bill for an average Arlington household would be $10, they said.

Hurd motioned for approval of this suggestion, which was seconded by Stephen W. DeCourcey and resulted in a 5-0 vote in favor.

In other business, the board:
  • Agreed to endorse the housing, historic preservation and open space/recreation projects in the Community Preservation Act committee presentation by Clarissa Rowe and Sue Doctrow;
  • Motioned for no action for Article 18: Bylaw Amendment/Historic Building Demolition Delay and also for Article 19: Vote/Extend Time for Artificial Turf Study Committee and Report; and
  • Approved five more Town Meeting articles for future review; those were:
    • Article 6: Bylaw Amendment/Vacant Store Front Maintenance Registry;
    • Article 8: Bylaw Amendment/Annual Town Meeting Start Date;
    • Article 9: Bylaw Amendment/Revised Town Meeting Start Time;
    • Article 10: Bylaw Amendment/Start Time for Annual Town Meeting; and
    • Article 11: Bylaw Amendment/Fossil Fuel Free Bylaw Language Change

The April 1 Select Board meeting was expected to deal primarily with articles on the warrant for Town Meeting.

 Watch March 26 Select Board meeting:


March 25, 2024: Select Board renews electricity program, appoints teen to key commission

 This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Cassidy McNeeley was published Sunday, March 31, 2024; it was updated Monday, April 1, to add a link to the agenda to the Select Board meeting scheduled that evening

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