REVERE, Mass. — FOX25 Investigates is examining the law surrounding pet shops and kennels and what is in place to protect dogs and potential owners.
FOX25 found big inconsistencies in how commercial pet shelters are regulated and who’s regulating them. FOX25’s investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh spoke with pet owners who say dogs are getting sick and dying as a result.
“We had this brand new little baby puppy that we already loved so much, and we didn’t know if she was going to be okay,” pet owner Jaimie Gaudet said.
Days after Gaudet brought her puppy home, she checked Coco into a pet hospital.
“We couldn’t see her that night, and we’re like crying, and we went home because we didn’t know if she was going to live,” Gaudet told FOX25.
Veterinarians diagnosed Coco with parvo.
Gaudet purchased her Havanese puppy at Laughlin Kennels in Oxford, a kennel that has been the center of more than two dozen complaints filed with the state in the last three years.
“I got a dog with pneumonia,” dog owner Sara Iacono said.
“He was extremely sick and wasn’t sure he was going to really make it,” Shirley Tetreault told FOX25 about her dog.
As FOX25 reported earlier this month, the town issued Laughlin Kennels a cease and desist order. However, it had nothing to do with sick puppies, but zoning violations instead.
Laughlin Kennels has not responded to FOX25’s requests for comment.
CONFUSING KENNEL AND PET SHOP LAWS
So what happens when animal welfare complaints pile up?
FOX25 Investigates began digging into the confusing system surrounding how Massachusetts pet shops and kennels are licensed, regulated, and held accountable.
“Part of the problem is there is a disparity in the regulations in that if you’re a pet shop, you are regulated by the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources. But if you’re a breeding kennel, you are not necessarily subject to that same oversight by a state agency,” said Republican State Senator Bruce Tarr, of Gloucester.
Tarr is asking a task force to explore standardizing the regulations.
“There needs to be some more standardization among those things so regardless of where a puppy finds itself, that there is some kind of protection that is common to all,” Tarr told FOX25.
The Department of Agricultural Resources told FOX25 they have six inspectors overseeing the state’s 139 licensed pet shops. Breeding and boarding kennels fall to the municipalities, and law enforcement also plays a role.
FOX25’s Kerry Kavanaugh asked inspectors to walk her through what they would normally do when visiting a kennel.
“First what we do is look at the licenses,” said Lt. Alan Borgal with the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
Borgal is a state trooper who works for the league and brought FOX25 on an inspection of the Ocean View Kennel in Revere, which is a business in good standing.
He says whether boarding your dog at a kennel or purchasing from a pet shop, you should ask to see the entire facility of the spot. He agrees that the burden shouldn’t rest solely with the consumer, and the system could do a better job regulating any place a puppy ends up.
“There is no clear regulation for licensed kennels. It’s all based on being a sanitary kennel, keeping records, and if it’s a humane place for the animals,” Borgal said.
FOX25 Investigates learned since 2012, inspectors issued 17 penalty notices, quarantined one pet shop, suspended another, and later tried to revoke that same shop's license.
Tarr has led the charge to strengthen the laws on animal cruelty.
He sent a letter to a state-appointed animal cruelty prevention task force asking them for recommendations that could potentially lessen the constraints on state inspectors that currently cannot examine or license kennels.
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