Death of beloved dog prompts Massachusetts mom to advocate for stronger regulations at pet daycares

LONGMEADOW, Mass. — Anyone whose had a dog knows they quickly become part of the family.

That was certainly the case with a labradoodle named Ollie.

When Amy Baxter of Longmeadow watched her family’s treasured pet die after being mauled by other dogs at daycare, she’s wasn’t going to let that be in vain.

A bill called Ollie’s Law has been filed on Beacon Hill.

“He was a goofball,” said Baxter with a laugh. “He was just silly, sweet. He had very big wide expressive eyes.”

Ollie quickly won Amy’s heart, and her 13-year-old daughter’s.

They were traumatized when the seven-month-old puppy was attacked by a group of aggressive dogs inside a pet daycare.

“He had so many puncture wounds on his body that the vets stopped counting,” said Baxter. “One dog had torn his abdomen from side to side.”

Ollie died two months after the attack, despite multiple surgeries.

Baxter learned soon after that pet daycare facilities aren’t licensed by the state.

“I realized that there is a loophole. It’s just this industry that isn’t regulated at all.”

“Sadly, that’s sometimes how we find out there aren’t sufficient laws on the books, when a tragedy happens,” explained State Representative Brian Ashe, who represents the second Hamden district.

Ashe is working with Baxter on Ollie’s Law. It would supersede a patchwork system of municipal regulations with a state law.

Facilities would have to be licensed by the state to make sure they met minimum requirements for staff to dog ratios and that staff members are trained to understand dog behavior and pack mentality.

Ollie’s Law would also require facilities to develop emergency response plans, so no time is lost if there is an incident.

“There are all different types of injuries and deaths that we’ve seen, including death by fire,” said Kara Holmquist of the Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals.

The animal advocacy organization is supporting Ollie’s Law in part because they don’t believe it’s an isolated case.

“We do get calls quite frequently, and I’ve been working at the statehouse with a group of people have the saddest stories of pets dying and being injured at daycare facilities so I’m sure there are more out there,” added Holmquist.

Boston 25 News reached out to the International Boarding and Pet Services Association about this bill. CEO Carmen Rustenbeck said, “Our members in Massachusetts decided they would like to see some more regulation…They’re very happy with bill, where it’s at right now. It’s a good first step.”

That’s good news for Baxter, who thinks the bill is needed more than ever, particularly as the dog population has soared during the pandemic.

Baxter is busy training Oscar, another labradoodle these days, but Ollie will always be in her heart.

“I think it’s the only thing that has kept me together through this is just that maybe I can possibly prevent someone else’s child from having to suffer like my daughter did,” said Baxter.

Baxter and her daughter also established a memorial fund at the Dakin Humane Society to help provide low cost medical care to families and pets in need.