Incidents spark push for dog daycare regulation – Boston News, Weather, Sports
Amy Baxter’s daughter wanted a dog since she was in preschool.
When COVID hit and Baxter’s daughter was in eighth grade, she thought it was a good time to have a puppy and adopted a labradoodle named Ollie. Five months later, Baxter dropped Ollie off at a dog daycare center in East Longmeadow.
An hour and a half later, she received a disturbing text.
“I got a text saying your dog has a cut, could you pick him up and take him to the vet,” she told the News Service. “When I arrived, my dog couldn’t stand up. It turns out that dogs broke his legs with their teeth. He was mutilated by a pack of dogs.
Ollie was in and out of hospital for eight weeks, had three surgeries before dying two months later. The death prompted Baxter to work with lawmakers to craft a bill that would establish new regulations for kennels and daycares, according to advocates in the area, which are currently not monitored by the state.
A bill by Rep. Brian Ashe, dubbed “Ollie’s Law,” would direct the state animal health director to create rules regarding staff-to-dog ratios, group size and supervision, housing minimum, care requirements, physical facility requirements, dog handling, insurance, contingency plans and penalties for breaching regulations.
The Consumer Protection and Licensure Committee sent this bill (H 305) for consideration, ending its chance to move this session forward. Proponents of the bill said the legislation was likely sent for consideration due to a disagreement between advocates and the American Kennel Club Association.
“I have my suspicions about what happened in consumer protection, but the American Kennel Club opposed the bill. Their members don’t own daycare. They own breeding kennels, that would fall under that definition,” Baxter said.
A New England spokesperson for the American Kennel Club was unavailable to discuss the situation, but said in an email they believe the Legislature is “resolving this issue.”
Animal rights activists organized as Ollie’s Law Coalition are supporting two bills (H 949/S 1322) that would set minimum standards for kennels and day cares.
“[S 1322 is] like an omnibus baby bill. It has a few other things, but the daycare article uses exactly the same language as [Ollie’s Law]”, said Baxter. “It’s still a great vehicle. And we met [Sen. Michael Rodrigues] and his team this morning, and they’re working on it with MDAR, they have every intention of putting something down.
Senate bill, introduced by Senator Harriette Chandler, prohibits sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks old, requires enactment of regulations for boarding schools and breeders, prohibits sale of roadside animals and updates “obsolete” language in kennel licensing laws. , according to the MSPCA.
The Committee on Municipalities and Regional Governments held a hearing on the bill in late September 2021, then reported it favorably to the Senate Ways and Means Committee in December 2021.
Senate Speaker Karen Spilka met with supporters of the bill in her office Thursday after the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston held a rally outside the State House.
“I was thrilled to meet the Ollie Lawyers who visited us today, especially this sweet Jellybean girl, who is looking for a family to call her own!” Spilka said in a tweet which included a photo of the Ashland Democrat holding a puppy. “I met my sweet boy Lincoln at the State House on a plea day in 2014.”
Currently, a person who wants to operate a kennel must obtain a permit and obtain the approval of the municipality. But Boston Dog Lawyers founder Jeremy Cohen says there’s a problem — “kennel” can apply to many different entities, whether it’s someone keeping a number of dogs at home or from a professional business that is setting up.
“Naming has been an issue since we began trying to fix it. Because the kennel encompasses far too many entities and private individuals,” he told the News Service.
In one case, a Cohen client wanted to open a shop in Marblehead, went to the town clerk, and got a certificate for his business. The problem, Cohen said, is that the certificate the client received only recognized the company name and was not a license to operate a kennel.
Cohen says the lack of awareness of current laws and the lack of regulations lead to legal issues for businesses and pet owners.
“Really, you have to make sure for zoning purposes that it’s an area of town or city where you can have a boarding school,” he said. “You need this local license but after that you don’t need anything, I mean here because of the lack of enforcement no one ever questioned if the boarding school in the case of Ollie even had a kennel license.”
MSPCA Senior Animal Welfare Researcher Melissa Ekvall said the lack of regulation leads to negative scenarios where pets are harmed. She said dog fights could take place as there are no rules about boarding small dogs with larger ones, staff may not be properly trained to break up fights and conditions may vary d one establishment to another.
Ekvall said lawmakers need to consider passing legislation that at least addresses dog-staff ratios and inspections.
“Things you would see in a daycare,” she said. “It’s basically your children, some people it’s their children. And so, you just want them to be protected and you want the staff to be protected too.
With “Ollie’s Law” hitting a wall this session, Baxter hopes lawmakers will take a hard look at the other two bills the coalition is proposing.
“There have been 16 deaths since Ollie. This must stop. And as far as I’m concerned, we made a lot of noise, we made people aware of that, ”she said. “So when the mutilations continue, it’s as much on the State House as it is on the owner of the kennel.”
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