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Activists Call For State Regulation Of Pet Boarding Businesses

Amy Baxter speaks in front of microphones
Paul Tuthill

   Legislation is being proposed in Massachusetts to regulate dog boarding kennels and pet day care businesses. 

   Amy Baxter is turning tragedy into action.

    Last fall, her seven-month old labradoodle “Ollie” died after being mauled by five dogs at a pet day care business in East Longmeadow.  In trying to piece together what exactly had happened, Baxter said she discovered there is no state oversight of the pet boarding industry.

   "It just seemed ludicrous to me," said Baxter.

          On Wednesday – the day Ollie would have turned 1-year-old – Baxter stood with a group of animal welfare advocates and pet owners in front of the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield to announce legislation to require the state licensure of pet day care and boarding businesses.

"I am incredibly proud to announce that HD. 3356 known as "Ollie's Law" has been introduced in the Massachusetts House of Represenatives," said Baxter as she choked back tears.   

The crowd of about two dozen people applauded.

The bill would empower the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to create regulations including staff-to-dog ratios, group sizes, minimum care standards, and insurance requirements. Employees would be required to have training about dog body language and animal behavior.

  Baxter said the legislation is “reasonable and fair.”

"Day care owners are being paid as pet professionals and they should provide a professoinal service," said Baxter. "Just having a love of animals isn't enough."

  To assist in drafting the initial regulations, there would be an advisory committee that would include an industry representative.

  Jeni Mather, the president of JM Pet Resort in Brockton, said she believes the basic standards envisioned in the legislation would not be a burden on pet boarding businesses regardless of size.

"I fully support Ollie's Law," said Mather. "Regulation in our industry needs to happen."

  The sponsor of the legislation, Democratic State Rep. Brian Ashe, said to write the bill he worked with a group of about a dozen people including Baxter, animal welfare advocates, and the owners of two pet care businesses.

"I am confident. I think this is going to have some legs and move along," said Ashe.  "Sadly it is sometimes because of a tragedy that we find out there are loopholes or holes in certain laws and this is one of those instances."

   Because the industry is unlicensed by the state it is unknown how many pet care businesses might be impacted by the legislation.

   It is also unknown how many dogs have been harmed in these facilities through the years.  An official with the MSPCA cited two incidents: one where a dog died from mistreatment that was seen on security video and another where fire claimed the lives of several animals after the kennel was left unattended.

   Earlier this year, the planning board in East Longmeadow revoked the business permit for the doggie day care facility where Ollie was attacked.






Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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