Jun 6, 2023 - News

Scoop: New doggy day care death renews call for state regulations

Illustration of a dog holding a gavel in it's mouth like a stick

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Another dog has died after being watched by a former doggy day care owner in Massachusetts, reigniting interest in a proposal to regulate pet care facilities.

Why it matters: Dog lovers and advocates who learned about the latest death say it illustrates the need for statewide standards of care and severe penalties for those who violate the rules.

What's happening: A three-year-old dog named Cooper was in the care of Denise Degon when he died unexpectedly in March, according to an email written by East Longmeadow's health director that was obtained by Axios.

Flashback: Degon was the owner of Pampered Pets doggie day care, which came under public scrutiny and was forced to close several years ago after a labradoodle named Ollie was attacked by multiple dogs there and later died.

  • The tragedy prompted an outcry and sparked a state bill known as “Ollie’s law.” The bill was quashed last session, but refiled earlier this year.

Zoom in: The bill's supporters say pet deaths like Ollie's and Cooper's are the product of Massachusetts’ virtually nonexistent safety regulations for doggy day cares and kennel facilities.

  • Safety standards vary from one municipality to the next, if they even exist, as do the protocols for investigating complaints and the penalties for violating standards.
  • The "Ollie's law" bill would create statewide regulations on staff-to-animal ratios, injury reporting and licensing. It would also make the state publish investigative reports if a probe results in action taken against a pet care business.

Details: Cooper’s owners had Degon pick up the dog in February when they had to travel out of the country.

  • After a few weeks of watching him, Degon tells Axios she left him at home with her two dogs one day while she visited her boyfriend at the hospital. The dog had been healthy, she says. When she returned home, she saw Cooper was hurt and took him to a vet in Connecticut where he was pronounced dead.
  • East Longmeadow officials subsequently issued a cease-and-desist order against Degon for running an unauthorized pet care business out of her home.

The other side: Degon tells Axios she was watching Cooper not in East Longmeadow but at her new home in Springfield, which doesn't require a kennel license for anyone looking after fewer than four dogs. She says she’s now stopped watching dogs in Springfield as well.

What they're saying: Cooper’s death incensed animal advocates, including Rep. Brian Ashe, who represents East Longmeadow and filed the Ollie's law bill. They say local officials would have more teeth to keep animals safe with a statute like Ollie’s law in place.

  • "Nobody would drop their kid off in an unsafe environment," Ashe tells Axios. “We don't want people dropping off their dogs in an unsafe environment.”

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