Pet boarding

Yorkie death leads to demand for pet boarding regulations

Marilyn and Howard Stogdill (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
Jodi Myers (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
Jodi Myers (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
All about Pawz Kennel (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)
All about Pawz Kennel (Source: Jeff Knight, WAVE 3 News)

SEYMOUR, IN (WAVE) — Pets are part of the family for many of us. Losing one can be devastating. When death could have been avoided, the pain is even worse. Now, a tragic incident at a southern Indiana kennel has prompted a family to call for new laws. They want specific regulations on the companies we trust to care for our animals who, at present, are only subject to animal cruelty laws.

Howard and Marilyn Stogdill think these tighter restrictions could have saved the life of their beloved Yorkie, Gus. Marilyn said Gus was more than a dog. He was a friend.

“It’s almost hard not to call him a person,” she said. “He wanted to be where everyone else was. He was so attached to Howard that he knew when it was time for him to come home.”

Gus will never be home again. A trip to All About Pawz Kennel in Brownstown, Indiana left the couple with tears and so many questions.

“We had been boarding there for years,” Howard said. “We had Gus almost 13. And this is the first time we got a call. And when I saw my cell phone, you know, I knew it wasn’t good.”

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Howard received the call while he and his wife were on a Memorial Day motorcycle trip to Washington, DC. Gus was injured after being attacked by a larger dog.

“I said if he needed any kind of care, please provide him with all the care he needs,” Howard said.

Jodi Myers, owner of All About Pawz Kennel, had other plans.

“I was walking into my son’s graduation at the time,” Myers said.

Her policy was that she was the only one who could take an animal to the vet. So the Stogdills waited. Gus waited.

The nearest vet is about 10 minutes down the road from the kennel. But it would take them nearly three hours to get medical attention for Gus at this animal hospital in Seymour.

The vet said the injuries Gus suffered were critical. Another two hours passed before Myers could take him to an emergency vet in Louisville. It was too late. Gus is dead on the table.

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“I thought about him every day,” Myers said. “I thought, can I take this day back? I can’t. I wish I could, I would do things differently.”

Myers admits she and her staff should have acted faster. Still, the Stogdills have no legal recourse, other than a civil lawsuit, because pet boarding is unregulated by the vast majority of states, including Indiana and Kentucky.

The same goes for pet groomers, where numerous cases of abuse and neglect have been reported across the country, including at a Petco in Virginia this summer where a golden retriever named Colby likely died of heatstroke after being left in a kennel dryer.

Petco released a statement that said in part:

“We take full responsibility for what happened…and remain heartbroken at Colby’s untimely passing.”

“Those directly involved are no longer part of our business,” the statement added.

The Stogdills want Indiana lawmakers to pass laws to regulate pet groomers and boarders.

“In Indiana, a pet, one that you love and is part of your family, is just considered property,” Howard said.

Surveillance that could spare another family the heartache Howard feels every time he comes home.

“Those are the real tough times, that’s the time of day when we knew we were going to be with him,” Howard said, stopping in tears.

At least three states – New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts – are currently considering laws to regulate the pet grooming industry. But it’s hard to determine how many states have similar legislation or already have levels of surveillance in place, according to Rebecca Wisch, associate editor of Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center. Here is what she wrote:

We don’t have a list of states or even an article exploring the issue of boarding/groomer regulations. To further complicate this, any control over these companies may be within state laws or state administrative regulations. My understanding is that most states only regulate groomers as businesses and do not impose any regulations other than those related to licensing. Even in 2012, this issue surfaced in California and was seemingly defeated (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/01/senator-wants-pet-groomers-licensed-by-state-california. html ). In NY, the issue seemed to have stalled: http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S3156-2011. Unfortunately, searching state administrative regulations is much more difficult than state laws and would take a lot of time (there is no easy way to search state administrative codes). It may indeed be that some states have specific standards of care in administrative regulations for groomers (or even pending legislation), although I doubt that.

Boarding schools may be regulated at the level of state law and administrative regulation. Using the Search Materials link on our website to search for United States laws that include the search term “boarding” reveals many results that include Equine Activities Laws, Dangerous Dogs Laws and other unrelated laws. There may not be a quick way to research the laws governing boarding schools or kennels. Laws that impose minimum standards of care for kennels generally apply only to pet-breeding kennels that (see https://www.animallaw.info/filters?topic=23857&species=All&type=statute&country=14172&jurisdiction= All&combine_op=contains&keyword=boarding

The other issue would be how a business defines itself (kennel or groomer or both – or even affiliated with a veterinary practice, which adds another layer) as to whether it would fall under existing laws.

Myers said she would do everything possible to pressure Indiana lawmakers to take action.

“I will go with them, I will stand up, I will walk and I will try to change things,” she said. “Because you know, unfortunately, it took something like Gus’ death for me to change my ways.”

She has now changed a number of her policies as a result of what happened to Gus.

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