PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Department of Environmental Management is tasked with inspecting kennels across the state, but a Target 12 investigation has found the state only inspects them when they first open or in response to a complaint.
“That’s basically the limitation of the staffing that we have,” Rhode Island’s state veterinarian, Dr. Scott Marshall, told Target 12. “We would like to conduct inspections more often than that, but we have had to resort to them basically complaint based.”
However, Marshall said the state always responds and takes action when violations are found.
Since 2018, there have been three notices of violations issued to kennels across the state, and one denial to renew a kennel license.
The kennel that received the denial was Doggie Styles, operating in North Smithfield and owned by John Froais. According to court documents, Froais previously had a license to operate a kennel in North Providence, but then moved to North Smithfield.
The state veterinarian was driving by the facility and noticed the business had moved to a new location, prompting an inspection in 2019.
According to DEM records, inspectors found several violations, including cages where dogs could not fully stand up and one dog whose cage was filthy. Authorities also found a cat with a painful eye condition that was never brought to see a veterinarian.
Froais is facing 16 charges including cruelty to animals and illegal practice of veterinary medicine. He pleaded not guilty and his case is pending in Superior Court.
Target 12 also reviewed the three past violations found by the state. One described how a group of dogs were left unsupervised. During the unsupervised play, the dog Eli was hurt and later died. A veterinarian noted his injuries were consistent with being attacked by other dogs. The facility was fined $2,000.
Another violation was issued to a kennel after investigators found several violations, including 25 dogs at the facility when they were only permitted to have nine. DEM investigators also discovered that there were no cleaning logs present in any of the rooms where the dogs were housed. That kennel was fined $10,000, was forced to surrender its license and was issued a cease-and-desist order; the kennel license was later reinstated.
Other documents show another facility was issued a violation when a golden retriever was in labor for 22 hours. Records show three puppies died and two were born alive. The veterinarian cited that the diseased puppies would have been alive if they received the proper treatment in a timely manner. Documents show the owner of the dog went to sleep while the dog was in labor. The facility was ordered to pay $3,000.
Cities and towns also have the authority to inspect kennels, but Target 12 found many municipalities leave it up to the state to follow through with inspections.
Target 12 called every municipality in the state. Of the 19 that responded, only six towns say they inspect kennels once a year.
Vaccination requirements for boarding your dogs
Rhode Island mandates that every animal get a rabies vaccine, but it is up to municipalities or individual kennels to enforce other core vaccines.
Target 12 called every city and town in the state to ask about pet vaccinations. Among the 19 communities which responded, Providence is the only one that mandates a distemper vaccine.
Marshall, the state veterinarian, said it could be beneficial to require a vaccine against parvovirus, as well.
“The argument for parvo being mandated makes more sense because of more likely exposure and also the consequences of that disease,” he said. “You know young dogs that get parvo often times will succumb to it.”
Matt Dame, owner of the Bristol pet daycare A Dogs Life, said he only watches dogs that have all of their up-to-date vaccines.
“People are lax, and they do slack on things it just sets a bad example of pet owners in general,” he said.
While state authorities said most kennels are perfectly safe for your pet, it’s important to do your research on the facility. DEM officials recommend to give the department a call at (401) 222-4700 if you want to check for any past violations.
Here is a full list of all licensed kennels operating in the state: