NORWOOD, Ohio - Doggie day cares and kennels like the one in Norwood linked to three deaths this month are not professionally licensed or inspected in Ohio or Kentucky, by the state or counties.
That came as a surprise to dog owner Heidi Moser, who has used The Pet Spot in Norwood for years.
“No? I would have thought there’d be some standard. I would say the general populace does not know that,” Moser said.
That explains why no government agency is investigating the deaths of three dogs cared for at Pet Spot. All three are said to have died from a violent, undetermined illness.
“Because the tests are still pending, I don’t really know what’s going on down there,” Dr. Tony Forshey, chief of the Division of Animal Health, Ohio Department of Agriculture, told WCPO Digital Wednesday.
Ohio State University veterinarians have been testing tissues to find the cause of death, Forshey said.
“At this point, we don’t even know if it was an infectious disease or a toxin. It would take something infectious or contagious before we make a move,” Forshey said.
In the worst-case scenario, the Ohio Revised Code gives ODA the authority to order a quarantine if it turns out the cause of death was a “dangerously contagious or infectious and reportable disease,” as listed in the ORC.
There are no regulations requiring a doggie day care like Pet Spot to even report a dog’s death unless it falls in that category. Then the ORC requires it to notify the DOA or a veterinarian.
“The veterinarians are my eyes and ears,” Forshey said.
In the Pet Spot case, veterinarians reported the deaths to the ODA and sent one of the dogs to Ohio State.
Asked if he thought the state should license or regulate doggie day cares and boarding businesses, Forshey said:
“I don’t have the answer to that. We did just get authority on commercial dog breeders.”
The so-called puppy mill law, which took effect this year, could lead to discussion about government oversight of doggie day cares and the like, the executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association told WCPO Digital.
”When the puppy mill legislation began to take hold, out of that conversation, people started to look at other places where large numbers of animals are kept - kennels, rescue groups, humane societies - and ask if additional oversight could help guarantee proper care,” said Jack Advent.
“The gist was there is probably some need for dialogue in that area.”
Legislators may have shown favor when “Nitro’s Law” was incorporated into the state budget bill this year. “Nitro’s Law” was named after one of 19 dogs found dead or starving at a kennel near Youngstown in 2008. The kennel operator was charged with four misdemeanors.
“Nitro’s Law” allows prosecutors to bring felony charges for abusing an animal at any facility that holds a commercial kennel license, whether it’s a boarding, training, breeder or rescue facility.
In the Pet Spot case, Forshey said the ODA would “take appropriate action based on the determination of the disease.”
The Ohio Department of Agriculture ordered a quarantine at Beulah Park race track in the winter of 2010-11 after three horses died from equine herpesvirus.
“We locked the barns and guards were posted. Nothing went in or out except owners feeding their horses,” Forshey said. “We kept them on quarantine for at least two incubation periods.”
That quarantine lasted 47 days. Not all quarantines need to be so severe.
“It depends on the disease and how it spreads,” Forshey said. “A quarantine could be just keeping an animal in the house.”
Pet Spot owner Jeff Voelpel temporarily closed his day care facility Aug. 16 – several days after the dogs died – and has continued to operate his boarding and grooming business.
WCPO Digital asked Forshey if he thought Pet Spot should have closed down immediately and completely.
“It’s not for me to make that decision or call or have an opinion on,” Forshey said.
Since the three dogs died, Voelpel said he has “taken every precaution” to protect the dogs at Pet Spot. He said he consulted with Dr. Paul Stull, assistant state veterinarian, and arranged for testing and sanitizing at his facility.
Moser said she started taking her dogs to Pet Spot when it opened seven years ago.
“In the beginning it was all about location, accessibility and availability,” she said.
“What I like about it is it’s well run, it’s clean, the people who work there love dogs, and my dogs love the place.”
Another local dog owner, Monica Schoener, doesn't go to Pet Spot and said she knew that her doggie-day care wasn’t professionally licensed or inspected because the owner told her.
"Groomers aren't licensed, either," said Schoener, a licensed hair stylist.
Schoener said she took advice from her network of clients to choose a day care, a boarder and a groomer for her dog.
“It really is buyer beware,” Schoener said.