For the second year in a row, Laughlin Kennel in Oxford, Massachusetts, finds itself on the Humane Society of the United State’s annual Horrible Hundred Report.
The report lists what the society describes as problem puppy mills and dog sellers across the country. This comes, as there’s an effort at the Massachusetts State House to strengthen the state’s Pet Lemon Law.
Susan McGinn has her hands full with a Mini-Poodle puppy named Duke.
"He's a naughty little boy, but I love him," said McGinn.
But Duke wasn’t Susan’s first choice. She got him after a series of unexpected events. In 2016, Susan went to Laughlin Kennel in Oxford to pick out a puppy.
"It was a little unsettling, walking in there, and you couldn't see the dogs," McGinn said.
Despite that, McGinn bought Josey, a Teacup Maltese puppy. She said she brought him home and things went downhill - fast.
"It was probably 4 to 5 hours later I noticed he was getting very lethargic," she said.
That night, she took Josey to the vet. The medical report indicates he was dull, hypoglycemic and dehydrated. He was discharged the next day with a nearly $778 medical bill.
"A few hours later that night, he was like having a seizure — limp and back to Tufts we went," McGinn explained.
Due to his medical issues, McGinn made the difficult decision to leave him in the permanent care of Tufts. Susan says she notified Laughlin Kennel about the dog’s medical problems. They offered to let her pick out another puppy, but she declined. They refunded half of her money.
"I knew I wasn't going to return him to Laughlin. There was no way," McGinn said.
Laughlin Kennel in Oxford is a licensed pet shop, where the owner breeds some of the dogs that are sold there. It’s been in operation for over 20 years and it’s no stranger to controversy. For the second year in a row, it’s landed on the Humane Society’s Horrible Hundred Report.
"They have been cited by the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources for violations for providing insufficient amounts of water for their puppies, for keeping them in cramped cages," said Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts State Director of the Humane Society.
NBC10 Boston confirms with MDAR that Laughlin violated inspection for inadequate animal care in May 2017, but rectified the problems and avoided a fine for that violation. But, during that same inspection, Laughlin was ordered to pay $3,500 for violations of cage size requirements. In October 2017, it was fined an additional $4,500 for violations related to inadequate ventilation and high temperatures. Laughlin appealed and the case is pending.
A staff member at the kennel turned us away and calls and emails to the owner, Robert Fink went unanswered.
Gabby Marston visited Laughlin three weeks ago.
"Within about 24 hours she developed a cough," Marston said.
She bought Sadie, a Shetland Sheepdog puppy.
"She first had kennel cough, and then giardia, but even with the medication, after four days it developed into pneumonia. And she was in the hospital," Marston said.
Her sales contract carried a 14-day health guarantee, but Marston said she did not try to get a refund or a replacement puppy because she thought she would have to return Sadie to Laughlin and she feared for her safety. Marston added she would have steered clear of the kennel if she had known about the past problems there.
In a statement, MDAR tells us: "In accordance with state law, the Division of Animal Health has routinely inspected Laughlin Kennel, investigated all complaints, and taken disciplinary action when violations are found."
The state can revoke or suspend any kennel’s license if it’s continually out of compliance. In Laughlin’s case, that has not happened.
Marston said she has already racked up more than $3,000 dollars in vet bills, but the prognosis is good.
"I don’t want it to happen to anyone else, and I also feel even worse for all of the dogs that are in there," said Marston.
When buying a pup, the Humane Society says you should: ask where the puppies came from, and meet the puppies in person.
Meanwhile, there’s a bill pending at the State House to further protect puppies, kittens, and consumers. Among other things, Senate Bill 2331 would allow for the full reimbursement of vet bills, if you purchase a sick animal.