CT Veterinarian Facing Animal Cruelty Charges Returns To Work

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Not too long ago, I wrote a very disturbing post about a Connecticut veterinarian charged with animal cruelty and third-degree larceny in connection with his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I’ve been away since then, and just returned to work today. While going through my google alerts, this morning,  I learned that the veterinarian in question has also returned to work while his case winds its way through the courts. And while I understand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and everyone is entitled to due process, the thought of this man being allowed near another animal, much less being allowed to “treat” another animal disgusts me.

To recap, Dr. Dr. Amr Wasfi of Black Rock Animal Hospital in Bridgeport is accused of:

  • Lying about Monster’s condition
  • Performing unnecessary surgery
  • Failing to provide Monster with adequate food and water
  • Keeping Monster in the hospital for a prolonged period
  • Refusing to let Monster’s owner see the dog while Monster was at the hospital
  • Charging Monster’s owner for the unnecessary surgery

Wasfi is also accused of abusing a kitten that was in his care. According to someone who allegedly witnessed the incident, Wasfi “hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kitten’s intestines popped out of an incision.” The same witness said Wasfi was “agitated” and that he “threw surgical tools around the room.”

The witness was reportedly fired from the animal hospital after confiding to another employee that she planned to report the matter.

The initial court appearance

Wasfi was arrested last month, but posted a $10,000 bond and was released. Then, on May 8, he reportedly entered no plea to the charges. During Wasfi’s appearance that day, Superior Court Judge William Holden also granted Wasfi’s lawyer’s request to continue the matter until June 7 so the attorney could have more to time to “examine the evidence.”

Since then, Bridgeport police have warned the public not to take their pets to Black Rock Animal Hospital.

“We just want the public to be aware that if they were considering bringing their animals here, just to understand some of the criminal charges we uncovered here,” Bridgeport Police Capt. Brian Fitzgerald told the media.

Scary details about Wasfi’s past emerge

Published reports have also provided some valuable — and frightening — insight into Wasfi’s past. Specifically, they show that this is not the first time he’s been in trouble. Apparently, he had his license revoked in 1996, when the Connecticut Board of Veterinary Medicine found him guilty of “unskillfulness toward an animal.” His license was reinstated in 2003 contingent upon the successful completion of a five-year probationary period.He reportedly completed his probation on April 30, 2008.

Fast-forward to this year when, as the press reports, Connecticut authorities spent months investigating Wasfi prior to his arrest. The investigation stemmed from numerous complaints “about pets whose conditions worsened instead of improving after being treated by the veterinarian.”

Now, maybe some of you don’t think it’s fair to rush to judgment. Maybe some of you don’t believe in convicting someone in the court of public opinion without knowing all of the facts. Maybe some of you actually believe in second chances. Sometimes, I do, too. But not in this case.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Staggering Allegations Made Against CT Veterinarian

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In the United States of America, all new veterinarians take the following oath:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

But apparently some of them don’t take it seriously.

According to a recent news report, Dr. Amr Wasfi, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, veterinarian, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday. He is facing animal cruelty and third-degree larceny charges based on his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

The accusations are detailed in an arrest warrant and shared on an NBC affiliate’s website. As set forth in the warrant, Monster’s owner took him to the vet when he noticed Monster limping. That was on February 14, and the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee. Apparently, Wasfi prescribed some pain medicine and sent the dog home.

But when Monster hadn’t improved a week later, his owner brought him back to Black Rock Animal Hospital, where Wasfi again assessed the dog’s condition. This time, the diagnosis was a fractured pelvis. Monster’s owner learned that surgical intervention would be required, and Monster would have to stay at the hospital for five days (until March 7).

A stunning revelation

As NBC’s Connecticut affiliate reports, Monster’s owner told the authorities he contacted the vet that day, only to be told his dog couldn’t come home — yet. Instead, he was allegedly told, Monster had to “stay a few more days for monitoring.” Apparently, Monster’s repeated requests to see his dog after that were denied.  According to the warrant, he finally contacted Animal Control and retrieved Monster on March 25.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

According to the warrant, Monster’s owner then discovered that his dog, who 63 pounds prior to his stay at Black Rock Animal Hospital, had lost 17 pounds.

Monster’s owner then took him to the Emergency Room at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine. That’s when he learned that Monster never had a fracture and he never needed operation, which included putting a screw in Monster’s pelvis. One of the veterinarians that treated Monster at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine also told police that Monster was being treated for “refeeding syndrome” and dehydration. Police then learned that the treatment is warranted when “an animal is without proper food or water for at least 10 days.”

To make matters even worse, Monster’s owner also told police Wasfi charged him more than $3,000 for Monster’s operation.

An emerging pattern?

As NBC Connecticut also reports, that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Wasfi. A former Black Rock employee apparently reported that she “witnessed Wasfi hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kittens intestines popped out of an incision.” As documented in the warrant, the same complainant  also said that Wasfi was “agitated” and threw surgical tools around the room.”

The warrant also indicates she confided in a co-worker and said she planned to file a complaint. She also told police she planned to resign the next day, but when she showed up for work the employee with whom she shared her concerns greeted her at the door, in gave her a box of her belongings, and informed her she had been fired.

At this point, Wasfi also faces an uncertain fate. In addition to the criminal charges he is currently facing, he will likely face disciplinary action by the Connecticut State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Sec. 20-202(2) of Chapter 384 of the Connecticut General Statutes specifically states that the board can discipline a licensed veterinarian when there is proof that: “the holder of such license or certificate has become unfit or incompetent or has been guilty of cruelty, unskillfulness or negligence towards animals and birds.”

Sec. 20-202(3) of CGS Chapter 384 also authorizes the board to take disciplinary action based upon: “conviction of the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any court of criminal jurisdiction.”

However, the board cannot take any disciplinary action as long as the appeal of such a conviction is pending, or if the conviction is overturned on appeal.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

No horsing around: Well-Deserved Recognition For CT Rescue

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For this Connecticut rescue group, there’s no such thing as a big problem.

Since 2010, the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue (CDHR) has been saving horses from certain death. Today, the East Hampton, Connecticut-based organization has dozens of volunteers. It also has a recent commendation from the Connecticut General Assembly for its past and ongoing work.

“We went from very humble roots to what we are today,” founder Stacey Golub told the media.

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In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The effort began when Golub, a veterinarian, enlisted the help of some friends to save a Shire mare from a Pennsylvania auction and the slaughterhouse. Together, they scraped together enough money to transport, vet, and house her.

They also named her Cleo. And with their care, Cleo, who was initially in extremely rough shape, made an astounding recovery. Eventually, Cleo also got a new home.

And, as the Hartford Courant reports, the small, but dedicated group that saved her life “was hooked.” So in February of 2011, the CDHR officially became recognized nonprofit organization.

A place where size doesn’t matter

Although it is best known for rescuing big horses, CDHR doesn’t discriminate when it comes to helping animals in need. Since its inception, the group has also welcomed miniature horses along with goats and sheep.

Some of the animals have been neglected, and others are surrendered when their owners can no longer afford to provide suitable care. Then there are those that the group rescues from a weekly Pennsylvania auction where nearly half the horses on the block will likely end up at a slaughterhouse.

At CDHR, the first priority is the provision of healthcare, hoof care and training the horses need. Once those needs have been addressed, focus shifts to finding new homes for them.

“If we can’t do that, they stay here,” said Golub.

CDHR also encourages anyone who does adopt a horse to return it if they are unable to provide proper care for any reason, at any time.

An expensive endeavor

Even with as many as 12 volunteers per day helping to care for the horses at CDHR’s East Hampton property, costs add up quickly.

Golub estimates that the annual cost of hay alone easily tops $30,000. And then there are the expenses associated with veterinary care, special food, shoeing and related hoof care, and so on. On top of which, CDHR reportedly needs a new barn.

If you’ve got some spare change laying around and you want to contribute to a worthy cause, you  can help out by making a general donation to CDHR or a specific contribution for the barn project.

If you can’t make a donation at the moment, that’s fine, too. You can always volunteer, or even inquire about fostering or adopting a horse rescued by CDHR. You can learn more about these opportunities here.

Open house slated for May 19

If you live in the area, you can also learn about the wonderful work this group does at an open house scheduled for May 19. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CDHR’s East Hampton property, which is located at 113 Chestnut Hill Road. For more information, you can always call the group at  860-467-6587.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Connecticut Puppy Scam Alert Issued

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How much is that little doggy in the window?

In the past couple of years, I’ve done numerous posts on new initiatives and laws mandating that pet stores sell only dogs and cats sourced from shelters. In general, they address two concerns. The first is to alleviate the burden on crowded animal shelters across the country. The second is to crack down on so-called puppy mills. The latter is accomplished by preventing pet shops from sourcing animals from unscrupulous breeders.

Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with dog for adoption.
As seen at Puttin’ On The Dog, 2017. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Although these measures benefit from widespread public approval, they are not universally accepted. Critics have argued that preventing the sale of pure-bred animals at reputable pet shops will make the public more susceptible to scams.

“We’ve been sending home between 60 to 80 puppies a month, and we’ve been doing it for 25 years. Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Sean Silverman, the owner of Puppy Love in Danbury, Connecticut, told the media earlier this year.

“If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”

(Internet) buyer beware…

Apparently that’s sort of what happened to a Connecticut couple who recently shared their experience with the press.

A few months after the death of their 13-year-old pug Penelope in October, 2018, the couple “spotted some adorable little pugs for sale online.” Then, after visiting the website and initiating a conversation with the purported breeders by text message, the couple agreed to purchase one female and one male puppy for $650 each.

The cost raised some concerns, according to published reports.

“I questioned as to why they were so inexpensive. He said it was because it was Texas and no one’s willing to pay that much money for pugs in the South as compared to the Northeast,” Amy Beaulieu told the media.

Her concern grew when the alleged breeders directed them to send a $400 deposit through their United bank cash app.

“Eventually, he called one time and I said I have some concerns about the texting and this sounds a little bit too good to be true. And he assured me, it’s fine we’re a family business. Everything’s safe,” said Beaulieu.

According to Beaulieu, that was the last contact she had with the alleged breeder.

“We were pretty angry about it and felt a little bit naïve too,” she said.

With no other recourse, Beaulieu made a police report, filed a claim with her bank and reported the matter to the Better Business Bureau.

Now here’s some good advice

According to the BBB,  the vast majority of sponsored pet ads may be generated by people with less than honest motives. Consequently, the consumer watchdog says the Internet “may not always be the best way to purchase a pet.”

Citing reports made through its “Scam Tracker,” the agency also says that since the beginning of 2019, Connecticut consumers claim to have lost nearly $6,000 in online puppy scams.

The BBB serving Connecticut has this advice to help protect consumers when it comes to choosing their next pet:

  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an online search of the picture of the pet you are looking to purchase. If the same photograph is featured on multiple websites,  it may be a scam.
  • Do not honor any request for payment by money order/wire service. Using a credit card allows you to dispute the charges. Be wary of any seller who demands payment through other methods; and if you don’t feel comfortable, trust your instincts.
  • Be an educated consumer. Lookup the costs of puppies for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deep discount, it is probably too good to be true.
  • Don’t take the seller’s claims on face value. Visit bbb.org to verify an online breeder/seller’s reputation. Don’t be afraid to  ask the breeder for references and contact past customers.
  • Consider adopting or buying locally. Visit your local shelter and see if rescuing a dog (or cat) may be a viable option. This way, you can meet the dog or cat in need of a forever home.

At least this story has happy ending

Today, Beaulieu has two new pups — 4-month-old Milo and 12-week-old Apple. She bought them through the American Kennel Club.

And while there are lots of lessons to be learned from her story, she is not alone. You can learn more about how to avoid pet scams here.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

This Never Gets Old: Connecticut Company Provides Animal Therapy For Seniors

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To bring an animal into someone’s home and to see the smile on their face really does bring a joy to us. — Nick D’Aquila

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of starting the week on a positive note. So why not write a post about a Connecticut company that’s relaunching an animal therapy program for senior citizens? I mean, let’s be honest — it sure beats writing about politics. So here goes.

Introducing Marlow

According to published reports, a Meriden, Connecticut-based senior care company recently welcomed a new staff member. Her name is Marlow. She’s a blonde and she’s got a great smile. She’s also got floppy ears, a wet nose, four paws and a tail.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat.

Yes, Marlow is a dog. To be accurate, she is a 10-month-old Golden Retriever. And she’s got a very important job to do.

“To bring an animal into someone’s home and to see the smile on their face really does bring a joy to us,” Nick D’Aquila, whose family owns and operates Assisted Living Services, told the media.

A big job for a little pup

Apparently, Marlow is following in some pretty big paw prints. D’Aquila’s mother Sharron, introduced the company’s first therapy dog, Sunny, to clients several years ago. And they loved her.

“She would do it free of charge and bring the dog there…and he would pretty much bring a smile to the client’s face,” said Nick D’Aquila. “Continuing my mother’s legacy in visiting clients as well as having her join is a great feeling.”

Sadly, lymphoma claimed Sunny’s life five years ago.

The good news is that Marlow is well on her way to bringing the same joy to people as her predecessor. She has already in training to become a Registered Pet Partners Therapy Animal and should soon be available to visit clients upon request.

The importance of pet therapy for an aging population

As reflected in U.S. Census Bureau data,  more than half a million people age 65 and older called Connecticut home in 2016 and accounted for approximately roughly 16 percent state’s population. That’s slightly more than reflected in the U.S. census data from 2000, when approximately 13 percent of Connecticut resident were in that age bracket.

As I recently blogged about, a senior citizen survey conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that owning a pet or interacting with an animal lessens stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Among the 2,000 participants dogs were the most common pet.

Additional research has shown that just petting animals provided mental health benefits to seniors.

“It’s increasing interactions with the seniors and making them more sociable,” D’Aquila noted. “I think the interactions with the therapy dog brings out the inner emotions that people are holding inside that they don’t really know how to express.”

Personally, I know exactly what I’d say. Good dog, Marlow. Very good dog!


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Connecticut Cat Tax Proposed

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It’s official. I’m speechless. Completely. Utterly. Totally. Speechless. Seriously. I’ve got nothing.

And for the record, it takes a lot to put me in this state. I’m never at a loss for words. But I just can’t wrap my head around the Connecticut Cat Tax. l’m serious. Connecticut Democrats want to impose a “cat tax” on those of us who have felines and are still “lucky” enough to live here (sarcasm fully intended).

I read all about it on the Hartford Courant’s website earlier this week. At first I thought it had to be fake news. Unfortunately I checked the Connecticut General Assembly’s website, and it’s true.

What a catastrophe

At this time, raised S.B. 999 is officially known as An Act Concerning The Fee For Adopting a Dog, Cat or Other Domestic Animal From a Municipal Pound and Requiring the Licensing of Such Cats and Other Domestic Animals. 

I kid you not. This is what they decided to call it. Why didn’t they just call it a cat tax? It would have been so much easier that way.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

At any rate, the stated purpose of this proposed “Act” is to “increase the fee paid by anyone adopting a dog from a municipal shelter and to require the payment of such fee for anyone adopting a cat or other domestic animal from a municipal shelter and to require the licensing of such cats and other domestic animals.”

You can find the link text of the proposed bill here. In the meantime, I’ll just hit the “high points.”

As currently proposed:

  • Any Connecticut resident that  purchases a dog, cat or other domestic animal as a pet will have to pay a $15 fee to the municipal animal shelter or dog pound in order to get a license and tag for it from the town clerk.
  • Anyone that purchases a dog, cat or other domestic animal as a pet in Connecticut will also be required to cover the cost the municipality incurred, if any, to spay or neuter and vaccinate the dog [sic], provided such charge is not more than $150.
  • Any Connecticut resident that owns or keeps a dog that is at least six months old, except those  kept under a kennel license as provided by law; and anyone that owns a cat or other domestic animal adopted from a municipal animal shelter or dog pound  will be required to have the animal licensed in the town clerk’s office in the town where it is kept, on or before June 30th, each year after it turns six-months old.
  • The annual licensing fee for each qualifying neutered or spayed animal would be $10.
  • The annual licensing fee for each unaltered qualifying animal would be $15.
  • In addition to the licensing fee there would be a $2 fee for issuing a license and tag as allowed by law.
  • Anyone required to comply with the new law who failed to do so would be required to pay the appropriate license fee, the town clerk’s fee and a $1 penalty for each month or portion of a month that the animal remains unlicensed.

Why a cat tax simply won’t work…

The public got a chance to have its say at an Environment Committee hearing held March 11.

In a letter to the committee, Ellington resident Diana Bump voiced numerous reasons for her opposition.

“Requiring cats to be licensed will deter adoption and/or barn cat owners from taking in cats and also lead to more euthanizing of shelter cats. Licensing cats will cost more to the state implement than it will actually receive in cat licensing fees, no doubt,” Bump wrote. “Licensing cats will not incentivize spaying/ neutering either as the main reason people do not spay/neuter is because of costs and adding licensing fees will make it even more unaffordable.”

Bump also pointed out that most indoor/outdoor cats wear so-called “break away” collars, which are designed to come off if the cat gets it caught on something, so tags could be lost easily. The use of non-break away collars is unsafe, she added. Finally Bump also noted that any noise made by the tags could alert predators to a cat’s location, putting it at risk.

Hamden resident David Malicki put it even more succinctly.

“As most shelters are often overflowing with animals for adoption, I find this proposed House Bill 999 absolutely sub-human,” he wrote. “This bill should not be even considered for a motion. This bill should have never been proposed. Shame on all of you for this shortsighted proposal.”

Animal advocates also oppose the measure as proposed.

So now it’s your turn. What do you think? Is this a good idea, or not? Let’s talk about it. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

New York Following Cali’s Lead On Pet Store Law

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the approach two New York legislators are taking as they push for the passage of a new law regulating how people can acquire pets.

According to recent media reports,  the state lawmakers, who represent different New York City boroughs, co-sponsored the legislation that would prevent pet stores from selling small animals and companion animals obtained from “large commercial breeders.”

Instead, the pet stores will be required to source and sell animals from licensed rescue shelters or humane societies. The law would also allow the humane society or shelter to keep any animal not sold/adopted through the shops.

The proposed measure failed to gain any support last year. However, proponents are optimistic that will now change with the power shift in the state legislature.

Jumping on the bandwagon

This idea isn’t unique to New York. Not too long ago, I wrote about a similar measure currently being considered in Connecticut.

dog parade, puttin on the dog, 2018
An Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with a dog available for adoption. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Like the proposed legislation in New York, the Connecticut measure failed to gain any support in the past. Although a fire at a Danbury, Connecticut pet store prompted renewed interest in the issue, it also sparked concern.

“We’ve been sending home between 60 to 80 puppies a month, and we’ve been doing it for 25 years. Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Sean Silverman, the owner of Puppy Love in Danbury told the media.

“If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”

Because some state lawmakers have express reservations as well, there is no guarantee the measure will pass.

California law enactment sets precedence

Earlier this year, California became the first state with this type of law.

Inked by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2017, the new law (which included provisions giving businesses time to adjust) takes aim at so-called “puppy mills” and “kitten factories.” While it does not prohibit people from buying small- and companion animals directly from breeders,  it does mandate that pet stores throughout the state sell only dogs, cats and rabbits sourced from shelters and rescues.

“By offering puppies, kittens, and rabbits for adoption from nearby shelters, pet stores can save the lives of animals in search of a home, save the breeding animals trapped in puppy mills, and relieve pressure on county budgets and local tax payers,” a fact sheet said.

Among other things, SEC. 2. Section 122354.5(c) of California’s Health and Safety Code now mandates that pet stores keep detailed records of the animals made available to the public. Specifically, pet shop owners must “post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign listing the name of the public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or nonprofit from which each dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained.” Pet shop owners must also make this information available to  public animal control agencies or shelters upon request.

As stipulated in SEC. 2.Section 122354.5(e) of the state Health and Safety Code,  pet store owners that don’t comply with the new law faces a civil penalty (fine) of five hundred dollars ($500) for each animal “offered for sale in violation of this section.”

In conclusion

Clearly, these laws — like any others — have their share of pros and cons. Proponents hope they’ll put an end to puppy mills and kitten factories, while easing the burden on animal shelters and rescue groups. Opponents are concerned about over regulation.

The bottom line is that only time will tell whether the type of legislation passed in California will become law elsewhere.

CT Regulation Of Gig Economy Pet Businesses Stirs Debate

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GIG ECONOMY(noun): A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer…

Of course, this definition is from the dictionary. And as such, it is accurate. But it is also rather generic and somewhat outdated. Since I’m an active participant in the 21st century version, I prefer to think of the gig economy as: a system in which Internet platforms and/or apps are created to: a) offer certain services, and b) facilitate hiring of independent contractors to provide them.

If that sounds too convoluted, here are some examples. First, there are platforms that specifically cater to “creatives” and other skilled professionals, such as Upwork and Freelancer. And then there’s:

  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Instacart
  • DoorDash
  • TaskRabbit

The list goes on, and on….

Don’t forget Rover and Wag

There are even apps that cater to those of us who have — and those of us who enjoy working with — companion animals. Take Rover, for example. This website/app lets people sign up as pet sitters. If they are approved (following an application process that includes a basic background check),  they are paired with pet owners in need of boarding, house sitting, dog walking, “doggy daycare,” and home visits.

Great Dane wins Best Lap Dog contest at Puttin' on the Dog.
Best Lap Dog winner. Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Specifically, pet owners can use Rover to find sitters in their area and arrange for the services they need.

Another website/app called Wag also caters to people interested in becoming dog walkers and dog sitters/boarders. Like its counterpart, Wag claims that it puts applicants through comprehensive screening process before they are approved. Once they are, they are paired with pet owners in need of specific services.

In Connecticut, the law struggles to keep up

As the gig economy keeps on booming, legislators across the country are struggling to keep up. In Connecticut, for example, lawmakers have come up with two approaches for addressing regulatory concerns associated with Internet/app-based pet care services.

Introduced by state Senator Catherine Osten, proposed S.B. No. 250 is also known as “An Act Concerning the Regulation of Commercial Kennels.”  If approved, it would change the language in existing laws so a commercial kennel would be legally classified as “a place maintained for boarding or grooming five or more cats or dogs.”  That way, anyone who cares for four or fewer animals belonging to other people  in their own homes would not be defined and regulated as commercial kennels.

Osten said she proposed the legislation as a way to protect thousands of people in Connecticut that work as gig economy pet sitters from being regulated in the same way as traditional commercial kennels.

Then there’s proposed H.B. No. 5399 or “Ann Act Concerning the Definition of Kennel for the Purposes of Commercial Kennel Regulation,” which was introduced by state Rep. Kim Rose. It also calls for changes to existing language so that a kennel is defined as “a facility rather than to a pack or collection of dogs.” Doing so would “clarify the statutory provisions for  commercial kennel registration and regulation by the Department of Agriculture.”

“We’re not trying to tell these internet businesses ‘you can’t do business in Connecticut,’” Rose told the Hartford Courant. “All we’re asking them to do is the right thing: become licensed and inspected so we can make sure you’re taking good, healthy care of our pets.”

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Connecticut Considers Crackdown On Fake Service Animals

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As the national debate about the classification and use of service animals continues, Connecticut lawmakers are confronting the issue head-on.

According to recent media accounts, state legislators have proposed a bill that would make it illegal to claim any animal, including a pet, is a service animal unless it is trained as such.

In its current iteration, Section 1(a) of Raised Bill No. 7106, or An Act Concerning Service Animals, specifically states: “No individual may knowingly represent, whether expressly or impliedly, that a dog is a service animal or being trained as a service animal, for the purpose of obtaining any rights or privileges afforded to an individual with a disability, unless such dog is a service animal or is being trained to be a service animal.”

The bill also calls for the imposition of a maximum fine of $150 for each violation.

If the bill becomes law, it will take effect October 1, 2019.

Fidelco Picture
Fidelco Guide Dog demonstration. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018

Public comments

So far, the bill has garnered plenty of support in the court of public opinion. At a public hearing held February 15, several people, including a representative of the American Kennel Club (AKC) spoke in favor of the measure.

“Service dogs are trained to behave submissively when they encounter another service dog,” Stacey Ober, a legislative analyst for the AKC told the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “They are trained not to react to noises and disturbances that upset other dogs. Bringing untrained dogs into situations for which they are ill-equipped, however puts everyone at risk.”

Because “untrained animals fraudulently presented as service dogs in public places” have created so much chaos, people with legitimate service dogs are now wrongly denied access to places where they have every right to be, Ober added.

Elizabeth Rival of Kensington, who is blind and counts on her guide dog to keep her safe while maintaining her independence, also supports the bill.

“A pet with, quote fake quote service animals with credentials, exhibiting unacceptable behavior, should be dealt with , by businesses or restaurants or other public locations on a case by case basis,” Rival said. “This problem should not be put on persons with disabilities who rely on their highly trained, well-behaved, service animals, who are only seeking to be independent people.”

The support is not universal, however.

Kathleen Flaherty of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc., said the measure is unnecessary “because it purports to solve a problem that does not exist,” and dangerous “in that it will become a vehicle for discrimination based on disability.”

Flaherty also argued that people who “fraudulently obtain paperwork on the internet (paperwork that is not required under either the ADA or Fair Housing Act) to call their animals ‘service dogs’ so they can take them into restaurants and on airplanes and threaten to sue if their animals are denied access, will not be deterred by this bill.”

Only time will tell…

Only time will tell whether this bill will become law and how effective the new law would be. Personally I agree with Flaherty’s assertion that a $150 fine doesn’t seem like an effective deterrent for those bent on abusing the system by passing pets off as service animals.

But I disagree with her assertion that the bill seeks to address a “problem that doesn’t exist.” There’s a problem, alright. The only question is what to do about it.

Connecticut Pet Store Fire Sparks Controversial Puppy Mill Bill

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

A recent fire at a Danbury, Connecticut, pet store has apparently prompted a handful of state lawmakers to revisit proposed legislation targeting puppy mills.

According to published reports, the so-called “Puppy Mill Bill” would  “address shutting down so-called puppy mills and kitten factories, which are large-scale commercial facilities that breed animals and sell them to many local puppy stores in Connecticut and New York.”

The media also notes that the way the bill is written and designed is similar to a new California law that just went into effect. Like its west coast counterpart, the Connecticut bill seeks to prevent pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they are sourced from animal shelters or rescue groups. If passed, however, the Connecticut bill would not affect  local breeders who sell the animals directly to the public.

There was too much excitement at Puttin' on the Dog for these little kittens!
We’re pooped! Hurricane Harvey kittens at Puttin’ on the Dog, 2017. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Critics push back

Even so, not everyone is happy about the proposed legislation. In an ensuing interview, the owner of Puppy Love, the pet store where the fire occurred, said the law would  be “a huge mistake.”

Specifically, Sean Silverman, who sources the animals he sells from “reputable breeders” with “complete guarantees,” says the law could put him out of business.

“Most of the people who come to us are looking for pure-bred dogs, which many local rescues don’t offer,” Silverman said. “If stores like ours are unable to provide the type of puppies that people want, then some 15 to 20 thousand people here in Connecticut will go on the internet, get a dog with zero regulations, and have it shipped, but will not get any guarantees, it’s just putting these people in a bad situations.”

Silverman also said that his business complies with all applicable state regulations.

“I pay about $7,000 a month in vet bills back to customers whose dog or cat may have had issues within 20 days of the purchase,” he explained. “Stores like ours do this because it’s the law. I have a five-year congenital warranty as well, something that would not be offered by a shelter or home breeder.”

Businesses like his are already “heavily regulated,” Silverman concluded. Given that, he said, it is clear that a bill targeting them “would be a huge mistake.”

State Representative Representative Richard Smith from New Fairfield also told the media that he has some concerns about the broad language in the proposed legislation and cannot support it in its current form.

Seeking support

On the other hand Representative Steven Harding has no problem supporting the measure.

““As a dog owner myself, I am happy to support initiatives that help to ensure that pets are treated safely and humanely,” he told the media.

Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, from Connecticut’s 2nd Assembly District, which includes  Bethel, Danbury, Newtown, and Redding, is currently leading a bipartisan delegation of seven legislators backing the proposed legislation. Of the seven on the committee, five are co-sponsoring the bill with him.

Although Allie-Brennan is now seeking more support from colleagues who have these type of pet stores in their districts, only time will tell whether the legislation finally gets the backing it needs.

What do you think? Should Connecticut approve this bill? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.