Monday, 15 August 2022
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Weymouth kennel owner faces criminal charge in dog’s death

WEYMOUTH — A veterinarian has determined that a 4-year-old white Siberian husky died from overheating and dehydration at K-9 Daycare, prompting the police department to seek felony animal cruelty charges against the kennel’s owner.

Officials say the dog was kept overnight in a crate that was four times too small.

K-9 Daycare owner Katherine Smith of Hanover and her attorney George Boerger went before town officials on Thursday to appeal the town’s suspension of the facility’s license following the death of Luna, the Siberian husky, in a crate on May 29.

Officials said the kennel failed to provide water and a proper crate and failed to produce records.

Town Clerk Kathleen Deree, Director of Public Health Daniel McCormack and Police Chief Richard Grimes unanimously voted to continue the suspension until the criminal case against Smith is resolved.

Weymouth Police Animal Control Officer Michael Parker, Grimes and McCormack suspended K-9 Daycare’s license on June 4 after receiving the initial necropsy report from veterinarian Martha Smith-Blackmore. Thursday’s hearing marked the first time that officials made the necropsy report public.

Smith-Blackmore is the founder and president of Forensic Veterinary Investigations LLC and teaches at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Based on the report, Town Solicitor Joseph Callanan said K-9 staff kept Luna in a crate that was far too small, causing extreme heat exposure and ultimately hyperthermia and respiratory failure.

Callanan said Luna couldn’t turn around, stand up, sit up or straighten her legs, and she was stuck in a fetal position with no water. He showed a photograph of Luna with what he described as indentation from the grates of the crate on her face.

The crate is intended for transporting dogs, not for boarding them, Callanan said.

“(The crate) should have been four times bigger,” he said. “The size of crate led to her death. It wouldn’t be permitted for air travel of any distance, never mind for 12 hours, four nights in a row.”

Smith-Blackmore found that Luna measured 41 inches long from her snout to the base of her tail, while the crate measured just 26½ inches in length, which would force her to sleep in an unnatural fetal position.

Smith-Blackmore said Luna measured 22 inches tall at her shoulders, yet the entrance into the crate measured 20 inches in height, meaning Luna would have to duck her head and crouch just to get into the crate. The inside of the crate measured 21½ inches tall.

“Luna’s body was touching all four sides of the crate … and she was unable to pant due to close confinement,” Callanan said.

The crate Luna slept in was meant for dogs 20 to 30 pounds, according to the manufacturer. Luna weighed 61 pounds, Callanan said.

Smith-Blackmore determined in her report that keeping Luna in that cage was cruel and “it caused considerable suffering before her loss of consciousness.”

The findings prompted Weymouth police to file a criminal complaint against Smith, the owner of K-9 Daycare, on a charge of animal cruelty. She is due to be arraigned in Quincy District Court later this month.

Smith and her attorney, Boerger, said Smith-Blackmore, the veterinarian, measured Luna incorrectly, and that the dog was able to walk in, sit up and lie down in the crate. She pointed to photographs from Smith-Blackmore’s necropsy of Luna and said the dog measured closer to 21 inches tall at the shoulders, rather than 22 inches. Smith said Luna was actually closer to 36 inches long, rather than 41 inches.

Smith said Luna suffered from separation anxiety and showed aggression toward other dogs, so keeping her in a smaller crate helped. She showed a video of her own dog, which she said is about the same size as Luna, going into the crate and turning around comfortably.

“That crate was the safest crate for her to be in, and the most secure,” Smith said. “She walked into the crate on her own.”

Boerger called Angela Krim, an employee of K-9 Daycare who found Luna dead, to testify, as well as Paige Pongratz, a veterinarian at Court Street Animal Hospital in Plymouth. Pongratz said it’s possible that Luna died from heat stroke, but she didn’t see any evidence in the photographs that Luna struggled to get out of the crate.

“It makes me wonder whether there was something else going on that made her have difficulty breathing,” she said.

Pongratz also questioned Smith-Blackmore’s measurements based on the photographs she saw, but agreed the crate was too small if the necropsy measurements are correct. Otherwise, Pongratz said the crate appeared adequate for overnight boarding.

Parker, the town’s animal control officer, said Smith-Blackmore stands by her measurements.

Luna’s owner, Julia Nguyen of Stoughton, was unavailable for comment.


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