Midstate pet owner left with thousands in veterinarian bills after dog’s stay at kennel

Investigations

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Gunnar is a 10-year-old golden retriever. When his family went on vacation they took him to a Dauphin County kennel. He was there for 10 days.

“He went in very spirited, very happy, but when he came out he was completely the opposite,” Lindsey Warfield said. “He definitely lost his spirit. He wasn’t even really responding to our calls for him.”

They took Gunnar to the emergency veterinarian where he stayed for two nights and then they followed up with his regular vet when he wasn’t improving.

“He was diagnosed with pneumonia and he had multiple infections, a rash,” Warfield said.

According to Gunnar’s patient chart from the emergency veterinarian, his owner checked on him during her trip and the kennel told her he was doing well but when they picked him up he needed help to walk. According to the chart, Kennel staff also said Gunnar was known to lay in his own urine while he was there and he wouldn’t get up to walk, so he may be stiff.

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“It was very heartbreaking,” Warfield said.

Warfield says the owner of the kennel refunded the money for Gunnar’s stay, but they were left with more than $5,000 in vet bills.

“He did tell me to take legal action if I needed to have those vet bills taken care of,” Warfield said.

When she posted on social media about what happened to her mom’s dog, she says she got a lot of responses, many were negative comments about the kennel.

“There were actually quite a few,” Warfield said.

Kennels are licensed and inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The abc27 Investigators checked the online Kennel Inspection Database to see the inspection history of the kennel where Gunnar stayed. abc27 is not naming the kennel because no criminal charges have been filed.

The database shows the kennel has been open for 15 years. It was out of compliance four times. In 2016, it was out of compliance for sanitation. The inspector found primary enclosures were not being sanitized enough to prevent high amounts of dog dander and fur. The issue was fixed by the follow-up inspection the next month. The kennel was cited in 2019 when a dog escaped.

There is not a specific inspection category that addresses dogs that get sick after a stay at a kennel.

“Complaints trigger inspections. An inspection would look specifically at the issues raised in the complaint. In a follow-up inspection after a complaint, a kennel could be cited for violations of the Dog Law. If animal cruelty or neglect were suspected, our dog wardens would refer the complaint to criminal law enforcement for investigation,” Shannon Powers, Press Secretary, Pa. Department of Agriculture said.

If your dog requires medical care after a stay at the kennel and the veterinarian believes the illness was caused by the stay at the kennel it should be reported.

“If a private veterinarian suspected neglect or cruelty, they would be ethically and professionally obligated to report it to criminal authorities for investigation,” Powers said.

If your dog gets sick after staying at a kennel, the best course of action is to file a complaint.

“We are planning on doing that,” said Warfield. As for Gunnar, his health is improving. “He is doing so much better, luckily. We were very thankful that he was a fighter and made it through.”

There are currently 2,851 kennels in Pennsylvania. Kennels are inspected at least twice a year.

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