Special Report: Animal Alert
They said they're saving abandoned animals and giving them new homes in Massachusetts, but the Commonwealth said they could be importing trouble instead.
Laney and Alex are two rambunctious dogs who now live in Taunton, but they're not from the south shore originally.
"He was born under a shed in Tennessee," owner Melinda Richards said.
Dogs rescued from out of state are becoming more and more common because spay and neuter programs have been so successful here and the demand to adopt homeless dogs is still high. Over 200 Massachusetts rescue groups are now importing dogs.
"Overpopulation is still a problem in other parts of the country," Joanna Reck of Great Dog Rescue Group said.
Some puppies, for example, have traveled all the way from Ohio to find forever homes with Massachusetts families.
"They come from a high kill shelter," Diane of Paw Safe said.
Back in February the Department of Agriculture stepped in, ordering several rescue groups to cease and desist.
"We had to stop all of our operations in Massachusetts," Reck said.
The reason? The department was worried that these rescue groups were not only importing pets, but also possibly importing disease.
"We've seen instances where animals were being brought in with contagious diseases and sent directly to families. We saw animals with wounds of unknown origins which means they could have exposed to rabies handed over directly to young families," Brad Mitchell of the Department of Agriculture said.
Now the state has issued an emergency order that goes in place this week. It requires all dogs brought in by rescue groups to spend forty-eight hours in isolation and get a Massachusetts vet certificate of health.
"We understand the need for rules and regulations for bringing dogs into the state, but unfortunately, the rules that they have put out for us have been very, very hard to meet," Diane said.
The problem is that most of these rescue groups don't operate out of an actual shelter and work by fostering dogs with volunteer families until they're adopted.
They say they can't afford to rent a facility to isolate the incoming pets.
"The hit to rescues financially is going to cause the majority of rescues in Massachusetts to no longer exist," Diane said.
The Department of Agriculture said while they feel for the shelters, they're trying to do what's best for animals and people of Massachusetts.
"If your kids out in the park and they pet a dog, you want to make sure that dog's gone through the proper protocols to make sure it's healthy. If you have pets there are diseases that could be introduced into the state that can affect your pet," Mitchell said.
And so they stand by their new animal alert.
For more information, click on the links below:
Department of Agriculture