SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 21, 2013

Council gives Dogmother a reprieve

BY ALAN BURKE
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — When the city says you can keep 10 dogs as part of your doggy day care business, it’s probably a bad idea to get caught by the Department of Agriculture with more than 20. Especially when your business license is still on probationary status.

Yet, appearing before the City Council recently, Melissa Guevin, owner of Dogmother on Lowell Street, not only pleaded for forgiveness, she pleaded for the right to keep more dogs.

“I’m a little confused,” Councilor Jim Liacos said. “It just seems to me this is one of the most egregious violations for someone on probation. ... You were grossly over the limit.” He suggested an outright denial of the special permit allowing her business to exist.

But Guevin had a story to tell, and eventually, it won her a second period of probation.

Along with doggy day care, Guevin said, she is a volunteer with organizations that rescue abandoned dogs and find them homes. “The only reason I did it is I didn’t want to see dogs put down,” she told the council and later The News.

More than a dozen dogs had appeared at her door, delivered by a group called KickAss K-9 Rescue.

“It was supposed to be for the night,” she said. “... I was thinking with my heart and not my business brain.”

“I rescue because of my passion and love for dogs. ... I had control of the situation. I did not think it was a big deal,” she told the council. She expected all the dogs to be picked up the next day. It backfired, she said.

Someone tipped off the state Department of Agricultural Resources, which regulates animal shelters and rescue groups, about what the K-9 rescue group was doing. They discovered the dogs on her property.

K-9 is not on the list of groups approved by the agency to accept dogs from out of state. The department requires that groups taking in animals from outside of Massachusetts have approved isolation facilities, so they can be quarantined for 48 hours to check for any health issues.

But Guevin’s concern for animals began to touch the hearts of the councilors. She described her love for dogs and the importance of giving dog owners a place to put their pooches.

“People tell you about their pets like they tell you about their kids,” she said.

“There wasn’t any problem with the neighbors,” Councilor Dave Gamache said.

“That was the whole point of the probation,” member Rico Mello said. “To see if you were a good neighbor.”

“You’re giving me a justifiable explanation of why there were so many dogs,” Gamache said.

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin suggested that Guevin had been taken advantage of “by people who knew better” and said that “she provides a service that helps dogs in need of a home.”

While her plea for more dogs was soon forgotten, councilors began considering a second chance for Guevin, a second probation period.

“You do understand you did something wrong?” Councilor Barry Sinewitz asked.

She did.

“I’m sure you’ll stay within your permit,” he said.

Even Liacos soon revealed that his bark is worse than his bite.

“I do believe in second chances,” he said. “You admit you were wrong, which is a good thing. A lot of people don’t.”

Guevin’s second chance was approved by a vote of 10 to 0, with a request that the animal control officer check on Dogmother.

“Twenty-seven dogs is just too much,” Liacos told her. “Please don’t violate the special permit again.”

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.