News / Halifax

Dog owner upset after pet loses eye at Nova Scotia kennel

Business said it was an unfortunate accident that six-year-old Phoenix lost an eye.

Before and after photos of Phoenix, who lost his eye while at a kennel. The kennel owner said it was an unfortunate accident.

Staff/TC Media

Before and after photos of Phoenix, who lost his eye while at a kennel. The kennel owner said it was an unfortunate accident.

When Karen Kirk dropped her six-year-old dog Phoenix off at a kennel in Hopewell, he was healthy, albeit a bit worked up about his family leaving him.

When she came back, he had lost an eye, his teeth were worn down from what she believes was him trying to chew his way out of his kennel and he had lost his voice from barking constantly.

Kirk is upset and questions the quality of care her dog received. The kennel owner, however, said it was an unfortunate accident and says he did everything he could to handle the situation properly.

Kirk said she had been in communication with the owner of the Hopewell-based kennel, Jeremy Donnelley. He had told her that the dog was having some separation anxiety.

“Every time he would message, he’d say Phoenix is whining and crying.”

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But she got an indication that he was getting better, and that it’d be OK. Then she got the most distressing message. Donnelley told her, her dog’s eye was injured and that he was rushing to the veterinarian clinic. The dog had to have his eye removed. Kirk said Donnelley told her he believes the dog must have been poked in the eye by a stick when they were out for a nightly bathroom trip.

What Kirk can’t understand is how he wouldn’t have noticed the problem until the next morning if it did happen at night. She also believes there shouldn’t have been sticks near where the dog was.

The fact that the dog’s teeth were worn and voice gone troubled her further.

When she got back Kirk contacted the SPCA to investigate. They did but determined that there was nothing that warranted charges.

“This was a very unfortunate accident causing an injury to the eye which was ruled inconclusive by the vet,” Donnelley said. “Eye injuries are most common in this particular breed of dog due to their small size and eye structure.”

He said the dog was kept in a plastic kennel at night or when the dog couldn’t be supervised, as they do for the safety of all the dogs who stay there.

“We are not aware and there were no signs of any chewing behaviour, but this particular dog struggled with separation anxiety which can manifest itself by chewing,” he said. “This could have been present at any other facility that would keep their dogs in kennels overnight or when unsupervised.”

He said dogs in their care receive multiple walks, bathroom breaks, training sessions, and social time each day.

“We work hard to ensure a safe environment for our clients, both human and canine, however, like any other workplace there will be an accident at some point,” he said.

Kirk claims Donnelley never took responsibility for the injury and wishes she had never taken her dog there. Since she’s gotten back, they’ve had to pull one of Phoenix’s teeth because of damage from chewing. She said his voice is starting to come back but his personality is changed.

“He’s just not the dog he used to be. Something has been taken.”

While she did get a reference before taking her dog to the kennel, she said she wishes she had gone in person to check out the property before they left Phoenix there.

Joanne Landsburg, chief provincial inspector for the SPCA said there is currently no legislation or provincial requirements for kennels that govern regular inspections, although they do investigate cases where there are complaints.

She said it’s key for pet owners to do their research before choosing a kennel. She encourages getting references and doing a tour of the facility and talking to them about what kind of monitoring is done.

“You really need to do your homework the same as you’d do before you leave your kid in child care,” Landsburg said.

Veterinarian Kathryn Finlayson of East River Animal Hospital – which wasn’t the clinic that cared for this dog – said generally cases where dogs are injured in kennels are typically rare and usually involve dogs getting in fights. But like Kirk’s dog, many pets can struggle with anxiety. She said while some dogs do well at kennels with other dogs, some don’t.

This month she actually opened her own kennel and incorporated what is known as a fear-free design. The approach uses glass doors instead of bars for the kennels and a square design with a wall that gives a timid animal a place to feel hidden.

Kirk knows not much can be done to help Phoenix but she hopes that his story may encourage others to be more cautious.