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DENVER — Melissa Hunter is still grieving over the loss of her one-year-old Papillon-Maltees mix, Bella. “I know accidents happen, but I never expected for my dog to die,” Hunter said.

She took Bella to Hobnob in Lakewood in June and according to Hunter another dog bit Bella and gravely injured the pet. “To be a 5-pound dog and to be in with a Malamute, a 75-80 pound dog, just is not acceptable,” said Hunter.

It was only the second time Hunter took Bella to Hobnob, but she remembers telling the staff to watch out for big dogs. “She likes big dogs,” Hunter said. “We don’t want her interacting with the dogs we don’t know.”

TAK LANDROCKAccording to Hobnob’s owner, Bella was bitten near a gate. She was rushed to a veterinarian’s office where she later died.

Seven days later another dog was injured at Hobnob. This time a silver lab lost part of her tail after an employee accidentally shut a door on it. “She crawled into my lap and was whimpering and was bleeding all over me,” said Beth Luedke.

Both Hunter and Luedke were surprised when we told them Hobnob had not been inspected since 2012, one year past their annual inspection date and Hobnob is not alone. Records obtained by FOX31 Denver showed nearly 350 other doggy daycares, groomers and vet clinics that also have not had timely inspections.

“They are obviously not doing what they are supposed to be doing and the state is not enforcing what their rules are,” Hunter said.

Inspections are critical to make sure there is enough staff to watch a large amount of dogs, that facilities are kept clean and the food and water your dog is consuming is safe.

Ron Carleton is the Deputy Director for the Colorado Department of Agriculture and he admits there are failures in the current system. “We were behind and that is not acceptable,” he told FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock.

“We have not been as rigorous as we needed to be. Now that we have identified that we will be better going forward,” he said.

After FOX31 Denver started asking questions about the backlog of inspections the state began correcting the problems and will now create a pet safety program that focuses on daycares and groomers. Carleton hopes the implementation that begins this week will help the state agency reduce the list of facilities that have not been inspected for almost two years.

Carleton doesn’t know if the recent inspection of Hobnob in Lakewood would have prevented Bella’s death, but his inspector did suggest the daycare add a vestibule to prevent injury or escape of a dog.

Hobnob’s recent inspection was promoted after Hunter filed a complaint with the state. The owner of Hobnob, Kari Shohet, disagrees with the state’s recommendation. “Our facility is in good standing … there are no changes that need to be made,” she said.

She said Bella’s death was unfortunate and was caused by another dog, not because of the gate. Shohet also believes her staff took the right steps after Bella was injured. “Our staff was very concerned and immediately removed her from the play area,” Shohet said, adding “She did not have any visible wounds  on her at the time when she was bit by this dog.”

But with no yearly state inspections the safety of the animals are in question statewide. “When you take your dog to daycare you anticipate paw cuts and little things like that, but nothing to the veracity of this incident,” said Hunter. She will never take any dog to daycare again.

What to look for when picking a center to care for your dog

  1. License: Look for their state issued license. It should be displayed.
  2. Staff: Knowledgeable personnel are critical to a safe day care. Ask whether your daycare’s employees have received professional training. Employees must understand basic canine communication including body postures and signals. If employees are unable to interpret a dog’s body language, then they won’t know what’s going on among the dogs. Colorado statute requires that there be one staff member for every 15 dogs.
  3. Safety Policies: Many day care centers conduct an initial behavior assessment to determine how a dog behaves around other dogs and people. An assessment may give staff a rough idea of a dog’s behavioral tendencies—but it’s important to acknowledge that a single, on-the-spot behavior test can’t definitively determine a dog’s temperament or personality.
    • Experts say a short one-time test cannot accurately identify how a dog will react
    • The facility should question you about your dog’s behavior in various situations including aggressive and fearful behavior
    • Dog introductions should be done slowly and one at a time
    • Dogs should never be left unattended.
  4. Facility: The daycare should be compliant with all state rules and regulations. The location should be clean, sanitary and organized. Visit the facility at various times and days to ensure it meets your standards.

List of facilities with past due inspections as of November 12, 2014

4 Bar D Kennels
4 Paws Rescue
A Andersen Aviary
Barnwater Cats
Basalt Veterinary Clinic
Boulder County Fairgrounds
Cher’s Pet Shop & Grooming
City of Wray Animal Shelter
Colorado Reptile Humane Society
Cosmic Cruisers Sled Dog Tours
Doggie Heaven Camp
Doug’s Grooming
Doxie Chicks Kennels
Elk River Pet & Ranch
Faithfull Grooming LLC
Gini’s Dog Palace
Good Samaritan Pet Adoption Center, Inc
Grizzle T Dog & Sled Works
Grooming by Yvette
Gustin Goldens
Heads & Tails Professional Mobile Pet Grooming
Indigo Mountain Nature Center, Inc
Jane’s Dog Grooming
Jo’s Kennel
Kathy’s Kritters Mobile Pet Grooming
Kay Dickeson
Paws & Claws Pet Grooming
Pet Paradise, Inc.
Picture Perfect Pet Grooming
Red Rover Resort LLC
Rocky Mountain Retrievers Inc.
Rocky Mountain Roosters
Rocky Mountain Training Kennel, Ltd
Scott Sherwood
Sunrise Kennels & Dog Training Center
Sylvancreek LLC
The Flash & Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue
The Pet Valet
Town & Country Grooming and Supplies
Town of Cheyenne Wells
Town of Meeker Animal Control Facility
Town of Westcliffe Animal Shelter
Tricia’s Grooming Inc
Veterinary Medical Clinic, PC
Woodmen Kennels