New law distinguishes petsitters from kennels

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The governor has signed into law legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Dennis M. Canario to establish laws distinguishing those who petsit in their own homes from professionally operated kennels. 

In a major win for consumers, the General Assembly recently passed legislation (2018-H 7443, 2018-S 2607) that distinguishes penalties for licensed contractors, who fail to comply with Contractors’ Registration and License Board (CRLB) orders. 

The legislation (2018-S 2510Aaa2018-H 7409A), which was signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo June 28 and took effect immediately, exempts people who petsit up to four pets belonging to someone else in exchange for a fee from the regulations governing kennels, but does make them subject to limited inspections by the Department of Environmental Management if it receives any complaints about them related to animal welfare. Petsitters remain subject to all municipal ordinances.

The sponsors say the new law protects pets and their owners, while also establishing safeguards for the many Rhode Islanders who supplement their families’ income by pet sitting.

“Petsitters provide an important service to so many families who want their pets to be comfortable while they’re away, while also providing income to many Rhode Islanders who love animals. Our legislation strikes a balance that ensures that pets are well-cared for, and carefully protects against overregulation of a cottage industry that helps support Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). “Petsitting is a valuable service, but petsitters are just ordinary people who aren’t doing this on a large scale, so they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to keep doing it.”

“In many cases, particularly with older pets or those that might be skittish, people are more comfortable leaving their pet with a pet sitter than in a kennel. Our bill recognizes that pet sitting is a legitimate option, providing important protections against animal abuse and neglect, and setting reasonable limits to keep people from running unlicensed kennels that bring large numbers of animals into a residential setting,” said Representative Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton).

The law establishes that if DEM receives a complaint related to animal health, welfare or health, it could inspect only the areas of a pet sitter’s home to which the pets have access. All petsitters would be required to comply with very basic state animal care regulations that apply to kennels. Inspections could only occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless other arrangements are made with the petsitter. Refusal to grant access to the inspection would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $350 per day.

The bill was supported by the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Potter League for Animals, DEM and the State Veterinarian.

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