Pet Friendly Rhode Island

State ranked 5th in nation for animal protection, pet wellness

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Rhode Islanders thinking of getting a pet are in luck - the state has been named one of the best places in the country to own a pet.

Rhode Island was recently ranked as the 9th most pet friendly state by Safewise, a “source for home security and safety advice.” The state made the list for having some of the best anti-cruelty laws in the country, landing at fifth in the nation for animal protection, and the “best overall health and wellness factors for pets.”

“Since Rhode Island is lined with pristine white beaches, it has designated 27 beaches and trails statewide as pet-friendly, so animals and their people can enjoy the outdoors together,” the study found.

Some local businesses, like Warwick’s Bori Graphix, have hopped on the pet friendly train themselves. Employees at the graphic design company bring their furry friends to work, which “brightens the mood” and helps alleviate work related stresses.

Graphic designer and project manager Danielle Zarrella brings her dog Karen into work with her often. At one point, Karen was being treated for heartworm, and it was difficult for Zarrella to leave her home alone.

“Instead of leaving her at home or taking the time out of work, it was nice to have her come in here,” she said.

Customers are usually surprised to see Karen and other animals when they visit, but they don’t seem to mind.

“She wanders around and gives kisses and cuddles to whoever will accept them, which is everyone,” Zarrella said of her dog.

Bori Graphix owner Gary Paplauskas said the company decided to be pet friendly as it makes it easier for employees to care for their animals, especially in a case like Zarrella’s.

“It’s pretty much a no brainer,” he said. “They’re well behaved, and the response we get from customers is good.”

Even their landlord occasionally brings in his dog to visit, Paplauskas adds.

T.F. Green Airport also utilizes pets in positive ways - therapy dogs visit passengers before their flights through PVD Pups, a program run by Sue Parker of Dynamic Dog Training. Dogs and their owners pay $300 to take part in a two-month long training program that will accustom them to the airport environment before they are certified to get to work.

People with anxieties about flying often request a visit from one of the 40 dogs in the program, but even regular passengers can take comfort in petting one of the pups.

“People fly out for various reasons,” Parker said. “Someone may be sick or dying, they might be going to a funeral, or moving out of state after losing a job. Those are the people that really appreciate it.”

Parker also notes that outsiders flying into Rhode Island often bring their pets and quickly take notice of the state’s pet friendliness when they ask about places they can take or activities they can do with their animals.

In addition to Safewise’s ranking, the state’s fondness for animals has been recognized by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office announced Monday that the Fund ranked Rhode Island fifth best in the country for animal protection laws. According to the release, the state moved from seventh to fifth due to two pieces of legislation. The first (2016-H 7392A), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), provides penalties for those who overwork, mistreat or otherwise treat an animal cruelly, when the conduct results in the death of the animal. According to Serpa’s law, any perpetrator whose animal cruelty leads to death would be subject to the same penalties as those who maliciously kill an animal. The second bill sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), increases the punishment of animal abusers from two years to five years of possible imprisonment and from ten hours to 50 hours of community service.

“This is a true honor for Rhode Island and it demonstrates the high level of compassion and love our citizens have toward our domestic and wild animals in the state,” said Mattiello in a statement. “The malicious abuse of innocent and defenseless animals is a repugnant crime and Rhode Islanders should be proud that we as a state will not stand for such atrocious activities and that abusers will be swiftly and severely punished for their crimes.”

The news is “wonderful” for those at Warwick’s East Greenwich Animal Protection League (which soon hopes to move to Cranston) to hear. Protecting animals is their everyday duty.

“As a protection league it is our job to protect the animals from the East Greenwich area that come into our care and or surrounding areas as space permits,” said board member Karen Kalunian. “Our goal at EGAPL is to provide our animals with a loving environment and the best possible medical care available to them. We have been fortunate enough over our 30 year existence to help thousands of animals have a second chance at life!”

EGAPL heavily relies on supporter donations to stay afloat - Kalunian once said the league is “always broke” because it spends so much on medical care for the animals it takes in. With those donations, they are able to find homes for hundreds of animals - 500 dogs alone are adopted from the league each year.

If any of these businesses are indicators, Rhode Islanders can feel comfortable following the advice of Safewise to “Just grab a Frisbee, load your doggies, kitties, or bunnies up in the car, and enjoy the safe, happy, and healthy environment Rhode Island provides for animals.”

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