In the wake of a Shih Tzu’s mauling death at a Stoughton dog day care, animal owners are encouraged to properly research all care providers.

Police say they will investigate the mauling death of a small Shih Tzu puppy left at a doggie day care.


The Stoughton family that owned the dog contacted police after the lapdog was killed by three much larger dogs in a fenced yard at a doggie day care at a private house.


Animal advocates and people connected with the pet industry cautioned dog owners Monday that doggie day care is an unregulated industry and pet owners need to be careful.


“They are animals, but people don’t really appreciate that,” said David Rose, owner of Canton-based Rover Come Over day care. “They do have instincts.”


Harley, the Shih Tzu puppy, was found dead Friday in a yard with two greyhounds and a golden retriever at the Tails in Motion doggie day care in Stoughton.


As a mature adult, a Shih Tzu will stand about 10 inches tall and weigh 9 to 16 pounds. Harley was a little more than a year old.


The acting police chief in Stoughton, Thomas Murphy, said Harley’s owners filed a complaint against Tails in Motion, and police and the town’s animal control officer are investigating.


Harley was owned by two adult sisters, Margaret Milne and Helen Bagley, who live together in Stoughton. Bagley had two teenage daughters who live in the household and had to deal with Harley’s death.


Helen Bagley said the owner of Tails in Motion, Karen Powers, was distraught when she called with news of what had happened and explained that she had left the four dogs unattended in the yard.


Calls placed to Tails in Motion were not returned Monday, and no one answered the door at the home-based business.


Industry officials said leaving dogs unattended in a yard breaks rule No. 1 in running a proper doggie day care.


“Dogs are animals; animals are unpredictable,” said Tom Fleming, owner of Land of Pawz dog day care in North Weymouth.


Even between dogs that have been at Land of Pawz for years, flash fights happen, and that’s why supervision is important, he said.


Since many doggie day cares don’t operate as kennels, there’s little to no regulation for them in Massachusetts, said Brian Adams, spokesman for the animal advocacy group MSPCA.


Pet owners should check a day care’s licenses, temperament policies and supervision practices before committing to one place, Adams said.


Rose said Milne and Bagley had interviewed at his business, Rover Come Over, and he remembers Harley as a friendly, sweet dog that wasn’t intimidated by anything.


Brad Kane may be reached at bkane@ledger.com.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR


Ask about the center’s vaccination policy.


Check the temperament policy, so other dogs don’t pose a danger.


See how the dogs are monitored throughout the day.


Get a client list and ask about other people’s experiences.


Check the center’s licenses.


Have a list of activities for the dogs.


See how new dogs are introduced to the pack; dogs should be introduced slowly and not immediately thrown in the mix.


Find out how the dogs are separated; animals often are separated by age, size and temperament, so they have appropriate playmates