Rowley Doggie Day Care Charged

Friday September 16, 2022

ROWLEY — The Hydrant Regency doggie day care here said it offered a 5,000 square foot outdoor enclosed play area so the dogs boarded there could run and play all day. 

“If your dog likes to wrestle and play, plow through snow drifts, hang out with humans, fetch ball, or just sunbathe and lay in the kiddie pools, we want your dog to do just that,” the web site says.

County prosecutors, working with Rowley police, the MSPCA and the Animal Rescue League of Boston, painted a different picture last week as they charged the owner with 39 counts of animal cruelty.

When investigators arrived at Hydrant Regency, at 104 Newburyport Tnpk., they found 37 dogs in wire crates in a metal storage trailer without air conditioning in a temperature of 90.6 degrees. The dogs did not have access to water, and some larger dogs were in crates, unable to stand or turn around.

The court said a former customer reported one of his dogs died while at the kennel, and a veterinarian said a post-mortem examination showed signs of dehydration and heat stroke. 

April Bernhardt, 40, the owner of Hydrant Regency, was charged with the multiple counts of animal cruelty by custodian and animal cruelty. The judge ordered Bernhardt not to own or possess any animals or operate any kennel while the case is pending. 

She was held on $3,000 bail and will return to court on Oct. 14.

Bernhardt’s defense attorney said the town animal control officer has worked with the kennel for years without any reports of abuse, neglect or cruelty. The attorney also said the animal control officer conducted two welfare checks at the kennel in late August and did not note any signs of abuse or neglect. 

He also noted that the trailer had multiple fans and the temperatures were measured at 75 and 82 degrees during the two visits.

The kennel, owned by April and Marc Bernhardt for more than 30 years, has been closed since Aug. 29. Animals being housed on the property were returned to their owners, while the runaway goats are in the custody of the MSPCA.

The investigation began when Rowley police were called on Aug. 27 as four goats were seen walking on Route 1. Animal control rounded up the goats, which had not been reported missing.

Rowley police and animal control identified the Hydrant Regency as the home of the goats. As they returned the goats, animal control noticed some concerning issues at the kennel, which led to a follow-up investigation.

The FBI’s Evidence Response Team also assisted the investigation last week, helping to search the property for evidence of dead dogs.

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