Wednesday, June 19, 2024

‘Justice for Fenway’: Residents, and their dogs, march to remember puppy fatally wounded at kennel

Jennifer Taylor’s 12-year-old dog Oscar joined protesters on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, outside of the Newport News courthouse. “Justice for Fenway!!!” was written on the pup’s shirt. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

For nearly two hours Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters and their four-legged friends circled the sidewalk in front of Newport News General District Court demanding a local canine kennel be shut down.

The kennel’s attorney was due in court at 1 p.m. for a hearing after a chocolate lab named Bruce was allegedly mauled to death on the kennel’s property on June 24.

Court documents state that the kennel manager on duty the day of the attack, Jennifer Lewis, did not seek medical treatment for the dog until the following day. Bruce later succumbed to his injuries, which included a broken neck.

Bruce isn’t the only dog to lose its life after a stay at the kennel.

Two weeks ago, Jessica Fox dropped her 10-month-old puppy off at Coastal Dog Services for a weekend stay. Two weeks later, the dog named Fenway would die.

Standing amongst supporters on the sidewalk, Jessica’s husband and Fenway’s dad Jason Fox said he has yet to hear from kennel owner Rick Tvelia about the several thousands in veterinary bills Tvelia promised to cover.

To make matters worse, Jason said, Tvelia’s kennel remains open. Tvelia has not returned repeated requests for comment from WYDaily. 

“It makes me angry,” Jason said. “I was driving home from my daughter’s soccer practice last night and there were about 10 cars in the parking lot at Coastal, and people were walking in and out with their dogs. It took every ounce of me not to turn around and just go in the parking lot and have a conversation with everyone.”

Dozens circled the sidewalks outside of a Newport News courthouse on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, calling for a local kennel to be shut down. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

The support from the community, Jason said, has been overwhelming. He said since Fenway’s death, several others have shared their stories about the Newport News kennel with him.

“Two dogs dead in three months,” a protester called out. “What are you gonna do?”

“Shut Coastal down!” the crowd answered.

Kellie Riley said she was alarmed when she read news reports about Fenway last week. Between June 24 and the day Fenway was injured, she had boarded her own dog at the same kennel. She said she was unaware that a dog had died after staying at the kennel just weeks before.

“We didn’t have anything negative happen while our dog was there,” Riley said. “But it made us wonder – if my dog could talk, what would it tell me?”

Riley said, like Jason and others present at the protest, she is concerned that the kennel is still operating. Animals are family members, Riley said, and she’s worried that somebody else’s loved one could be injured or killed.

“It’s just totally devastating,” Riley said. “My heart breaks for the Fox family and for Bruce’s family. A 5-year-old little girl has gone through the trauma of losing her first puppy.”

Kennel owner Rick Tvelia operates at two locations – one in West Point and one in Newport News, where Fenway and Bruce were both boarded. Protesters called for both locations to be shut down. (Amy Poulter/Southside Daily)

Tvelia’s facility also offers training services for dogs. About 20 years ago, Kendall McCall took her dog in for a training class. She said she was excited to take her dog, but ended up leaving before the class was over.

When she saw Fenway’s story online, McCall said she was not surprised that Tvelia said Fenway injured himself.

“Rick’s tactics were very aggressive and were like bullying,” McCall said. “When I said something to him about it, he bullied me. I walked out and he yelled at me the entire way.”

Standing on the sidewalk with her 12-year-old dog, Oscar, Jennifer Taylor said that Tvelia’s “neglectful actions” will ultimately hurt all dog-related businesses. She said it will take legislative action to help prevent similar incidents.

“It was his responsibility to make sure that things like this don’t happen,” Taylor said. “For nothing to have changed after the first dog died after being in their care – he needs to be shut down.”

Taylor said though accidents do happen, Tvelia didn’t do enough to ensure that other dogs weren’t injured.

No charges have been filed in Fenway’s death as of Wednesday. Jessica said that they are waiting on necropsy results so they can proceed. Those results should be returned soon, she said.

Wednesday’s court hearing concerning Bruce’s death was continued to Oct. 25. The protest’s organizer, Robin Cable, said they plan to picket outside of Tvelia’s business often to prevent other dogs from staying at Coastal’s kennel. Jason is hoping to work with local lawmakers on legislation, Cable said.

As far as the October court date, Cable said the group plans to be present.

“We figured Rick wouldn’t be here today,” Cable said, walking out of the courthouse. “But we’ll be back. We will be back.”

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This article was published in partnership with WYDaily’s sister publication, Southside Daily. 

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