By Nicole Brazier


Photos of dogs in outdoor kennels in East Providence have gone viral recently, with animal rights activists crying out against abuse and neglect.

In an ABC6 exclusive, we sat down with the dogs' owner for the full story.

At first it's easy to see why folks would be concerned with the outdoor kennels, loud beagles, and sometimes severe New England weather.  But owner Frank Lopes says he's not only abiding by the laws, he also loves those dogs unconditionally. 

Lopes wants to clear the air. He's been breeding and training hunting beagles for customers all over the world for over a decade.

For just as long, he's been fielding complaints from people who see his dogs and think they're being abused. 

Lopes, who owns ‘Ragman's Beagles', says, “They don't understand what Beagles are all about. You don't put a Chihuahua in there, Eskimo dogs will sleep out in the snow, these dogs are accustomed to this type of weather.”

The East Providence kennels were brought to our attention here at ABC6 after a Facebook post with photos of them went viral with nearly 2,000 shares in less than 24 hours. Animal lovers posted comments like, "That is horrible. Those poor babies," And, "They're beagles! They don't have the type of coat that can keep them warm outside!"”

But according to Rhode Island state laws, there's nothing illegal going on. 

East Providence Animal Control Officer William Muggle says, “It's a care of dogs law... that restricts people from having dogs outside for more than 14 hours at a time in any kind of enclosure. There is an exemption in the law for  hunting dogs and field trial laws.”

And Lopes says being outside helps his dogs get acclimated to the hunting conditions they'll face when they're working. But he also says those photos are deceiving.

Each dog's crate leads to an indoor insulated section with bedding. The dogs are fed two hot meals a day, are thoroughly exercised, and in severe weather like last week's blizzard, are brought home with him. 

“I'm not going to sleep in bed at night worried about a dog shaking, I will bring them home.”

There are some who believe the law itself should be changed. The group ‘Defenders of Animals' is behind a new bill they hope will extend the protections. 

“We need to have the same rules apply to all dogs, we don't think there should be any exceptions for any particular dogs.”

But the battle will be tough. They've been pushing for the change for more than 40 years. This situation has been investigated by the East Providence Animal Control and the RISPCA on numerous occasions, and no wrongdoing has ever been found.

Lopes says if the wind chills get into the negative temperatures tomorrow morning, the dogs will be coming home with him for the day.

© WLNE-TV 2015