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Ernest J. 'Doc' Finocchio

May 19, 1943 ~ October 26, 2020 (age 77)


77, passed away peacefully on October 26, 2020 at Miriam Hospital.  He was the beloved husband of Marie (LaRocca) Finocchio for 54 years and the proud father of Tim Finocchio and his wife Jane (Bowker).  He is survived by his mother, Pauline (Manzi) Finocchio and was preceded in death by his father, Ernest. J. Finocchio. In addition, he leaves his sister, Paula Pontarelli and her husband Frank, brother-in-law John LaRocca, and brother-in-law Ronald LaRocca and his wife Cathy. He is also survived by his uncle John Manzi and his wife Kathy, aunt Marie Santoro, numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends, as well as his beloved dog Molly.

Dr. Finocchio was a graduate of Cranston High School class of 1961.  He then attended Texas A&M University for two years before transferring to Kansas State University where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.  He earned a Bachelor of Science in 1966, followed by a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1968.  He went on to serve the first ever internship in Equine Medicine and Surgery offered at Kansas State University where he instructed undergraduate veterinary students, concentrating in Equine surgery. He was involved in numerous research projects that led to over twenty professional publications.

In 1969, Dr. Finocchio established the New England Horse Care Center, the first ever Equine hospital in the state of Rhode Island.  His practice quickly grew, adding other associates as they also served clients in nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts offering 24-hour emergency coverage.

Dr. Finocchio was a guest lecturer at numerous horse clubs, universities and the American Association of Equity Practitioners National Convention in 1973, 1985, and 1989.  He continued to publish in lay journals including the Yankee Pedlar, Equus Magazine and the Blood Horse Magazine.

He was a member of the AVMA, AAEP and RIVMA serving as its president in 1977.  Dr. Finocchio served on many advisory boards including Equus Magazine, Hooved Animals Humane Society Advisory Board to Tufts University referring Veterinaries and the R.I. Disaster Preparedness Committee.

In 1981 he received the FT Moses Humane Award for saving the life of a horse that fell into a well at personal risk to himself.

In addition to his veterinary practice Dr. Finocchio was involved in breeding thoroughbred horses and owned horses that raced in the New England area. 

After serving for many years as a member of the RISPCA board of directors, Dr. Finocchio became its 10th President/Director in 2002.  He became a tireless and dedicated crusader for animal welfare.  While at the RISPCA, he successfully advocated for significant enhancements to Rhode Island’s animal welfare laws all while continuing to be directly connected with diverse constituencies served by the society.

He instituted many firsts at the RISPCA including fund raisers, a volunteer program and newsletter, “Happy Tails to All”, almost free rabies clinic and numerous other programs.  One of his proudest moments was in the fall of 2005 when he collected, delivered and distributed 70 tons of supplies collected by the RISPCA to aid the Northwest Louisiana Humane Society and Hopeful Haven Equine Rescue in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Dr. Finocchio will always be remembered for his passion to help animals and people in need.  This was especially exhibited through the establishment of the Marvin Fund, named after his black Labrador retriever, Marvin, who was twice relinquished to the RISPCA.  Together they became a team who raised funds to financially assist animals in need of medical assistance.  Marvin and Dr. Finocchio became members of the Delta Society’s Pet Partner Therapy Program delivering their message to never give up. Together they visited nursing homes, adult day care centers, schools, libraries, youth camps and many more groups.  In 2009, Marvin became therapy dog of the year. Together they received numerous awards for their commitment to help others.  The Marvin Fund remains in existence today having helped 4,000 animals in need of medical assistance.

Dr. Finocchio was inducted into the Cranston Hall of Fame in 2007.  In recognition of his significant efforts, achievements and contributions to veterinary medicine, he was named Rhode Island’s Veterinarian of the Year in 2019.

He was an avid tennis player and captain of the New England Mixed Doubles Championship team in 2007 and the captain of several New England Senior Men’s Championship teams.  Golf was also a favorite pastime and he often played with family and friends he had known for many years.  He was a coach and sponsor of Burrillville youth soccer and basketball teams and member and past chairman of the Burrillville Zoning Board of Review.

Doc was a humble man never wanting awards or praise.  His passion was the care and well-being of all creatures great and small.  He took great pride in sharing his expertise with others. Those in need were not forgotten and benefited by his many food drives every Thanksgiving. He treasured the moments spent with his son traveling the country to support his ultra-marathons. Above all, he cherished and adored his angel, Marie. 

The funeral and burial will be private. Please visit for a link to the live streamed funeral Mass on Tuesday at 10am.  In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Marvin Fund c/o RISPCA 186 Amaral St. Riverside R.I. 02915 or through the website

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