A popular Tampa doggie day care center is under investigation and the county is looking for answers after two dogs died from heat exhaustion. The I-team found other pet owners who claim their pets also suffered serious injuries at Lucky Dog Day Care in South Tampa.
Will Lazenby says a bigger dog ripped his pup, Louis, apart at Lucky Dog Day Care last year. Louis who suffered gashes all over his head and a deep gash under his front leg underwent emergency surgery.
Sylvie Feinsmith is also asking questions. Her her three-legged rescue, Vashti, got hurt at Lucky Dog last month.
Feinsmith showed us a surveillance video that appears to capture her pet's final seconds at the pet resort. Vashti breaks way from an employee, sprints down the hall and then falls to the floor.
Medical bills totaling almost $8,000 show Vashti underwent two surgeries which included repairing a herniated disk.
We called the owners Jack Hamilton and Mike Hardy and they showed us emails from June asking Feinsmith for permission to talk with her vet. Lucky Dog points to medical records indicating Vashti suffered from disc disease that may have played a role in her injury. On Wednesday, July 5, the owners offered to pay the vet bills in full.
Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center says it has opened an investigation into what happened to Vashti along with the heat related deaths of two dogs in the last two weeks.
The owners say the heat exhaustion deaths are the first in 8 years. They fired 4 managers for not following safety protocol.
Lucky Dog’s owners sent this statement addressing all of our questions:
"Lucky Dog has operated for nearly 8 years. The facility has always operated under a stringent requirement that all dogs be brought into the air conditioned space no later than 11:00 AM during hot summer days. As a result, we had never had a heat stress related incident until 2 weeks ago. The management staff failed to adhere to that requirement which resulted in the tragic loss of an English bulldog. Based on that incident, we consulted with veterinarians and changed our policy. We then had a high intensity meeting with the management staff and implemented an absolute policy where all short nosed dogs would be limited to play only in the air conditioned large indoor yards. We also re-iterated the 11:00 AM policy for all other breeds and insisted that it was an absolute. Upon hearing of a second bulldog suffering heat stroke only two weeks later, we were completely stunned to hear that not only were both policies violated but that the management staff knowingly left the dogs out until nearly 12:15 PM. As part of our corrective action we have fired the entire management staff and other related employees. We have also changed our summertime yard procedures to limit the outside play time to no more than 10:30 AM. With both dog owners, we admitted our responsibility. We offer no excuses for this failure and offer our most sincere apologies to the families affected.
Regarding Vashti, we carefully reviewed the video of the dog simply running and this appeared to be a medical condition rather than an injury. We were (and always have been) willing to pay regardless if this was just a medical condition, however, we did not want to pay an expensive bill and still be impugned as being at fault if it was due to a medical condition. We simply asked for a copy of the bill and permission to speak with the veterinarian. We only received the bill and report this afternoon. The report states diagnosis: type 1 intervertebral disc disease. We are therefore willing to pay the bill out of generosity assuming we are not impugned as having been at fault.
Now concerning the William Lazenby issue; One of our clients adopted a rescue dog and began daycare at Lucky Dog. In her application the client certified (a requirement of all guests for entrance to the facility) that the dog had no previous history of aggressive behavior and had never bitten another dog or person. It was that dog that attacked Mr. Lazenby’s dog. At that point the owner of the rescue dog informed us that she was going to pay the bill. We were told that she then paid his bill. It was after that point that Mr. Lazenby began requesting (on attorney letterhead) copies of videos, lists of witness, etc. During a telephone conversation with Mr. Hamilton (co-owner), Mr. Lazenby clearly demonstrated his intent to pursue a “personal injury” style settlement.
The dogs at Lucky Dog play are like rambunctious kids on a playground. They have a great time chasing, tackling and rolling in the turf yards. Minor injuries are inevitable. More severe injuries like those incurred by Mr. Lazenby’s dog happen much more rarely (Maybe 4 or 5 in our 8 year history).
Another option is to put the dogs in a cage all day (like some facilities do). Our clients by far prefer to see their dogs playing and having fun despite the slight risk of playground injury."