Winnipeg family calls for dog daycare oversight after 2 pets killed by larger dog

A Winnipeg family whose two dogs were attacked and killed while at daycare are calling for a better oversight model for the industry and are warning other pet owners to do research before entrusting a company with their furry friends.

Andreina and Keith Holliday say their two small dogs Rocky and Tango were spending a couple of days at Pooches Playhouse earlier this month because the family is in the midst of trying to sell their house.

A couple hours before they were due to pick up the Yorkie and the Maltese-Yorkie — both of whom are under five pounds — they got a horrifying call that Rocky was attacked and was being taken to a vet nearby.

“At that point we were holding on to some hope that Rocky would make it, that he would be okay,” Andreina said.

While they were trying to ascertain the whereabouts of Rocky, because nobody seemed to know which vet clinic he was taken to, they say they got another call that Tango had also been attacked and didn’t make it.

Shortly after, Rocky was pronounced dead.

Andreina and Keith Holliday say their dogs Tango, left, and Rocky, right, were beloved members of their household. (Submitted by Andreina Holliday)

Andreina calls it a traumatizing experience.

“They were obviously a huge part of our family, a huge part of our day-to-day routine. The house feels very empty, very quiet,” she said.

Keith says it was especially difficult sharing the news with their daughter and son.

“Telling the kids was pretty traumatic and they couldn’t wrap their head around, just like we couldn’t. How did two dogs get killed at the same time?”

“You kind of always know at some point you will lose your pets, but never in such a way and so early in their lives,” Andreina added.

The co-owner of Pooches Playhouse, Meaghan Bojarski declined an interview but said in an emailed statement that she’s sorry this happened and the company will be reviewing their protocols following the attacks.

She said nothing like this has ever happened in their eight years in business and the dogs were always supervised.

A spokesperson from the City of Winnipeg said the Animal Services Agency investigated and the dog in question has been deemed dangerous under the responsible pet ownership bylaw.

That means, among other things, that if the dog is off the owner’s property, they must be muzzled and be on a leash that’s six feet or shorter, and held by a person capable of controlling the dog.

Safety measures

Andreina and Keith are warning other pet owners to do their own research because there is no oversight model for dog daycares in the province.

They say owners should ask the manager or owners how the workers are trained, how many people are working with the dogs, and what emergency procedures they have in place.

“It was just a matter of time, something like this happening, and it’s a terrible experience. We don’t want anyone else to go through it,” Andreina said.

Bojarski said in a statement Pooches Playhouse welcomes regulations and an oversight model that would standardize safety protocols, which would offer consumers more security and trust in the companies.

Catherine McMillan, the director of behaviour and community support for the Winnipeg Humane Society and a certified dog trainer, says there are a number of safety measures that can be put in place to prevent dog attacks in settings like dog daycares.

First of all, small and large dogs should be kept separate.

“Some small breeds in defence, rather than show their teeth, they will maybe yip or squeal, and that can actually cause a predatory behaviour in some dogs and that can cause some fatalities, unfortunately,” McMillan said.

It’s also important to maintain a good ratio of people to dogs so they can keep an eye on every interaction, and that those people are well trained in dog behaviours, she said.

“Ensuring that they are knowledgeable in dog body language, how to recognize telltale signs that there are impending concerns … there needs to be some training in place in the event that a fight does break out and procedures and safety measures that can be implemented quickly to prevent any fatalities or further injuries to the dogs,” she said.

Not the Husky’s fault

Dog fights do happen in scenarios like dog parks and day cares, McMillan says, but it’s up to the people in the area to break it up and manage the behaviour.

Some dogs don’t belong in daycare, though.

“It’s not about the breed. It’s more so the behaviour being displayed,” she said.

If dogs are becoming fearful or are acting predatory, there are other options, including dog walkers.

“At the end of the day, they are animals and unfortunate things do happen, and it can never be too safe. And that’s, I think, the biggest thing. We have to remember the safety aspect here,” McMillan says.

Andreina says dog owners should check in with themselves if they feel their dog is aggressive.

“If they’re going to use the daycare, how can we make sure our dog is safe, but also are other dogs are safe around my dog? And if the answer is they’re not safe around your dog, then they need to stay home,” she said.

“Unfortunately, in this situation, the dog didn’t just kill one dog, it killed two.”