A cockapoo slips out the door of a DIY dog bath and gets
hit by a car. How does the owner handle the aftermath?
Teresa smiled at her customer, an older man with a Yorkshire terrier, and carefully wrapped up his porcelain dog bowl before placing it in a carrier bag.
“Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Teresa asked, and gave the small dog a cookie from the glass jar on the counter. The man shook his head in response and smiled back. Teresa glanced over at the dog baths and saw that the woman with the cream-colored cockapoo was getting ready to towel her dog off.
ABOUT REAL DEALReal Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.
The DIY dog baths her friend had suggested for her pet store a while back had turned into a real earner, and apart from the installation of the tubs and a laundry machine for the towels, they had required almost no extra work at all. She’d already had several dogs in for baths today, and some of their owners had stopped to buy toys and treats on their way out.
She watched the man and his Yorkie leave the store, when suddenly a cream-colored flash of fur shot past the counter and jumped over the surprised Yorkie in the doorway.
“Archie! Archie come back!” the cockapoo’s owner shouted as she ran after her dog, leash in hand and her voice shrill with panic.
Then, as if in slow motion, Teresa saw the dog leap off the sidewalk before the sound of shrieking tires and a loud thud told her that Archie had been hit by a car. She ran out and helped the woman get Archie away from the traffic. It was clear to see he was in bad shape, so they got him in the woman’s car, and she watched her rush him off to the vet. Teresa’s legs shook, and she decided to close her store early. Her hands were trembling as she fumbled with the keys; all she could think about was Archie’s limp body and bloody fur.
Later that night, Teresa poured herself a glass of wine and checked her cellphone.
“You have no new messages,” the voicemail voice said for the umpteenth time. It had been hours since the incident; surely the woman must know she was beside herself with worry?
To pass the time, she brought up Facebook on her phone and her breath caught when she saw that Archie’s owner had tagged her store in a tribute to her dog. Archie had died before they’d even reached the vet, and as she read the final line the words blurred on her screen: “If only the dog wash had provided basic safety measures, our Archie would still have been alive today. Please share to warn your friends with dogs.” The post had been shared several times by many of her customers and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the local paper and regional news had also been tagged.
As if on cue, her phone rang.
“Hi My name is Hayden, and I’m calling from the Herald. I’d like your comment on a story involving your store’s safety and a dog that died there today.”
Without saying a word, Teresa hung up the phone, and felt sick to her stomach. How had this become her fault?
The Big Questions
- Was Teresa responsible for the dog’s accident and death?
- What could Teresa have done to prevent this accident from happening?
- How should Teresa deal with Archie’s owner on Facebook, and the local press?
Real Deal Responses
Dogs Bay Inc., Holland, MI
Teresa is responsible for anything that happens in her store. Is she to blame? In my opinion, no. I do not offer DIY dog baths, but I do have a safety policy that we strictly enforce and that is “Your dog must be on a leash and in your control at all times.” Dealing with the client and the press, that’s a tough one. I would just voice my deepest condolences for the owner that such an unfortunate accident occurred — compassionate, without admittance of any guilt or blame towards anyone.
Fulton and Mount Carroll, IL
I don’t think Teresa is responsible. After all, it is a DIY bathhouse. But definitely a second gate or doorway should be used for safety. I’m sure Teresa couldn’t feel any worse if it were her own dog. I would probably pay my respects in person and let the owner know how sorry she is. I don’t think I would address Facebook or the news.
Unfortunately, the owner is always responsible for what happens in his or her business. Teresa could have prevented this by having a double-door system to the outside as well as another set of gates on the inside, making it three open doors for an escape. You cannot rely on the general population to be attentive to these things — they are preoccupied with their own dogs and not necessarily looking around at others. I would make a brief and sincere apology for the episode and then make changes so that it could never happen again.
Three locations in New Jersey
Teresa did not provide security for such a predictable event. A tether should be attached in the tub and made mandatory for customers to use. Do not respond beyond examining the situation and looking for improvement.
Social media can be a killer, so Teresa needs to get ahead of it and move on. I would reach out to my clients and not the local press. I would make sure any story they printed was accurate. Had this been a drop-off client, the damage would be worse since the owner isn’t typically there during the process. Pick-up and drop-off is typically when dogs get away from their owners.
Teresa was not responsible in any way for the dog’s accident or death. Why would she be? The pet owner did not control their dog. Any pet owner would argue that they are responsible for how they raise it, how they train it, what they feed it, where they take it and anything else related to their dog. It’s sad that in this day and age, when something bad happens, all of a sudden it’s not their responsibility that they lost control of their dog and try to make it someone else’s responsibility.
San Rafael, CA
It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The customer will never see it any way except for the store’s fault. To avoid this situation: 1. Have the tubs so far back in the store that it would make it difficult for a dog to escape; 2. Have employees monitoring the tubs at all times to assist people who cannot control their dogs; 3. Have waivers available for problem customers to sign, absolving store from responsibility; 4. Have separate rooms with doors for tubs. 5. Put up huge signs saying “PLEASE ASK FOR HELP WHEN USING THE TUBS”; 6. Do not have tubs.
Tinton Falls, NJ
However unfortunate, I feel that the owner should have been able to maintain control the entire time. What if her dog bit another dog or person? They would still be responsible.
This is very unfortunate and hopefully Teresa’s customer will recognize their own role in this, but Teresa should respond to the newspaper and on social media at some point. She did nothing wrong here. Most people would be upset because the dog was injured, but most rational people when presented with the facts would not blame her.
Yes, Teresa was responsible. She did not provide protection for possible escapes. Our policy is always two doors between the dog and an escape.
This article originally appeared in the March-April 2017 edition of PETS+.