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Real Deal

When a Video of a Day Care’s Staff Member Dragging a Dog Goes Viral, the Owners Are Left Wondering How to Regain Their Clients’ Trust

This is the case of the abusive employee.

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WHAT ARE WE GOING to do? This is a nightmare. How can we recover from this?” Tara said to her husband, Tony, with tears in her eyes. Together, they owned a new doggie day care, grooming and boarding facility. Hosting events, caring for pets in their community and growing their business in less than a year have been what Tara always dreamed of.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Filled with luxury pet products in the retail area, the best flooring for dogs to romp around on in the day care, Posh Paws even had temperature-controlled, filtered air in the boarding area, a security system and cameras their pet parent clients can access at any time to check in on their dogs. Tony wanted it to be the best in their area for anyone bringing their dogs for day care, boarding or grooming. It was an expensive endeavor, but worth it to him to cater and pamper the pets coming there.

In a popular pet parent group on social media in their area, a video surfaced from their own cameras of a newer employee violently grabbing a dog by the scruff of its neck, shoving it and dragging the dog out of the day care area.
Within minutes of the video posting, reactions of pet parents in the group ranged from calling for them to shut down, to violent actions against the employee, to notifying the media and saying they would never ever go to that business again.

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Hundreds of comments and shares of the video made it go viral locally.

“I think we need to consult with our lawyers and a crisis management team,” Tony said. “We have taken necessary steps: firing Adam and responding on social media, being honest with the dog’s owners, providing veterinary care. … I don’t know what else we can do.”

“We can’t afford lawyers or a crisis management team,” Tara said. “I am beyond devastated. You know how hard I have worked toward this and how crushed I am that anyone we brought here and gave a job to would do anything like this. That dog didn’t deserve anything but love.”

Tony put his head down into his hands, sighed and said, “We have to be proactive. You know I am devastated too — I am heartbroken anyone in our facility that we trained and trusted would ever do this to any of our clients.They are like family to us, like our own dogs.”

The next day, Tara and Tony arrived to a dozen or so people outside of their building with signs and chanting loudly, “Animal abusers — shut them down, shut them down!”

As they walked inside Tara immediately burst into tears, then she ran into the bathroom.

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Tony walked over to front desk, picked up the phone to call his business adviser. “Hi, yeah … no we are not OK. Did you see the — you can hear that? Protestors outside. I am not sure what to do. … OK, OK. Thank you.”

Knocking on the bathroom door, he said to Tara, “Ron is on his way over. We need him. I don’t care what the fee is. We can’t operate under these circumstances. We need help.”

Tara walked out and nodded to him, wiping tears away from her eyes and walked to the day care area to speak to a few of the employees who were already there.

Tony went over to the front desk and checked the voicemails. There were about 10 messages from boarding and grooming clients canceling. Checking their email and mobile app signup, another eight people canceled their appointments.

The Big Questions

  • What next steps should Tony and Tara take to try and recuperate from this?
  • How can bringing in a lawyer or crisis team help?
  • Besides firing the employee, what actions should be taken against their former employee?
Sarah E.
Lapeer, MI

What is most important is to be transparent with the current customers/public to show their sincerity, professionalism and that they have taken action. People can be understanding. So communicate that the employee’s action was done to protect other dogs — or that the employee violated standards of conduct and is no longer with the company, and immediate in-depth re-training will be conducted with the staff. Honesty and integrity are really the best course of action. This should be communicated via a letter on their website, social media and possibly an ad in the local paper. Also a personal phone call to the company’s current customers to prevent further business loss and to regain trust from those who canceled appointments.

Dawn T.
Windermere, Florida

Tony and Tara should contact the original dog’s owner, make sure that the dog is OK and they are OK. If not, provide assistance. Open up to the public about the incident after speaking with the dog’s owner(s). Let them know what actions, such as firing the employee, re-training of current employees and possibly another open house to re-introduce, show the dedication to the community and their pets. If not, then seek a crisis team and lawyer.

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Kristina R.
Falls Church, VA

The power of social media is a wonderful yet deadly tool. Several years ago, I had a similar situation. I went LIVE and talked to social media. I told how we dealt with the employee and that he would never work in the pet industry again. We talked about how we vetted our staff and that some people can hide their true selves. We talked about transparency and coming in any time. We also talked about our reputation with each person who has used us and know who we are. They know our passion and dedication to the animals. I think it helped being up in front of the situation, answering questions and being honest.

Frank F.
Farmingdale, NJ

It is best that the message comes from the owners of the day care. The message should be simple: That this is not who we are and that we never have and never will tolerate that type of behavior. I would express that the employee involved has been terminated, and we are readdressing with our staff the protocols we expect to be followed in the handling of our clients’ family members. In lieu of a lawyer or a crisis team, I would instead opt to solicit the support of those customers still committed to our company’s mission and ask that they verbalize their support on various social media platforms. The idea is to put the incident behind you as soon as possible. I believe no other action should be taken against the employee other than immediate termination.

Paula G.
Muskego, WI

This will take a bit to recuperate from, but they can rebuild trust. One of the ways to rebuild the trust is to be open and honest. Explain that you fired the employee and are doing everything you can to make sure this former employee cannot do this again. If there are laws in the state against animal abuse, then I would charge him so he could never get a job in the pet industry again. Contact customers. Most will understand that this was an isolated case and that you have taken care of it. Most of the social media posts are probably not from customers. Remind customers that you want the best for their pets and that there are security cameras pet parent clients can access at any time to check in on their dogs.

Danny B.
Sarasota, FL

Do not hire your own employees unless they have a local track record of two years. Fire the idiot publicly.

Oshi S.
Conover, NC

I have worked with animals for over 20 years, and, truthfully, it takes a lot of patience. Not everyone is cut out to work with animals. That’s why it’s very important to screen your potential employees. I think it is important to be truthful with your clients about dog fights. It happens, and often it’s not easy to break it up. As for that employee, he should be reprimanded and questioned.

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Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com.

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