J3N Provides the Latest and Most Up-to-Date News, You Can Stay Informed and Connected to the World.
⎯ 《 Just 3 N : New News Now 》

10 dogs died when a Washington DC doggy daycare flooded. Dog owners are outraged that a dispatcher called it a 'water leak'

2023-08-24 18:59
Maple, Malee, and Zeni didn't have much of a chance when six feet of floodwaters rushed into their Washington DC doggy daycare last week, their owners say, with some of the dogs locked in cages as the waters rose.
10 dogs died when a Washington DC doggy daycare flooded. Dog owners are outraged that a dispatcher called it a 'water leak'

Maple, Malee, and Zeni didn't have much of a chance when six feet of floodwaters rushed into their Washington DC doggy daycare last week, their owners say, with some of the dogs locked in cages as the waters rose.

Severe storms with heavy rains the evening of August 14 brought a flash flood to the doors of District Dogs Northeast.

Brown floodwaters rose along the glass doors and windows of the building that housed the doggy daycare until its walls collapsed and the water rushed in, trapping both employees and dogs, DC Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly said last week. Twenty of the dogs were eventually rescued, he said.

On Monday, DC 911 call center and fire officials shared a timeline of the emergency calls made that day, revealing it took around 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived to start the rescue effort -- sparking outrage among multiple dog owners.

A dispatcher misidentified the situation as a "water leak," as heard in a dispatch call to a first responder obtained by CNN affiliate WJLA. Ten dogs, including Maple, Malee and Zeni, died in the flooding, WJLA reported.

Heather McGaffin, acting director of the Office of Unified Communications that runs DC's 911 call center, said several things affected the response, including confusion over where the calls came from and call-taker performance.

"What I'm saying is, we could have done things differently. This was an unprecedented event," McGaffin said at a news conference Monday.

Owners also upset with daycare's response

Colleen Costello lost Maple, her 1.5-year-old German shepherd mix, that day. While she's grieving the sudden loss of her dog, she's also hammering officials for answers.

"I am extremely frustrated and extremely angry about what happened with (the Office of Unified Communications) and how they deprioritized these calls," Costello told CNN. "I don't feel safe knowing that calls could be misclassified like this or deprioritized and I might not get the help that I need or my family needs."

Costello is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in DC -- a member of a nonpartisan commission of elected neighborhood representatives.

Maple had been to District Dogs several times for daycare and some overnight stays. Costello dropped off her dog that Sunday before going on vacation with her family.

She says she knew something was wrong when she started seeing social media posts and news coverage about the flooding. Costello reached out to friends and had someone go to the facility to ask about her dog -- but her friend didn't find Maple there.

That night, Costello said she received an email from the daycare confirming Maple didn't make it.

Luer Yin and Connor McCarty shared a similar tragedy.

The couple were enamored with their 2-year-old Corgi. "She was perfect in our eyes," said McCarty.

The pair was in Hawaii -- their only vacation this year -- for a family reunion, McCarty said. A few days into the trip, they noticed a missed call and later received a text from District Dogs asking them to call back.

At first, the pair assumed Zeni didn't like her food. But what they later learned on the phone was "unreal," Yin said.

Right off the top of the call, McCarty said the daycare's owner, Jacob Hensley, told them, "Your dog passed away." There were few details available.

"It was like getting hit over the head with a sledgehammer," McCarty said.

Hensley spoke to CNN affiliate WUSA last week, saying his employees had to move nearly 50 dogs when the water broke through the glass.

"I can't imagine how the family members of the lost loved ones are feeling," Hensley told WUSA. "But, we love every single one of our dogs. We know them by name. We see them every day. We lost members of our family, too."

District Dogs said the water rose within minutes and went from blocking the business' front door to smashing through the glass, according to an August 15 statement.

"As that wall of water came upon them, our staff worked heroically to save as many animals as possible despite real danger to their own lives. Many had to cling to shelves and counters themselves."

CNN has reached out to Hensley for comment.

The news of losing his 5-year-old mutt, Malee, made Jonathan Garro drop to the floor in the fetal position, he told CNN.

Garro said Hensley told him there was flooding, some dogs died and "your dog was one of them." Hensley told him. He also received a "blunt" email later that night explaining what had happened, he said.

Malee had only stayed at District Dogs a couple of times. Garro and his wife, Kerry, tried to avoid boarding her.

"We had friends that would take care of her, or we would go on vacations with her when we could," Garro said. "We drove across the country a couple of times with her just to avoid boarding her, because we loved her so much."

'She should not have died'

Maple, Malee and Zeni's owners are now looking for answers amid their grief.

Yin said she's been frustrated the information isn't coming from District Dogs and Hensley -- they've been putting the pieces together from media reports.

"It's been appalling, frankly, the way that the city has handled this, just up and down," Garro said.

Garro has asked District Dogs for emergency evacuation plans. He said he has not received answers.

Despite that, Garro acknowledged the acts of heroism that day.

"From the District Dogs level, I'm not interested in having anybody that's a staff member lose their job," Garro said. "I'm so grateful for the heroism of the people that were working there that day for saving those 20 dogs and themselves."

Zeni's owners are still waiting to get her ashes and it's too soon for them to think of a way to remember her. Maple's family said their final goodbyes on Monday and have yet to make arrangements. And Malee's parents just picked up her ashes, but aren't sure what they'll do with them yet.

For some of them it's been an hour-by-hour experience, just trying to cope with what happened.

And for Costello, she's struggling to not think of what happened to Maple in her last moments.

"It's been really hard knowing what happened to Maple and the other dogs and just trying not to think about it and what it must have been like for her locked up in a cage with no way out, and death just rushing in and taking your life like that," Costello said.

"I cannot even imagine. And I feel so terrible as her parent caregiver for putting her there in a situation where her life was in danger like that... She should not have died."