The staff testify: Animals badly treated at dog daycare

Photos and videos taken by the staff show urine on the floor and chewed up furniture in the space where two dogs have been kept.
Photos and videos taken by the staff show urine on the floor and chewed up furniture in the space where two dogs have been kept.

One dog died after having been attacked. Two others were shut in among their own faeces and urine. And still more are reported to be treated badly in different ways. The staff at a dog daycare in Västerbotten bear witness of serious wrongdoing but the manager says it is defamation.

Västerbotten 28 juni 2023 14:15

On the company’s website the dog daycare is presented as a premium activity where everything is planned individually based on the need of each dog. Some dogs are just there during the daytime while others are there for longer periods.

However, it turns out there are cracks in the façade. It regards a number of incidents where dogs are reported to have been treated badly. Everything culminated in April when a dog was attacked and so badly injured that it passed away.

Lately Norran has received several anonymous tips about things not being what they seem at the dog daycare.  Six employees now choose to talk about their experiences. Norran has gained access to a great amount of communication between the manager and the staff and all accusations in this article are confirmed by more than one employee.

– The dog was completely lifeless, there was blood everywhere. It was so horrible. Our manager left us alone when we needed them the most, says Rebecka who was one of the employees working when the dog died.

Rebecka and her colleagues have been given assumed names. They want to be anonymous as they fear that the manager may act in a manner they perceive to be threatening and manipulative.

The staff say that everything goes well while they are there but that several incidents have occurred when dogs have been left alone with the manager. There are two particular serious incidents that stick out.

One involves two dogs that the manager looked after for a couple of months during spring. They were kept in a part of the building that was always locked for the rest of the staff but one day the manager forgot to lock the door before leaving for the day. The staff had noticed that the dogs where unusually quiet and decided to check on them.

The scene they saw is something they will never forget.

– We quickly understood that it was the same dogs that had been collected by the manager several months earlier. The dogs had been treated in an extremely undignified way, it was pure misery. Rubbish, urine, faeces. They were incredibly thirsty, Alex says.

Their colleague Kim adds:

– They sat in a corner looking terrified. They had been lying in their own faeces, the poo had dried and stuck to their fur.

The staff cleaned up the room but instead of being thanked they say that they were lambasted. In a long message to the staff the manager writes that only two of the manager’s family members are to have access to the room when the manager is away.

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Photos and videos taken by the staff show urine on the floor and chewed up furniture in the space where two dogs have been kept.

”These dogs were to be handled by xx and yy. Nobody else. They were to be left in peace and quiet so that I would be able to move them when I returned. Why is such a clear work order ignored? This lack of respect for both the work order and the dogs but also for the colleagues is not something I can accept as an employer”, the manager writes in the message.

– We did what all animal lovers would have done in that situation. The message to us is nothing but an insult, all these attacks feel terrible. The manager tries to make out that we traumatised the dogs by going in there and that everything is our fault. It’s absurd, Alex says.

The other serious incident occurred on April 23 and ended with the death of a dog. The dog belonged to the manager’s family. It was attacked by another dog and received such serious injuries that it later died. The fact that this happened is also confirmed by the communication between the manager and the employees.

– There were three dogs in the same space. After the dog died the staff was blamed which is unacceptable. The manager made it seem that it was our decision to leave the dogs together even though it was they who ordered us to do it, says Rebecka.

Alex adds:

– As an animal lover it is very tough. We had to manage everything after the death, the manager was unavailable when we needed all the support we could get.

Since the start the staff have also experienced administrative problems. They say that it is very difficult to get hold of the manager. They rarely show up at work and salaries have not been paid out a couple of times. The staff also testify to overtime not being registered and that work schedules are sent out too late. 

The trade unions Unionen and Kommunal were contacted a while ago for this reason. The County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) has also received a complaint regarding deficient animal husbandry. 

The colleague Alex has also turned to the police regarding the labour law issues. However, no police report has been drafted.

Why not?

– It was the police’s recommendation to get a legal representative involved to move the proceedings forward, which is what we have done. We just completely followed the police’s recommendations as we wanted to do this in the best way possible, we have no previous experience of similar situations, says Alex.

Why have you not quit if you are not happy?

– Two people actually did a while ago. But we love the dogs and we absolutely don’t want to leave them, us colleagues have become like a family. Also, we have no other work to fall back on, says Alex.

What do you wish to happen in future?

– In the best of worlds we get to continue running the dog daycare without the manager. But unfortunately we don’t have the financial means to run any operation on our own. There have been a lot of tears lately, this is without a doubt the worst thing we have experienced.

Norran has also talked to a dog owner who has taken their dog out of the dog daycare. The dog owner confirms that it has been very difficult to get hold of the manager.

– The lack of communication and the insecurity meant that I didn’t want to leave my dog there. The trust has been broken, the person says.

Norran schedules an interview with the manager. But only two hours before the interview is to take place they choose to cancel. The manager asks to respond by email instead. That means that we have not had any chance to ask follow-up questions.

The manager is of the opinion that the staff are defaming them and calls it a smear campaign. According to the manager there are a couple of staff members who want to punish them due to an earlier conflict.

At the same time the manager admits that there are a lot of things they ”could have done better if there had been time”. The claims about the manager treating the dogs badly is referred to as ”incorrect information” by the manager. They also write that they have ”prioritised the dogs over administrative work”. 

The manager also writes that the dog daycare will be shut down shortly due to financial and health reasons. They say that the staff have been given the opportunity to purchase or take over the entire business.

The staff confirm to Norran that they have received this offer but say that they do not consider themselves to have the financial means to take over.

Why did you keep two dogs separate and how come they lived in what the staff describe as misery.

– There were two dogs who needed a space right away. One dog was completely unmanageable and there wasn’t much else to do than to let him be. In order to reduce his stress I made the decision that we should only be three persons handling the dogs. The room was cleaned several times per day and it was an order from me for the others to leave the dogs alone.

– The fact that the staff go in, record, rearrange furniture, rip things out, scream and argue in there means that the dog was in an even worse state than before. A work order is always a work order and the staff defied it.

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Images taken by the staff from inside the dog daycare.

The staff discover two dogs who are not doing well and try to look after them. Still you think they did the wrong thing?

– There were people tasked with looking after these particular dogs. Other staff had neither the experience nor the knowledge of how to manage the dogs so one might wonder why they entered the room.

Regarding the dog that died the manager does not agree with the claim that they put all the blame for the incident on the staff. 

– What I have said is that if the work and safety procedures had been adhered to, this wouldn’t have happened. In this case it was a female dog in heat that was put in a room together with a male dog and an older female without supervision. When they found a chew bone and an argument broke out there was no one there to help.

However, the staff say that it was the manager who decided that these three specific dogs should be put together.

– It’s my job to update the procedures and make sure that all staff know how to act in a dog fight, the manager says.

The staff also feel that you left them in the lurch when they needed you the most after the death.

– I drove up as fast as I could and talked to everyone in the staff. When the dog later died I hit the wall, my body shut down. One of the employees were informed of this and asked to take over the scheduling and responsibility but went on holiday instead. If you’re told that your employer has collapsed completely I would’ve hoped that people would try to help and look after the business instead of going behind my back spreading lies.

The staff say that they would have liked to help but that it was impossible as they had not been given an introduction to how to manage the administrative tasks.

– It would’ve required a run-through of programmes, apps, procedures and labour law, says Alex.

Regarding the criticism of the manager not being on hand very often, they answer:

– I’ve employed extra members of staff so that I won’t need to be there. The recommendation is to have ten to twelve dogs per employee, we have eight employees for 35 to 40 dogs. There are two members of staff who have problems with my leadership and refuse to follow the procedures which confuses the other staff, the manager says.

The manager claims that the employees have salaries ”far above the collective agreement level”, flexible schedules and the opportunity to ask for time off on short notice. The fact that salaries have not been paid out is, according to the manager, primarily the fault of a previous employee.

– I assumed that the person had done the bookkeeping. But it had not been done in the correct way and the VAT accounting had been done wrong for six months. The person had also cancelled the contract we had with the agency we hired to manage payroll. I was left with accounts in chaos and a sense of panic.

The manager also writes this:

– I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes and acted erroneously in many aspects. You learn from your mistakes. But one must also remember that we are a fairly new business. I was useless at informing people about everything during spring for understandable reasons. I’m only human and at some point I also have my limits. When it resorts to personal attacks and attempts at talking crap, I back out.

Footnote: Alex, Kim and Rebecka are assumed names.

FACTS

The staff’s legal representative tells Norran that ”wrongdoings that the staff have suffered from are now managed by the trade unions”.

Unionen writes in a comment that they have called for a negotiation with the employer and that they will thereafter decide how to move forward with the case.

The trade union Kommunal also confirm that they are ”looking into the case” and ”will have to see what it results in”.


 
 
 
 
 
 
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