Bowser meets with owners who lost pets in District Dogs flood; families of gun violence victims want the same

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Thursday met with the families impacted by the fatal District Dogs flooding nearly three weeks ago. Ten dogs drowned while locked in cages at the facility. 

The tragic incident caused outrage around the District with many saying the owner of District Dogs is not the only one at fault — city leaders are too. 

The meeting with the mayor started at 3 p.m. with most of the families attending in person, including ANC Commissioner Colleen Costello, who lost her dog, Maple in the tragic flooding.

Last week, Mayor Bowser told FOX 5 that she had been in touch with the owner of District Dogs but according to Costello, the mayor had not yet contacted the pet owners. 

"It’s a slap in the face. I’m offended," Costello told FOX 5 last Wednesday. "They should be reaching out to us. Not just the well-insured business owner to ask him how they can help him and be of service to him. They should be reaching out to us."

Costello is the one who led the way for the 10 families, penning the letter to Mayor Bowser asking for the meeting. They also addressed the letter to Office of Unified Communications Director Heather McGaffin and Acting Department of Buildings Director Brian Hanlon, requesting a joint meeting but only the mayor and her team were present Thursday. 

In the meeting, attendees wanted to talk about 911 call center issues, funding and errors that delayed help getting to the business and workers trapped inside — an issue that impacts the whole city. They also wanted to talk about preparations for areas that are known as flood zones in the District.

City leaders have been responsive to the numerous questions and complaints that flooded in following the incident, releasing a timeline of events and owning up to the communication failure that slowed down the emergency response. 

OUC Director McGaffin and D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly held a joint press conference earlier this month, offering their condolences and putting forth plans to avoid another situation like this in the future.

District Dogs 

"Losing a dog is hard, and I am so incredibly sorry," McGaffin told reporters on Aug. 21. "We’re also looking at different ways we can also provide service when animals are involved. It’s not something we’ve historically looked at but are committed to in the future as well."

The city is now planning to revoke the certificate of occupancy for the District Dogs Rhode Island, NE location and restrict what type of business can operate there in the future, city officials announced Thursday. 

With the mayor directly involved, it appears District leaders are committed to righting the wrong. 

"I was asked and I said yes," Bowser said when asked why she decided to have the meeting. "Like most constituents, if they ask me for a meeting, it might not happen immediately but they can have a meeting with me."

But some say are there other victims’ families the mayor should be making time to meet with.

"I feel like if you can meet with a person about a dog in the family — a dog is a part of the family, but humans are too — you can meet with us mothers too," said Tyeisha Lucas. 

Lucas’ son, 15-year-old Andre Robertson Jr., was killed in Northeast D.C. last year just outside a relative’s house. His 92-year-old great-great-grandmother was also grazed by a bullet. 

Andre Robertson Jr., 15

The teenage suspect was also convicted as a juvenile in the shooting of Commanders player Brian Robinson, which happened a year ago Monday. He was sentenced in both shootings but only got life as a juvenile which, for him, amounts to six years. 

The victim’s family was told that the suspect was unable to be charged as an adult because he was younger than 15 at the time.  

While Bowser is now facing criticism that she hasn’t reached out to other families who lost a loved one in an emergency involving OUC mistakes or different families who have lost kids to DC violence, she says she’s willing to make it happen.

"They could. They should ask if they want a meeting," she told FOX 5. 

So Lucas is making her request. 

"I know you say we have to ask you, so I’m asking you now, publicly, on the news, can you come and visit us on the 8th at 900 Massachusetts Ave NW?" Lucas said. 

The event on Sept. 8 is called "Turning Pain Into Purpose: Say My Son’s Name," a performance involving area mothers who’ve lost their kids to gun violence.

Lucas says if she could speak with the mayor, she would want to talk about juvenile violence, sentencing and assistance to families after.

"It would mean a whole lot. I mean – it would show me that she actually cares, like, that she’s actually there for us. You need to understand that we want her on our side as our mayor," Lucas said. "You get voted year after year, come and show us that you care."

FOX 5 shared Lucas’ request with the mayor’s team. We’ll follow up as soon as possible.