Dog owners, city leaders want answers after several pets die in flood at DC doggie day care

As D.C. faces another day of rain, staff and customers of one doggy daycare in Northeast are dealing with the devastating fallout from Monday’s flash flooding, which left several pets dead.

The waters may have subsided but emotions are still running high as community members are wondering if the tragedy could have been prevented. But right now, there appear to be more questions than answers. 

According to the Humane Rescue Alliance, a total of 10 dogs were killed. They are helping with cremation services. About 20 other dogs were rescued, as well as people who became stranded in the area. 

The owner of District Dogs on Rhode Island Avenue told FOX 5 that flood waters rose as high as 6 feet during the storms. The rushing waters had staff flocking to shelves and counters, trying to save themselves and as many dogs as they could. Now, some of the building's windows have been boarded up as they continue to assess the damage. 

Jocelyn Lobos-Segura, whose dog Mona died in the flooding says she was never informed of an emergency inside the doggie daycare and she was at the facility around the time of the flooding. Lobos-Segura normally picks her dog up at around 5:30 p.m. 

She says when she arrived, she was first told her pet was okay but after not finding her pup at a reunification safe area, that’s when she was told her dog had died.

"I lost a big part of my family in that accident," Lobos-Segura said. "I feel a lot of anger that this has clearly happened in the past so many times and there was no emergency plan. There was no like…there was nothing to fix it to make sure the dogs are okay." 

Lobos-Segura says she wasn't made aware of the daycare's past flooding issues. She says a picture of Mona is still up inside the doggie daycare. She had just turned one in June.

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The anger and heartbreak is palpable. 

"What frustrates me the most about this is multiple people lost their fur babies and it could’ve been avoided. They’re thinking they have their pets in a safe place, a safe environment  and they’re getting a call – ‘sorry your pup is gone.’ Nobody wants to hear that," said Michelle Jones, who owns her own pet care business.

Jones is not the only one feeling frustrated by what they say was a preventable situation.

District Dogs dealt with damaging floods a year ago, suffering multiple back-to-back incidents last year. There are questions about what’s going on with the long-running tunnel project that’s supposed to alleviate the well-known problems with flooding in the area. 

The Northeast Boundary Tunnel (NEBT) runs directly under Rhode Island Ave. DC Water says they fast-tracked the project after major flooding in 2012 but it technically doesn’t have to be completed until 2025. They said the pandemic and severe weather did impact the project, pushing the expected completion date to September 2023. 

According to officials, DC Water gauges recorded two inches of rainfall between 4:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Monday — enough to overwhelm any system, especially when the area essentially acts as a bowl, collecting stormwater from various locations.

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FOX 5 has also learned that there may have been 911 call center issues trying to get help to the daycare.

Ward 5 councilmember Zachary Parker said he reached out the District’s dispatch center, inquiring why public safety advocate David Statter is claiming online it took some 15 minutes after employees called for help to get rescuers to the business when they were already on scene helping people out of cars. Statter claims the D.C. Office of Unified Communications (OUC) apparently relayed the emergency as a "water leak," and not flooding with people trapped. OUC has not answered FOX 5’s questions.

Parker says he does feel the city bears responsibility, questioning why a business would even be allowed to operate right here knowing the flooding issues this area has dealt with for decades.

"We’ve known for years that this area is prone to flooding and it begs the question why any business would be allowed to operate here but more importantly, why the flooding hasn’t been addressed sooner," Parker said. "Repeatedly, I have elevated concerns around issues in Ward 5 not being acted on more urgently and I think the city bears responsibility in doing more here."

Crews were seen checking to see if drains are clogged and Parker says he also wants to know if catch basins were cleared before the storms.

District Dogs released a statement following the flooding, saying in part: "We are heartbroken and want to express our profound sadness to our clients who are dealing with the loss of beloved members of our families."