Furious pet owners say District Dogs providing little information after deadly flood

FOX 5 is hearing from more owners who lost their beloved pets in a flood at a Northeast D.C. doggie daycare Monday. Those owners feel the city shares responsibility but are also furious with District Dogs owner, Jacob Hensley.

Ten dogs were killed as floodwaters poured into the District Dogs located on Rhode Island Ave. NE during severe storms early Monday evening.

The owners have made it clear that they are not upset with the staff, who saved the lives of several dogs while also trying to get themselves to safety. They are upset with the company's leadership.

The owners have made it clear that they’re not upset with the staff who saved the lives of several dogs while also trying to get themselves to safety but rather, they’re upset with the company's leadership. 

The ownership of District Dogs have continued to offer their condolences, saying they have spoken with all the pet parents who lost their dogs and have defended the actions of their staff members during the emergency.

Malee, Memphis and Mona were three of the dogs who were killed in the flood. These owners spoke to FOX 5, saying they ultimately hold Hensley responsible and still have not been told of important details regarding the deaths of their family pets.

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"He’s refused to give any details. When I called the Humane Rescue Alliance where her body was and I asked would it be appropriate to go see her body, they said no because there was a lot of blood. She was really injured and she was struggling," Malee’s owner John Garro said. "So we’re convinced, because he refuses to deny it, that our dog and some of these other dogs – if not other dogs – were in cages when this happened and that she died alone and drowning in a cage."

Garro and at least one other owner claim they signed-up their dogs for open boarding. Part of a new statement from a District Dogs spokesperson says, "Within minutes of observing high water in the area, staff began to take appropriate actions to move dogs in our care to the highest location in our facility." 

The families feel this could’ve been prevented, especially when storm warnings started rolling out some two hours before the flooding began, in an area that has been hit with damaging floods before. 

Some are also upset with the response from D.C. leaders Wednesday, partially chalking up what happened at the facility Monday to climate change, saying the flooding that happened here was worse than they’d ever seen before.

"What we saw the other day, we are experiencing the impacts of climate change, there’s no question," said Christopher Rodriguez, Director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with several other city leaders, offered her condolences and talked about taking a real look at preventing this from happening again, part of which would mean evaluating whether there should even be a commercial space where the District Dogs is now. 

The city is well aware of the "chronic flooding" issues in the area which D.C. Water says date to the late 1800s, "especially during intense rainstorms." 

In a statement sent to FOX 5 Tuesday, a spokesperson for D.C. Water said, "This location under the Metro overpass is a low point that acts as a bowl and stormwater flows into it from multiple directions, including from the tracks above. There are storm drains there, but if the sewer is filled to capacity, there is nowhere for that water to go."

And while a project to alleviate some of this flooding is underway, it's not a comfort for those who lost their pets. 

"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," said Jocelyn Lobos-Segura, whose dog Mona died in the flooding.

Ward 5 councilmember Zachary Parker also questioned why a business would even be allowed to operate in the area amid the well-documented flood problems. 

"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."

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Parker also brought up the concerns about the 911 calls from District Dogs and whether there was another mistake made by the 911 call center.

Public safety advocate David Statter claimed online that it took some 15 minutes after employees called for help to get rescuers to the business when they were already in the area 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. 

Reporters tried to ask city leader’s leaders, including D.C. Emergency Management Director Christopher Rodriguez about those concerns on Wednesday, but no timeline was shared. He would not answer other questions on whether he’d even heard the 911 calls from District Dogs.

The mayor’s office told FOX 5 a timeline would be made available at the mayor’s Tuesday public event.

Bowser says she plans to speak with the owner, who has expressed he wants to leave this location. In the meantime, staff, pet owners and community members are trying to cope with the devastating losses.

A company spokesperson for District Dogs provided FOX 5 with a new statement Wednesday. Read it in its entirety below. 

"Monday was a terrible tragedy. The entire District Dogs family is grieving for those who lost their beloved dogs, We spinach much of yesterday talking with staff, who themselves were processing the trauma and pain of the day. We are committed to supporting them in this difficult time while also learning from their experience to understand what happened. 

Within minutes of observing high water in the area, staff began to take appropriate actions to move dogs in our care to the highest location in our facility. Within a few minutes, the water had risen to approximately 6 feet outside our location. Staff were following emergency procedures as the glass gave way and the building flooded. Our staff rushed to continue to rescue dogs to the best of their ability desire the water rising about their heads. 

On Monday, District Dogs ownership spoke with each of the owners who lost dogs or their on-site representatives. Today, we are once again reaching out to the owners to share the additional information that we have gathered since Monday and reaffirm our commitment to communicate during this difficult time. 

We appreciate the thoughts and support from our clients and community. We again want to thank our staff for their incredible efforts and dedication."