September 30, 2023

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Dog owners demand answers following deadly flood

5 min read

Pet owners who lost their dogs are questioning the protocol at District Dogs and whether their dogs were crated when storm waters rushed in.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Families who lost dogs during Monday’s flood in Northeast D.C. are questioning what protocols were in place at the doggy daycare center where ten pets died due to flooding

Pet owners affected by the tragedy gathered outside the scene where their dogs spent their last hours. 

Jonathan Garro says he has lost a family member. His dog Malee was a rescue from Thailand who had only been boarded at District Dogs twice. 

“There were push alerts that went out ahead of time about a flash flood warning. If you are a location where there is a risk of flooding, and there are people’s pets inside wouldn’t you be proactive?” Garrro told reporters. 

D.C. Fire and Emergency Services say that within 10 minutes the water had reached six feet outside of the business. A wall at the doggy daycare gave out sending floodwaters rushing in. 

The deadly flood is the fourth flooding incident the business has had in a year. 

Teffiney Worthy is among the dog owners who says she was unaware of the chronic flooding on Rhode Island Avenue Northeast. She questions whether District Dogs had a plan of action for emergency situations like the one seen Monday afternoon. 

“Memphis he could not swim so what was put in place for dogs that can’t swim,” Worthy said. Her French Bulldog Memphis would have turned a year old on Aug. 15, but instead of celebrating his birthday, she mourned his loss. 

A District Dogs spokesperson told WUSA9 that within minutes of observing high water in the area, staff began to move dogs to the highest location in the facility. 

“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 despite the water rising above their heads,” the business added in a statement. 

Garro is demanding to know if Malee and other dogs were crated at the time floodwaters rushed in. “We are convinced because he refuses to deny it that, that our dog and some of these dogs, or all of these dogs were in cages when this happened,” he said.

The group of dog owners say the owner of District Dogs Jacob Hensley has not confirmed whether or not the dogs were crated and the reason behind it. They did however notice that at least four of the dogs that died all had names that started with the letter M. 

Garro and his wife believe they were crated in alphabetical order and that rescuers and staff were unable to reach them. 

“When I called the Humane Rescue Society, 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,” Garro added. 

The families say they do not question the heroism from District Dogs staff and the love that the workers had for their pets. 

“Monday was a terrible tragedy. The entire District Dogs family is grieving for those who lost their beloved dogs.  We spent 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,” a District Dogs spokesperson told WUSA9. 

Families say they exploring legal actions against all parties responsible for the tragedy and that they do place blame on D.C. authorities.

District officials including Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed safety concerns during a news conference in Southeast D.C. calling Monday’s storm an impact of climate change. 

Despite the historic flooding along Rhode Island Avenue Northeast, Brian Hamlin with D.C.’s Department of Buildings says the building where District Dogs is located was cleared last year. “After last year’s event, the building was re-inspected and deemed safe in accordance with the current code,” Hamlin said. 

District Dogs owner Jacob Hensely told WUSA9 that he does not plan return to the location. 

Mayor Bowser says the use of the commercial space is being evaluated following the recent flood.  

D.C. Water’s General Manager David Gadis says the drainage in the area was inspected a week prior to the storm. Councilmember Zachary Parker has launched an investigation into the measures that D.C. Water took before the flash flood. “We constantly check the system and the drains as well,” Gadis added. 

Forty-eight hours after the deadly flooding, D.C.’s Office of Unified Communications (OUC) has not responded to concerns that there was a delayed response in dispatching crews to District Dogs. 

The Ward 5 Councilmember says his office is looking into what could have been a fifteen minute delay from the moment that calls from 911 were made from inside District Dogs, to the time that crews were sent out. 

Bowser was asked repeatedly about the timeline, but she did not provide an answer telling reporters, “I don’t think we can lay it out in front of you right now, but what I want to be very clear about is that Fire and EMS was on the scene almost immediately because they were in the area.”

D.C.’s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management also refused to answer reporter questions about the possible delay when asked.

2023-08-16 23:26:35

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