Update on Puppy Killed on a Walk in April – Lawsuit Filed


“Dear PoPville,

Hi everyone – We would like to thank all of you for your kind words and support since we lost our puppy Pip on April 12. As you’ll recall, she was hit by a car while on a walk during a weekend boarding at Wagtime. We’ve spent the past few months trying to learn more about what happened and discussing our next steps. We want to share with you today that we’ve filed a lawsuit against Wagtime and its owners. You can read the complaint below.

Complaint against Wagtime (PDF)

As you’ll see, we were disturbed to learn of many discrepancies between eyewitness accounts of the accident and what Wagtime’s owners told both us and the police about the circumstances of Pip’s death – where and how the accident occurred, who was walking our dog, whether she was wearing her proper harness and leash and even the condition of our dog when she was transported to the vet. We were told that Pip had survived the accident and was alive (but laboring), when in fact we learned later that she died at scene. We hope you’ll read the full details in the complaint. It’s been heartbreaking for us to have to spend the months following our dog’s death having to piece together what really happened, but it’s very important to us that the truth gets out.

Thank you again for all of your support. – Julie and Mike”

87 Comment

  • That face. I cannot deal. Good luck with your effort to get accountability. Hopefully if nothing else it will encourage Wagtime and other such businesses to consider appropriate precautions when handling a beloved pet.

  • Good for you! This still makes me so sad. RIP Pip.

  • Uh, this entire situation is so sad. Hope you get some closure and accountability for what really happened.

  • Wagtime’s lies and misrepresentations are SHOCKING. I’m so sorry.

  • Read the whole thing.

    Are the police charging the owners of Wagtime with filing a false police report?

  • So sorry for your loss. There have been several troubling and angering stories about Wagtime on this site, including the most recent one about a man’s dog who was attacked by one of their dogs and received no vet care for what turned out to be pretty serious injuries. Glad the word is getting out on this place. They are not to be trusted. Places like Wagtime cause me to think long and hard about who I am leaving my animals with- sometimes you just never know. Fortunately, you’re helping people who might be considering entrusting their own animals with this outfit.

  • Demanding a minimum of $5,000? Good luck with that. You’re about to find out how animals are valued under the law (hint: not a lot). How much are your vet bills and what’s it cost to replace the dog? You might get that.

    • I think $5,000 for something like that is more than reasonable.

      • Reasonable and what is available under the law aren’t always the same thing. Legally, the dog is just a piece of property. If a dry cleaning business ruined your $400 garment, you don’t get to sue them for $5000. Same with a $400 dog. While that may not seem fair, that’s the law.

        • +1 This is, unfortunately, exactly right. Dogs are property under the law, not companions, family members, and friends. While I would be devastated and furious if this happened to my dog, I am not sure I’d be willing to pay more in attorney’s fees than I could ever recover in damages just to (possibly, assuming all of the allegations are true) make a point to the business. I hope OP’s attorneys made the costs-benefits abundantly clear.

          • My guess is that the lawsuit was filed so that this could be made public, not to actually try and get any money from Wagtime.

          • My guess is this almost definitely pro bono. The complaint was filed by a firm that would never take on a $5000 case because the judgment would be less than the fees.

    • $5000 is the “jurisdictional minimum” i.e. how much you have to claim as a minimum to file in that court (as opposed to small claims court).

    • The $5K is a pittance. This is more than covering just the loss of a dog. This is about making an irresponsible and negligent business liable for bad behavior that not only affected this family, but could affect future families down the road. Given Wagtime’s history, they should be used to these lawsuits. They need to hurt until they make the changes necessary to operate a responsible business- that, or go out of business.
      That said, yeah, our laws have not evolved to the point where we place a higher value on animals or provide adequate punishments for those who abuse/kill them. Those of us concerned about animal welfare (and rights) issues know this far too well!

      • They are not likely to get anything other than the cost of the dog and any related expenses. The court’s purpose in a civil suit is to make the plaintiff whole financially. Beyond that, the purpose of a lawsuit is not to punish the defendant, except in the very rare instances in which punitive damages are awarded, which seems unlikely here. This is a common misconception.
        The plaintiffs have a large law firm representing them. I’m not sure how that can make sense financially because the complaint probably cost more than they will ever recover. Maybe it’s pro bono or maybe they have a friend or relative at the firm.

        • The court’s purpose may not be to punish the defendant beyond awarding the plaintiff punitive damages, but the harm that is being done to Wagtime’s reputation by being forced to go to court (and the publicity it’s receiving on this site and others) certainly will. And based on the details of the complaint, it sounds as if that harm is well deserved.

        • So who gets to judge how much my animal is worth? If I just put $7000 into his care at the vet’s office and the dog is perfectly healthy, but then Wagtime kills him, am I only entitled to some arbitrary and low figure based on what society thinks my dog is worth? There should be serious repercussions. $5K isn’t making me “whole”- it might make another person whole, but it’s not doing it for me. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak to the reality of a lawsuit, but I do know that when it comes to animals, we just don’t do them justice with our laws (we’re better than many on this earth, but there is so much room for us to improve). Regardless, Wagtime is going to get some attention it never wanted, and they more than deserve it. That might be worse than any lawsuit for a paltry $5K.

          • “So who gets to judge how much my animal is worth?”
            A judge.

          • By what criteria, though? That’s the problem. The criteria is flawed.

          • Yeah, the same thing can be said for suing someone in civil court over the death of another human being. I doubt you’d like to hear how that is calculated either.

          • Replacement value, the same way as with a sofa. So if it’s a shelter dog, probably the amount of the adoption fee. If a Westminster winner, much more. Awful, isn’t it?

          • The problem is that your love for your animal is subjective and can’t be readily monetized by a court. You may think your puppy is worth a billion dollars, but that doesn’t mean that the court should order a defendant to pay that.
            Believe it or not, if you run over a hedge fund manager, you will pay more than if you run over a a day laborer because the damages will be calculated, in part, based on the potential earnings that the family lost due to the premature death. I’m not saying that this is right or fair. It just illustrates the difficult considerations that go into deciding how much any life is worth.

          • Filing papers asked for a six-person jury so if it’s granted, it won’t be a judge.

    • +1

      I was just about to make the same comment. Since $5K is the “jurisdictional minimum” and the value of an animal is very low (~$300) you might get a summary dismissal. Punitive and other damages are probably speculative (unless you have a shrink’s bill) and thus null.

      Sorry for your loss, but I’m afraid you’ll most likely get bupkis.

    • I’m sure you didn’t mean your words as they came out, but a dog just can’t be “replaced”. That isn’t how it works.

  • Is Troutman Sanders handling this pro bono? That’s a big firm to be in Superior Court.

    • Agreed – plaintiffs must be friends with a partner there. I feel TERRIBLE for any person who loses a pet, but can’t help but feel Troutman’s pro bono hours could go to a better cause (Innocence Project maybe??)… But maybe this case will give the young associate who filed it some valuable courtroom experience.

      • Yes, I have to agree. If this is being done pro bono, the Troutman pro bono committee needs to re-examine its priorities. It was a cute puppy who died in a case of negligence or by accident, depending on who you believe. This is the kind of major injustice of the world that law firms are supposed to be helping correct through their pro bono work.

        • Haha, sorry, meant to type “this is *NOT* the kind of major injustice….”

        • And other people would disagree with you. You’re not an animal person- got it. However, going after a business that seems to repeatedly be causing issues in its community seems more than worthwhile to me. When you factor in all the rescue dogs they handle, it is even more important to hold them accountable for malfeasance.

          • Sorry, it’s not a matter of being an “animal person” or not. And frankly your ad hominem attack on me when you know nothing at all about me is ridiculous. My point is that legal pro bono work should be focused on the large number of indigent people in this city suffering legal challenges. If this is indeed a pro bono case, then Troutman seriously needs to reconsider why they are helping out people who can spend $55/day for dog boarding + $20/walk. Many households in DC have less money than that to spend on food. My guess is this is actually not something that’s pro bono. If the plaintiffs are paying for this level of representation, good for them for using their money to hold the defendants accountable for the various amounts of negligence that’s been asserted about Wagtime.

          • +1

            I don’t know the details, but if this is something they are handling Pro Bono – good for them. What happened with Pip and the lies told by Wagtime is disgusting. I am disgusted.

          • I totally agree – you shouldn’t be forced to do pro bono work that someone else deems more important than something you’re personally passionate about. The best part of being a lawyer is getting to work on pro bono cases that are close to your heart. I typically try to help on cases in the arts.

        • Maybe they’re handling this pro bono because they think that Wagtime is a fraudulent, negligent company that should be put out of business, which wouldn’t happen with a low-profile lawyer in small-claims court? Or maybe Pip’s parents are wealthy and not in it for the money but rather to put Wagtime out of business? Without knowing the motivations, it’s preposterous to pass judgment on them.

        • The thing is, you can’t rank pro bono on a scale.

          For example, to take your example of the Innocence project. When I was an attorney, I worked on a pro bono death penalty case. Over many years, my firm spent the equivalent of millions of dollars in attorney’s fees, expert witness costs, filing fees, travel costs, etc. All for one person.

          And while I really believed in the innocence of the person we were defending, I had to wonder – is it really right to spend all this money on one person? How many kids could gotten free lunch with this money? How many tenants could we have defended from wrongful eviction?

          In the end I realized – you just can’t rank pro bono. Just accept that you are trying to do good, and don’t compare it to the other good that is or is not being done.

  • I will admit that I only read part of the complaint (and don’t have time to read the rest), but it looks like there is a big hole. There is a lot of emphasis on the purported negligence of Wagtime for failing to use a harness appropriate for a small dog (since small dogs can slip out of a collar), but the eye witness accounts indicate that Pip still had on his collar and was dragging his leash when he ran into the road. This makes the whole bit about not using the harness irrelevant, since it had nothing to do with what caused the accident (which apparently was the walker letting go of the leash). Am I missing something here?

    • I thought the same thing, but it’s really just another example of their negligence. Telling the owner the wrong time of the accident and number of dogs that were being walked has no relevance either, but they are more evidence on how Wagtime was across-the-board unreliable and untrustworthy.

      • Number of dogs walked together is absolutely relevant. Could go to negligence if the number was high and/or the walker was inexperienced.

    • No-pull harnesses (the one the owner wanted Wagtime to use) help train dogs to not pull during walks and helps you control the dog better.

      • But other than a statement in passing, I didn’t see where the Complaint clearly alleged that Wagtime formally agreed to use the special no-pull harness provided by the owner. Again, I know very little about dogs or dog walking, I’m just commenting based on what I see in the complaint.

        And hopefully my comments are coming across as pragmatic rather than insensitive — I’m of course sorry for the loss of Pip here…

        • My guess is that it is probably in the contract signed with Wagtime, although I don’t definitely know that.

  • We are so very sorry about the tragic and avoidable loss of sweet Pip. We cannot even fathom your pain. We are glad to learn you are pursuing legal action against Wagtime’s owners who have a long and sordid history of negligent behavior including lying to their customers, and refusing to take responsibility for their many dogs injured, maimed, and now killed on their company’s watch. We’ve been told Lisa’s father is a lawyer and has always found a way to keep his daughter and her husband from being held liable for the continued gross negligence they and their staff have displayed over the years at all locations of their Wagtime business. District DOG wishes you continued success in your suit and hopes the pain of losing a family member slowly starts to dissipate.

  • I am so so sorry. What a beautiful pup.

  • I’m sorry for the loss of Pip and wish you the best in this suit. It’s good that you are trying to hold them accountable. I’m also curious whether MPD is taking any steps against Wagtime’s owners for filing a false police report?

  • They went even further out of their way to hide what happened than I expected. This is so shocking. I love the staff who work at Wagtime Too, but, my god, the owners…

    I’m so sorry for your loss and I can’t imagine how painful it would be to be given this run around after losing your dog.

  • I am so disgusted by Wagtime. Accidents happen, and this was a tragic accident. But the lies that were told by the owners – is what is absolutely disgusting about this whole incident. As someone who used to regularly use Wagtime for my dog – I would never again ever leave my dog in their care. I can’t even begin to imagine what Pip’s owners have been through and I am devastated for them – but also so grateful to them for filing this lawsuit and hopefully making people more aware about this whole situation.

  • As a Dog owner- never setting foot in that place, after seeing their staff all over the neighborhood, they dont inspire confidence. If you are a Dog owner in our neighborhood, make sure you read the Yelp reviews(and remember: Yelp is the land of kudos and crucifixion).

  • Julie & Mike,
    Again, my condolences on the loss of your gorgeous little Pip.
    After seeing your story, reading the reviews and taking my dog to Wagtime only once for grooming, I feel they deserve all of the bad reviews, lawsuits and then some.

    The employees are not professional or well trained. While I was paying for my dog’s bad haircut, the young lady at the front desk almost had her head on the counter. She said she had been out drinking the night before and was “totally hungover”. Why she felt she would need to tell this to a customer, I am not sure. And these are the type of people who are in charge of our beloved pets?

    I will keep following your story and wish you all the best.

  • If I were on the jury I would advocate for a very, very large award for you. I think the value of your loss and related pain and suffering are at least $50K, and probably a lot more.

  • Should have mentioned: I think there has to be some sort government regulation of, and standard setting for, such boarding and walking services. There was one in VA (“Always There Pet Care”) that was found responsible for a dog’s death a long while ago–I seem to remember that the walker launched the dog off of an apartment balcony or something.

  • This is so heartbreaking about Pip, poor little guy!

    I am SO proud of you guys for taking legal action against Wagtime. I used to bring my dog there for daycare and happened to check their webcam one day when the cleaning crew left their mop and bucket out and dogs were drinking out of what I assume was floor cleaner and water.

    About a week later (my miscalculation for going back) my dog was hospitalized for Bordetella, kennel cough and an intestinal parasite. After a night stay in the hospital and several hundred dollars in vet bills, I called Lisa to let her know that a dog in her keep had these contagious illnesses and she snapped that they are dogs and they get sick just like kids in daycare. I mentioned the floor cleaning event I saw on the webcam to Lisa and she bluntly threatened to sue me for defamation of character.

    Seems to me this place is poorly run, unprofessional and needs to be shut down. I’ve read on POPville other complaints that their dogs were bit and that Lisa gave them unprerscribed meds and told them it wasn’t a big deal. A lawsuit was inevitable, I just hope they get shut down and that poor Pip rests in peace!

  • Hopefully, the judge just needs to see the pic to make a decision.

  • I was a customer of Wagtime for a number of years, but recently stopped taking my dog there after I was bitten and had to go to the hospital. While the wound wasn’t anything beyond stitches and antibiotics, Wagtime refused to give me any information about the dog that bit me and encouraged me not to speak with animal control. Because I went to the hospital, a mandatory report was issued and DC animal control had to make calls, but were also rebuffed.

    Wagtime is not a good place for dogs or for humans.

  • Our condolences to Pip’s owners. Thank you for pursuing this action against the monstrous actions of the owners of this place. I’m not an attorney, but I know a bit about awards for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which are very different from damages related to the cost of the dog. Could one of the attorneys on here comment on this issue? Can the plaintiffs ask for a jury trial?

  • Wow!! I am just reading this report. The owner filed a false police report? What the? Isn’t that grounds for a criminal charge? He claimed he was walking the dog. These people are slimy bastards.

    • Addendum to my comment: news media, please pick this story up. People need to go to town on this group and drive them out of business. Thanks, PoP, for publicizing this mind-blowing malfeasance.

  • Soo… can we start an awareness campaign to all of Wagtime’s customers so we can starve the business and shut it down forever? Where would we start?

    • I have been telling EVERYBODY that I know with a dog (which is a fair number) about this and sharing it on facebook. I would think that is a good start.

  • dat derp face. so sad. 🙁

  • What happened to Pip is unfortunate. But what I find to be even more unfortunate is the dozens of people who continually defame Wagtime and wish for it to go out of business. Wagtime employees nearly a hundred DC residents and fosters hundreds of dogs for local rescues each year, not to mention the extensive charity work the owners do. In hoping for Wagtime to go out of business, you are hoping for hard working people, HUMAN BEINGS, to lose their livelihood, already orphaned dogs to lose their homes, and thousands of dollars to disappear from the local charity circuit.

    It would be nice if people were half as quick to spread positive news than they are to gossip about drama and negativity.

    • If you ran a restaurant that kept giving people food poisoning, you would probably go out of business. (and if it was because of employees who never washed their hands or cared if the chicken was cooked, I guess I don’t feel sorry for them). I’m sure there are some great people who work there, but if your business is in providing care and is failing at it, is it the public’s fault, or the business’ vault for not knowing how to run itself? I don’t think it’s defaming when multiple people on this board who have had issues with Wagtime post about it. (When I have a terrible experience at a restaurant, I’m going to tell my friends). Doing charity work does not undo negligence at their place of work. I care about shelter dogs too, but if dogs are killed under their care, I don’t want them taking care of shelter dogs either! (I am a shelter dog owner myself)

    • Maybe the place just needs new owners…

    • What happened to Pip is not unfortunate – it is disgusting, and the lies told by the owners of Wagtime are unbelievable. Owners of businesses that continuously lie and deceive in respect of animals in THEIR care – deserve to have this information publicly known. People can then do their own research – and decide if they are willing to leave their dogs in the care of people that clearly have a long history of not telling the truth. If the owners of Wagtime had told the truth about what happened with Pip – I bet this story would never have gone public. They only have themselves to blame – and shame on both of them for the lies they have told and the hurt and pain they have inflicted. If this had happened to my dog – I would have been screaming bloody blue murder for all of the world to hear. This wasn’t my dog – and for that I am forever thankful and grateful – but I am so pleased that this information is public – so that I can make an informed choice about whether to take my dog to Wagtime. Which for the record, I never will again.

    • Hmmmm….

      from Donald Trump’s presidential announcement:

      So the reporter said to me the other day, “But, Mr. Trump, you’re not a nice person. How can you get people to vote for you?”

      I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I think that number one, I am a nice person. I give a lot of money away to charities and other things. I think I’m actually a very nice person.”

  • What happened is horrible and sad for all involved. I can’t imagine losing one of my dogs, let alone via a dog walker. However, I’m not sure I agree with the jump to convict going on here. All we are reading at this time is speculation in the complaint. Until they are convicted by a jury, it’s all hearsay.

    • I’d agree with you if they didn’t have a long and sordid history. I have been following them closely for some time now. They do have a history, and it is highly doubtful a third party eyewitness stood to gain anything by contradicting their lies. Read the entire doc that the attorneys posted- that is some damning material. To believe Wagtime, you’d have to believe the vets lied, the eyewitnesses lied, etc. I think these people have lied so often and so long about other things that they didn’t expect their blatant lies to catch up with them!

  • Hope you win. No one should ever have to go through what you did!

  • I’m so sorry the you’ve had to go through this. I had a similar instance, my cat went in for a dental cleaning and due to the vet’s mishandling, he suffered internal injuries and then later passed away. It’s an outrage and helplessness that I hadn’t ever experienced. In my case they only paid for “replacement” of my cat, as if he could be. I would like to know if you’re able to get reimbursed for your pain and suffering. I was told unfortunately the law views animals as property, such as a tv, so if something happening s to it to replace it. Any pet owner knows there’s no such thing.

  • I googled Lisa Schreiber DC and this is what I found: http://stayawayfromwagtime.blogspot.com/. So the misdeeds have been going for years. Why is this place still in business?

  • Does anyone have any suggestions for a better dog walking service? A few years ago Wagtime was the only business walking dogs where I live (on the border of SE/SW) in a pack, but now I”m sure there are more.

    • We currently use Saving Grace’s Pet Care (though no idea if they have a SE/SW franchise) and are also interested in trying out Wepwo, which has a cool, dog walk on-demand option for those last minute walks that you don’t realize you need until it’s too late to schedule something. Wepwo has a website but I believe will operate primarily through an app they’re developing.

    • I use Fur Get Me Not for my dog walker and they are really great. I get confirmation emails for my walks for the month, it’s super easy to reschedule or cancel a walk if I’m out of town, and my dog walker leaves me really great notes about how the walk went, what happened, etc. Highly recommend.

  • Please keep us updated as the case progresses. So sorry you are going through this!

  • The examples of negligence cited in the complaint could have (and have) happened to every pet-care business that has been in business long enough. Of course Wagtime should have used the harness and leash supplied by the owner. That being said, Pip did not slip out of his collar; the leash was still attached to it when he was hit. Many dogwalkers walk three or more dogs at a time for years on end without incident. The problem here, as in so many cases, was the cover-up. Really stupid, especially because simply taking responsibility for, and correcting, the procedures that caused the negligent conduct would be so much easier. I feel sorry for the walker nearly as much as the dog — not a great day for him, and he did not lie about it. I little soul-searching on the part of the owners could really improve the way that the business is run. I agree that the law firm should improve the caliber of its pro bono work. Nevertheless the owners of Wagtime should, even at this late date, take responsibility for the disgraceful cover-up.

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