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Animal Control Officers are investigating a Virginia Beach dog training facility after 8 dogs died in their care. The business owners are calling the incident a “freak accident.”
Portsmouth man, Chris Kowalski told 13News Now that his family’s beloved dog Max had some behavior problems that Virginia Beach Dog Training promised to correct.
“We were promised to have a dog we could walk around with or without a leash, and he would behave. What we got back was the ashes in a box,” he said, fighting back tears.
Max, along with 7 other dogs in Virginia Beach Dog Training’s board and train program were killed on Sunday, May 23rd when, business owners say, a malfunction in the HVAC system caused it to blow hot air instead of cold into a room where the dogs were being held.
In an interview with WTKR, Kowalski said, “…they just said that their AC went out and that they went to church and they were gone for roughly four hours. When they came home, they said multiple dogs had passed away, some of them were sick and they just started spraying them down with water trying to cool them off.” He was later told by business owner Nicole Hubert that the HVAC system had actually begun blowing hot air into the room the entire time the dogs were left unattended.
John Holloway’s one-year-old French Bulldog, Ego, also died in the incident. Following their dogs’ deaths, both men tried to leave reviews on the facility’s Facebook page and weren’t able to. Holloway was told by the owners that the dogs had been left alone for 5 to 6 hours when the deaths occurred.
“What really got to me was when they took their Facebook page down and we couldn’t leave comments and reviews for other people considering to use them in the future” Kowalski said. “It also hurt that 24 hours later, they did bring another dog in. I mean, they just had six to eight dogs die there Sunday afternoon and they brought a new one in Monday afternoon.”
Unable to leave a review, Kowalski posted Max’s story to his own Facebook page.
The following day, Virginia Beach Dog Training’s page was back up and they posted their explanation.
Jordan Weymouth also lost his dog, Suzy that day. He told 13News Now that his three dogs have been trained and boarded at the facility for years. “They have been fantastic with our dogs. We did the board and train with all three. Our dogs loved them, particularly Suzy who passed. She was my best friend, and I am angry and upset with Steph and Nicole,” he said.
Despite 8 dogs having died on Sunday, the dog training facility welcomed new clients into their care the following day, a move that many found insensitive and inappropriate.
“If your sole business is to run an animal boarding school and if eight of those animals die, I don’t think you get to continue doing that,” Holloway said.
Both Kowalski and Holloway were compensated about $5,500 following their dogs’ deaths—the retail price to replace the dogs plus what they paid to have their dogs cremated. “That really felt like hush money, to be honest with you,” Holloway said. “My guy was worth $100,000 – not even in currency, just in value. I just want to raise awareness not only for Ego and Max, but for all the other dogs who lost their lives.”
Virginia Beach Dog Training is currently under investigation. Holloway says he’s considering civil action.