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Pet Coral blames employee for dog drowning

Pet Coral blames employee for dog drowning

By Matt Grant. CREATED Jun 25, 2012

CAPE CORAL - The owners of a doggy day care in Cape Coral are using surveillance tapes to place blame on a "rogue employee" for the death of a dog that drowned last week.

Last Wednesday, Alda Saul's 14-month-old Yorkshire Terrier, Calli, who weighed just 3 pounds and was barely bigger than a remote control, drowned at Pet Coral located at 924 Del Prado Boulevard South.

"We see her, we feel her against us," said Saul, who plans to meet with attorney. "It's been rough for all of us."

Last week, she says staff told her the pool was watched at all times. But after reviewing surveillance tapes, the owners of Pet Coral now say they were wrong.

"If they had been watching her someone would have seen her," said Saul, "And I'd have my dog today."

Fox 4 went back to Pet Coral on Monday and spoke with co-owner Dov Rapoport.

"It's a terrible tragedy," said Rapoport.

Rapoport showed us surveillance video from the day Calli drowned. While the video is blurry, it appears to show five dogs, including Calli, playing by the pool.

At one point, the staff member in charge of watching the dogs, walks away for an unknown reason leaving them alone in the pool for six minutes.  

"Was she authorized to be on break?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"No," said Rapoport.

Fox six minutes the pool is left unattended, the video shows, as the five dogs - some much larger than Calli - continue to play and swim. It's during this time that Rapoport believes Calli drowned.

The video appears to show a small dog going under water.

"It's unconscionable that the person who loves dogs," said Rapoport, "could do something like this."

The video shows the employee returning to the pool. But she calls the dogs from a distance. The staff member didn't notice Calli who was most likely at the bottom of the 2 foot pool, according to Rapoport.

Animal Services investigated the incident last week. In a report, shown to us by Saul, officials say Calli was missing for 50 minutes before anyone noticed.

"Calli was not seen for at least thirty minutes prior to the k9s being moved into the building," the report found. "Then it was at least twenty minutes before it was discovered that Calli was missing. She was later found at the bottom of the pool."

Rapoport blames the unnamed employee, who he says told staff she had "carried" Calli back inside.

"If somebody stated that the dog had been left behind in the pool we would have searched the pool immediately," said Rapoport. "Instead we wasted time searching the facility itself."

Changes being made

Rapoport says that staff member was fired immediately. Because of what happened Pet Coral will now:

  • Install a lifeguard chair with a human lifeguard
  • Have two staff members watch pool anytime its in use
  • No longer allow small dogs to swim with larger ones
  • Review their policies and procedures

But that's not good enough for Saul. As she awaits Calli's cremated remains, she says all the changes in the world can't bring back her dog.

"Do you feel they were negligent?," asked Grant.

"Of course," said Saul.

Even though the facility has 32 surveillance cameras, and other staff, nobody noticed the pool was left unattended.

Saul and her family plan to meet with an attorney Tuesday. They are considering suing.

Below is a letter Pet Coral sent to their customers:

Dear PetCoral Friends,

By now you might all be awere [sic] of the unfortunate incident that took place Wednesday at the pool at PetCoral, where little Calli, a 14 months old Biewer Yorkshire Terrier drowned. Calli's family has my deepest sympathy and words can't express how sorry I am about this tragic incident.

As you all might know, I myself am the owner of 3 dogs, Candy, Simon and Krak; dogs are my passion, I don't look at them as pets, rather they are family members. Here at PetCoral, we strive to treat your lovely dog as a family member as well; and make sure we follow procedures to guarantee your love ones are safe at all times.

I want to take this opportunity to communicate to all of you that we are currently evaluating all existing safety procedures and will make sure  we implement additional preventive measurements within the next 48 hours, follow by intensive staff training to make sure this type of incidents won't happen again.

As dedicated and passionate owner, you all may have had the opportunity to meet with me or my associates and spend sometime answering all of your questions before you enrolled your dog to daycare or Boarding. I am more than glad to set sometime aside to meet with you and make sure you feel confident that the way we take care of your dog(s) at PetCoral is second to none.

Feel free to email me back your questions or request a meeting (in person or by phone)to answer all your quetions [sic] and go over the currently safety procedures.

Thank you very much for being part of  the PetCoral Family. We appreciate your support and words of encouragement.

Sincerely,
Lorena Rapoport

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com