Singapore—A married couple whose dog died while in the care of a pet boarding company had no idea the firm had tourists caring for the animals in their charge. Moreover, they told The Straits Times (ST) that they were disappointed with how the firm, Board N’ Play, responded after their Maltese died on April 17, saying that the company had downplayed the severity of their loss.
The couple, who wished solely to be identified as Mr Raymond and Ms Jenny, told ST on April 29, Monday, that they were asking for financial compensation for their loss, but chose to keep mum about how much they sought to receive from Board N’ Play.
Mr Raymond talked about the woman who heads the company, whom he referred to as Ms Loy. “We didn’t get any official apology or explanation from Ms Loy about the incident before it resumed (outdoor swimming activities) four days later. We feel that she just brushed off the severity of what happened.”
Mr Raymond and Ms Jenny’s Maltese, their dog, Garfield, had been attending sessions at Board N’ Play for two months when the incident occurred. Garfield, along with 16 other dogs from the company, was taken to Tanjong Beach on Sentosa to go swimming, with seven handlers from the pet boarding firm to watch over the dogs.
Later that day, Garfield was seen unconscious on the beach with a woman performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him. The Maltese apparently became conscious and was rushed to an animal clinic, but perished later that same day.
Ms Jenny told ST that she received a call at 9:00 that morning telling her that her pet had swallowed a big amount of sea water and was doing poorly, and thus had to be sent to a veterinary clinic.
However, when her husband came to see Garfield at the clinic, he got a different story. He said to ST, “I was told that Garfield was found floating in the water with no heartbeat and that they had to do CPR on him. We tried asking Loy what happened, but she couldn’t give us the details.”
He also said that the pet boarding service shouldered the medical and cremation bills for the Maltese.
On April 18, one day after Garfield died, Mr Raymond and Ms Jenny talked to Board N’Play about what happened to their dog, asking Ms Loy to narrate the incidents that led to his death, as well as the ratio of caregivers to pets.
Mr Raymond said, “She told us she and the volunteers were closely monitoring the dogs, and he was swimming quite close to the shore. But if they were, then why was Garfield suddenly found floating? Her answer was not satisfactory. It’s not clear what happened and the timeframe of events, based on what little information she gave us.”
Garfield’s death had been witnessed by a woman named Naida Ginnane, whose post on Facebook about the incident went viral. Moreover, the loss of Mr Raymond and Ms Jenny’s pet has caused the recruitment practices of Board N’Play to come under scrutiny and criticism, since the company offers backpacker volunteers free accommodation, meals, and EZ-link cards in exchange for caring for the dogs.
Some of these volunteers may not have the needed skills to properly care for animals, especially in situations that put them at risk, such as swimming.
Mr Raymond and Ms Jenny said that when Garfield started at Board N’Play, they did not know that the firm used volunteers to care for the dogs.
Mr Raymond told ST, ”It was only on 1st April that we found out there were volunteers. We didn’t think too much about it because we trusted that if Loy deemed them to be capable, it was sufficient as ultimately the responsibility still lies with her as the owner of the company.”
After Garfield’s death, they found out that these volunteers were actually tourists.
While Board N’ Play has promised to improve safety policies in the wake of Garfield’s death, it has also said it will continue to keep recruiting tourists to volunteer for their pet daycare services.
Meanwhile, Mr Raymond told ST that there has been no further communication from the company. “All we wish for is a conclusion to this very distressing and heartbreaking situation for us and for everyone to be fully aware of what they are signing up for.” /TISG
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