A Hawaii couple is suing an animal hospital and the owners of a doggy daycare, alleging they covered up the real cause of their dog's death.
In June, Les and Laura Sherrill left Jojo, their 7-year-old Chihuahua, at It's Dogplay, a doggy day care facility in the Oahu town of Kailua. According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Hawaii's First Circuit Court, business owners Mirko and Mia Manfredi told the Sherrills that Jojo had been found unconscious and that no one had seen or heard anything. Mirko suggested "the dog must have passed from natural causes," the document, obtained by The Huffington Post, notes.
The Sherrills called the veterinarian at the VCA Kaneohe Animal Hospital who had examined Jojo's body, but she, too, allegedly said it had been a natural death, reiterating there was "no evidence of physical injury."
The couple then had their regular veterinarian, Dr. Kirk Ayling, retrieve the dog's body from the animal hospital to examine it, the lawsuit states. The document notes Jojo had bite marks on his body. In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Ayling said he observed several puncture wounds and other injuries and determined that Jojo's cause of death was a crushing wound to the animal's chest.
The lawsuit notes Lisa Ponter, a former It's Dogplay employee who lived above the daycare at the time, ran into the garage where the dogs are usually kept after hearing a commotion the morning of the incident.
Ponter told HuffPost that another employee was opening the daycare alone and had improperly released both big and small dogs in the same area. (The lawsuit notes that, typically, employees keep big dogs separated from the small dogs and two employees should be present when releasing the dogs.)
When Ponter saw Jojo convulsing and gasping for air on the floor, she said the other employee told her a large black labrador had picked up the 4-pound Chihuahua, shook him violently a few times and dropped him. Ponter said when the Manfredis found out, they "told us not to talk to anybody" and that "they had the vet say that he died of natural causes."
A few employees quit immediately after the incident, the lawsuit notes, but Ponter said she stayed with the company until she and her husband could find another place to live. Ponter has since filed a complaint against It's Dogplay after sustaining an injury while trying to separate two fighting dogs a few weeks after Jojo's death.
The Sherrills are suing both the Manfredis and the Kaneohe animal hospital for $50,000 in damages. Mia Manfredi, co-owner of the dog daycare, told HuffPost she could not comment because of the pending lawsuit but said that "the truth will come out again." The veterinarian accused of lying was not immediately available for comment when contacted by HuffPost; but the Sherrills' attorney told Hawaii News Now the VCA Kaneohe Animal Hospital offered $300 to settle the case.
On Tuesday, about a dozen protestors held signs outside It's Dogplay in order to dissuade current customers from dropping their dogs off that morning, according to Hawaii News Now. The Sherrills attended the demonstration, along with other former customers who say their animals were mistreated and injured while in the care of It's Dogplay.