A death at doggy day care

News broke this week about a dog being mauled to death at a doggy day care operation, Valley Dog Daycare, in West Auckland.

Wilson,  a Huntaway/Doberman cross, was found dead by his owner, lying in a pond at the day care’s property.


A photo of Winston, supplied by his owners to the media

Auckland Council’s animal management team is investigating and this is a good thing  because such a vicious death – apparently Winston was mauled and suffered many wounds – means something went majorly wrong at this property.

It has also been reported that the day care operator didn’t notice Winston’s absence, and that’s why his owner ended up searching for him on the rural property, a shock that most of us can only imagine.

It’s important that we look carefully at the investigation’s findings.  There are already calls for the doggy day care industry to be regulated and it’s hard to argue against that in these circumstances.

I’ve said it many times when it comes to hiring anyone who is going to work with your dog in any capacity –  find out their qualifications and experience and commitment to ongoing developments in their industry.

In larger operations, it’s possible that the ‘lead’ employee or proprietor has qualifications but the staff have only had in-house training (at best).   Find out if the dogs on the property are ever left alone or unsupervised.  Be sure that there are staff to supervise dog-to-dog interactions at all times.

Sadly, accidents do happen because animals can be unpredictable.  Every facility should have a standard operating procedure to investigate and de-brief on findings of any near-miss or accident.  This is what is expected under the workplace health and safety regulations when humans are involved and in my opinion it would be a practice easily adapted for facilities working and caring for animals.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

2 responses to “A death at doggy day care

  1. Such a sad story. The majority of shelters in the UK will not rehome dogs with people who are out most of the day and require doggy day care whilst many breeders have no qualms about selling puppies to people who are out at work all day. This has led to a huge increase in dog walking services and doggy day care which is not sufficiently regulated. Potential dog owners also need to consider whether they can care for a dog and give it the exercise and companionship it needs. They are ultimately responsible for the dog’s welfare.

    • I think the acceptance/recognition of professional dog walking, day care and other services is a good thing overall. It means that people acknowledge the needs of their dog to have socialisation and good care. As with any industry, when there is expansion, there are problems. In this instance, the owners believed they were doing the right thing for their dog; there had been no incidents that they were aware of which would have caused them to re-think their choice of day care. I will wait to hear the results of the investigation. At this early stage, it sounds like this operation was being run from a lifestyle property and the dogs were allowed to run free in groups largely unsupervised. If this turns out to be true, then this was an accident waiting to happen. Thanks for reading my blog!

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