A viral video from last summer made by a San Francisco-based TikToker accused the Mission location of Wag Hotels of allowing dogs in their care to wallow in filth, among other things. Now a Chronicle investigation has yielded many more disturbing stories.
Wag Hotels is not going to have a good week following this lengthy Chronicle exposé that finds more than a half dozen former clients with complaints of various degrees of egregious mistreatment and injury to their pets. And the story is likely to spawn even more bad press than last August's "Miso incident," in which TikTok creator Michelle Nguyen took the company to task for giving her her dog Miso back covered in urine and appearing very distressed.
@_misomelon DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PET WITH WAG HOTELS // pls tag fellow california per owners. im physically ill and horrified thinking how @Wag Hotels | Pet Resort treated miso during his stay last weekend. our pets are our family and i trusted wag to provide him a high level of care which obviously did not happen. i cannot fathom how a clean, healthy, well trained dog would willingly roll in urine all weekend when he has NEVER done so. what did you do to my dog and why did you refuse to send the camera feed i paid for during his “deluxe suite” stay? #dogsoftiktok #waghotels #pethotel #goldendoodle ♬ original sound - mitchie | @_misomelon 🍈
That one video has garnered 550,000 likes to date, and a look at the SF location's Yelp page last August found multiple similar-sounding complaints. (Possibly in response to the Chronicle piece, a new one-star review popped up there today in which a woman, Jessica S. in the Outer Sunset, claims that her father's golden retriever died at this Wag location a decade ago and they allegedly wouldn't return the body and still made her dad pay for the stay.)
According to the Chronicle piece, a former employee responsible for washing dogs was even told to work overtime to get some dogs cleaned last year because, a manager told him, "We don't want another Miso incident." And the piece suggests that dogs becoming covered in feces and urine is fairly common in the play areas.
Wag Hotels responded at the time admitting only that there were "a few issues with Miso's recent stay," and the Chronicle did not get much else in the way of definitive responses about the multiple incidents they uncovered of dogs being unfed, unwashed, and/or injured during their stays.
Some instances were relatively minor — they found a client who had delivered her dog for a one-day day-care session with three portioned bags of food, only to find when she picked up the dog that none of the bags were touched and it was unclear if the dog had been fed at all.
Others are more upsetting and grotesque, like the case of a French bulldog who came with a back brace that he was meant to have on only while in the group play area, but the brace had allegedly been left on the dog for days leading to sores and an abscess which smelled like rotting flesh when his human picked him up. That resulted in thousands of dollars in vet bills that Wag reportedly covered.
In another reported instance, a dog appeared to have contracted a flesh-eating bacteria during a stay at the Redwood City location in 2021, which led to the dog's leg needing to be amputated.
This is all made more upsetting by the fact that pet owners are paying upwards of $100 a night for "rooms" or "suites" for their dogs, but there seems to be very little attention given to individualized care with dogs crowded into playpens, according to some accounts.
Wag Hotels, without addressing any of these cases directly, blames all of these complaints on the fact that they had to quickly staff up again in 2021, sometimes with less experienced animal handlers, as people began traveling more following the first year of the pandemic.
"We want to be transparent in acknowledging that, during COVID, there were cases where the care we provided fell short," said a spokesperson for Wag, BJ Kalay. Kalay cited a survey showing that 93% of clients were happy with their experiences, but the Chronicle spoke to 29 current and former employees of the company who paint an inside picture of serious disarray.
That picture includes a horrifying 2019 incident — well before the pandemic — in Santa Clara in which an aggressive dog mauled several employees who were reportedly not trained in handling such an animal. Cal/OSHA subsequently fined Wag Hotels $18,000 in response to the incident, calling the safety violations "serious."
The employees further tell the Chronicle that they're often overworked, which has led to official complaints and a legal settlement over failures to provide proper breaks. That understaffing, the employees say, leads to animals' care being overlooked, which can mean missed meals or other issues.
Anyway, it's a long and upsetting read, but go for it if you're considering your animal boarding options.