WILLIAMSBURG — A dog nearly died after getting shocked at a local doggie day care, forcing the pup to undergo multiple surgeries and have parts of its mouth removed.
Husband and wife Tim Rotolo and Maggie Lovett's two-year-old black lab Olive chewed through an electrical cord in the basement of Kiki's Pet Spa at 60 Broadway, shocking the pup so badly that it had to be put on life support, the couple said.
“The doctor couldn’t tell me for sure if she was going to live,” said Lovett, who lives above Kiki's. “She was kind of fainting and passing out. I was freaking out because they said she might have a stroke.”
The incident occurred on Jan. 22, when Olive bit into a cord attached a space heater used to warm the day care, said Kiki's owner Saran Nurse, who opened the chain's Williamsburg location in 2009.
According to Nurse, an attendant tried to get the cord away from Olive but backed off when the dog tried to bite her.
The couple criticized the use of space heaters at the doggie day care, but Nurse said it was too cold not to heat the basement room.
“What am I supposed to do,” Nurse asked, “have the dogs in a cold room or have the space heaters in a room that’s being monitored by an employee?”
After the shock, a surgeon told the couple to consider the possibility of euthanasia because of the difficulties Olive might face in the future, Lovett said. Hospital and clinic discharge records show that the dog was diagnosed with pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), electrical burns, necrosis of the tissues, and mouth injuries that required immediate surgery.
Olive is back on her paws now, but had to have parts of her mouth and tongue removed during surgery.
Lovett said the couple has paid around $2,000 in medical bills so far, but that most of it will be reimbursed through pet insurance. Kiki’s paid for Olive's original visit to the Williamsburg Animal Clinic the day of the incident, but Rotolo still feels slighted.
“She hasn’t called to check on Olive or anything,” he said of Nurse, adding that he sees Olive as “my child."
“We’ve been good, consistent customers for years We did puppy kindergarten there, we board her there. But they put my dog’s life in jeopardy.”
The couple said this isn't the first time Kiki's has neglected their pet. Lovett said the doggie day care failed to pick up Olive after the couple left for a trip to Florida, noting the pooch would have been alone in the apartment without food or water for days if she hadn't called Kiki's to check.
Nurse chalked up the mistake to a computer malfunction.
The Better Business Bureau had no complaints filed against Kiki’s, and Nurse defended her day care's track record.
“We would not have been in business for 12 years if safety wasn’t a concern to us,” she said. “We’re monitored by Department of Health, and they do look for things like electrical issues.”
Lovett and Rotolo said they consulted an attorney to explore possible legal options, but so far haven't moved forward with any action.
Litigation fellow Jeff Pierce from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who is not representing the couple, said negligence alone is not usually grounds enough to sue for punitive damages in New York.
“But a jury would have to decide whether, in this case, the day care was reckless enough to cause this to happen,” he explained.
Alex Terhune, who has run a dog-walking business for more than a decade in Williamsburg and previously worked at the animal shelter BARC, walks Olive and said he’s been checking on her three times a day since the incident.
“She’s going to have permanent visible damage and loss of function,” he said, pointing out that having part of the dog’s mouth removed makes it “hard to control all that saliva.”
"It’s going to make life difficult,” Terhune said.