Wag! is like Uber for dog owners, but can you always trust the people you're paying to care for your pup?
Some Wag! customers say their home surveillance cameras have caught walkers working for the company helping themselves to food in the fridge, taking a nap on the couch and even stealing from them.
But that pales in comparison to a recent video that appears to show a dog being kicked in the chest.
Miranda Fulks and David Brown from Danville, California, used Wag! to find a walker for their two rescue pups, Olly and Maggie.
They say they were stunned when they checked their home camera and said they saw the walker was mistreating Olly, kicking him and at one point whipping him with a leash.
"It was incredibly hard to see it," Fulks told Inside Edition, adding that she cried. "It broke my heart. Big time."
She was so outraged, she posted flyers around her neighborhood, warning other dog owners about the walker in question, Adam Vavrus.
They went to police and Vavrus was eventually charged with animal cruelty. Inside Edition's Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero tracked him down.
"I'd like to talk to you about that video where you're abusing that dog," Guerrero told Vavrus.
"I did not abuse that dog and I have no further comment," he replied. "Thank you, have a great day."
Fulks couldn't believe it when Guerrero told her he denied the allegations of abuse.
"This is animal abuse," Fulks said. "Absolutely animal abuse."
Fulks and Brown say they want justice for Olly and plan to be in court when Vavrus goes on trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
"I hope he's found guilty and able to get help," Brown said.
Inside Edition also found many cases across the U.S. of dogs that their owners say have gone missing under Wag!'s watch.
Mary Ellen Humphrey says a Wag! pet sitter lost her family's beloved dog Buddy while they were on vacation.
"I had no idea if he was alive or dead or what was going on," Humphrey told Inside Edition.
Weeks went by with no Buddy.
"For 24 days, all my son did was cry," said Humphrey.
And then, a miracle. Buddy was found a mile and a half away from their home in Wantagh, New York.
Lauren Cottle, a certified professional dog walker and pet sitter trained in pet CPR and first aid, runs Waterfront Walks in New Jersey. She told Inside Edition she worries about animal owners using an app to hire walkers who might not have enough experience caring for dogs.
“When you’re hiring someone off Wag! you don’t know who you’re letting into your home or who’s walking your dog,” Cottle said, adding “when working with dogs there’s no excuse for ever using force.”
In a statement, Wag! said:
Every day, pet care providers with Wag! successfully walk thousands of dogs. We know, though, on the rare occasions when an incident occurs, we must act responsibly and with care.
As dog lovers ourselves, the trust of the pet parents and pet care providers on the Wag! platform is critical to us, and we're committed to continuous improvement.
Over the past year, we've implemented significant changes to help ensure the safety of people and pets who use Wag!. These include:
- Establishing a Trust and Safety team made up of industry experts to help implement meaningful improvements across the company
- Creating an advisory board of respected professionals from the fields of veterinary medicine, public safety, and canine behavior to help review and improve our policies, procedures, and products
- Publishing Community Guidelines to set expectations for those on the Wag! platform
- Developing educational content for pet parents and pet care providers
- Continuing a robust vetting process that includes an application and verification process, third-party background and facial recognition checks, and an online test covering dog safety, equipment, and handling knowledge that each applicant must pass in order to work on our platform
- Empowering our pet care providers with additional information, enabling them to make more informed decisions about the services they choose to provide
- Implementing new processes, so that when an incident does occur on our platform, we're able to respond quickly and thoughtfully
We love dogs, and we want those who use Wag! to know that we care about the people and pets on our platform. Since early 2018, we've built a new leadership team whose members are committed to doing the right thing and ensuring that trust and safety are integral to every product and service we offer.