A former kennel operator and trainer in Saskatchewan claims he warned a Saskatoon boarding kennel about conditions at the business last winter.
Fred Glawischnig told 650 CKOM he approached Playful Paws Pet Centre in December and asked if they wanted to offer dog training.
Glawischnig lives in Vancouver, but once trained dogs and ran a kennel business in Kinistino, around 65 kilometres southeast of Prince Albert.
The trainer said he was hired in January to come on board, evaluate what the company was doing and make suggestions. Playful Paws wouldn’t comment on these allegations.
Within three days, Glawischnig said he found 12 points of “serious concern.” On the fourth day, he claims he mutually parted ways with the company.
“Ventilation and inadequate air quality was one of the top things we were discussing,” he said, adding he felt the owners weren’t taking the suggestions seriously.
“I said it’s just a matter of time before an animal dies.”
On Sept. 9, 14 dogs staying in kennels at the facility died.
In a Facebook post the following day, Playful Paws said one of its rooftop heating units malfunctioned, pushing heat into an upstairs kennel room where the dogs perished.
“There has been nothing but tears in this building with every customer who’s come through these doors,” said business owner, Bonnie Clark, on Monday.
There’s still no confirmation on cause of death. Clark said heating units are being looked at, despite being recently serviced.
“We’re having them inspected so we can pinpoint exactly what happened,” she said, adding they’re now waiting on that report to confirm mechanical failure, along with a report from animal control.
Once more information is known, the business will issue a statement to the public and media.
Clarke said she’s spoken personally with each and every owner who lost a dog and has offered to have the pets cremated. A private memorial service will also be held for each animal and their families.
The owner maintained the incident was an accident. When asked about what “constant supervision” meant, as per the company’s website description of the care provided, Clark said staff are on hand for all hours until the dogs are put in kennels.
She said dogs are left alone for 10 hours overnight, which is “standard,” and that they provide this information to customers during an introductory tour.
Lack of supervision was one of the concerns Glawischnig said he raised with the owners in January. It was also included in a list of issues he posted as a review to the Playful Paws Facebook page on Jan. 9.
“Have air quality changed, proper back-up systems in place to have night staff so dogs are not unattended,” he said.
Glawischnig said he also contacted the Saskatoon SPCA to report the issues.
Saskatoon SPCA investigating
Saskatoon’s SPCA has started an investigation into the deaths.
The organization’s executive director, Patricia Cameron, said the SPCA handles investigations under Saskatchewan’s Animal Protection Act, but notes there are no licencing regulations for kennels.
“Where an animal is found in distress, we have the right to take action,” she said.
“The animals are vulnerable, they can’t speak for themselves, so it’s really up to us as pet parents to do our very best to ensure the situation (at a kennel) is safe and healthy.”
According to Cameron, the Saskatoon SPCA receives around 1,000 calls a year about citizen concerns, and that they follow up on all reports.
The executive director could not confirm whether Glawischnig had placed a call regarding Playful Paws, as typically caller names aren’t added to follow ups. Names are known, however, if official charges are considered or laid.
Glawischnig is now calling for people to rally behind their local SPCAs and speak with elected officials to ask for the City of Saskatoon to inspect kennels.
“Especially in the areas of air flow, fire safety and employee safety,” he said.
“Those three areas the city can definitely—and the province can definitely—help out in and hopefully something positive can come out of this tragedy.”
—With files from The Canadian Press.