HOUSTON — Wag!, the so-called Uber app of dog-walking, has allegedly tried to buy a couple's silence after their dog died under the care of a Wag dog walker. The company has since issued an apology saying they are "deeply saddened by what happened."
Sara and Nick Moore, of Houston, Texas, were semi-active users of the app prior to their dog's death. In August 2018, the couple hired a walker to stay in their home and take care of their dog, Winnie, during a 10-day vacation. "That walker fell in love with Winnie and Winnie fell in love with her," Nick told CBS News.
On Dec. 10, the Moores had to hire a walker on Wag at the last-minute, so they used the first walker that was available. Sara was skeptical of the walker from the beginning — the name on her profile did not match up with the name in her description, and she did not respond when Sara asked for her name. Sara's concern escalated when she did not receive the standard confirmation the walk had ended. Over the phone, the walker confirmed to Sara that Winnie was safe, but shortly after, Sara received a call from a Wag representative saying otherwise — Winnie had been struck by a car and did not survive.
The Moores immediately rushed home. "When we walked in and saw Winnie's empty crate I began to cry uncontrollably," Nick said. They learned Winnie was at a nearby pet hospital, but they still don't know who took her there or how. "We went to the hospital to say goodbye. It was the hardest thing we've ever had to do. We took the next day off of work and basically laid in bed and cried," Nick said.
The representative told the Moores that Wag would pay for any expenses — such as cremation and having a clay paw print made — and open an investigation. However, they never received any answers. "We asked Wag for details on what happened and all we got in response was conflicting information or them simply saying they didn't have much information to provide us with," Nick said.
One thing was clear — Wag did not want anyone to know about what had happened with Winnie. They sent the Moore's a settlement and a non-disclosure agreement. "We sent them our receipts and they sent us their 'Wag Trust and Safety Guarantee' that said if we wanted to get the $188 dollars we paid for Winnie's cremation and paw print we would have to sign the agreement saying we wouldn't say anything — orally or in writing — regarding the incident," Nick said. "We felt disrespected, and respectfully declined to sign."
The Moores didn't hear from Wag again until their social media posts about the incident went viral on Facebook about a month after the fact. The company reached out, once again offering automatic payment over email. "We responded that it was never about the money, that our grievance was due to their lack of compassion, and respectfully declined again," Nick said. However, they have since received yet another email regarding compensation.
This isn't the first time Wag has run into trouble. Just a few weeks ago, surveillance video showed a Wag walker repeatedly hitting and seemingly kicking a dog named Ollie in Danville, California. In June 2017, CBS New York reported one of Wag's walkers making himself comfortable in a dog owner's home, napping on their couch and checking out the food in the fridge. Since Wag's founding in 2014, the company has raised more than $368 million in investments, but frequently faces criticism from users.
"We extend our sympathy to the Moores during this difficult time," a Wag spokesperson told CBS News in a statement.
"We're a company of dog lovers and pet parents, and we're deeply saddened about what happened to Winnie. The hit-and-run accident involving Winnie was an unusual accident, and we provided the Moores with updates as we investigated what happened. We're addressing concerns about our response procedures, and we're changing our policy for paying claims to reflect a higher level of sensitivity to each situation. We care very deeply about the health and safety of the dogs walked on our platform. We use a robust vetting process that includes an application and verification process, a third-party background check, and online tests covering dog safety and handling knowledge that each applicant must pass to be approved to work on our platform."
Additionally, Hilary Schneider, CEO of Wag, addressed the Wag community in an open letter on the company's website.
The Moores both emphasized they met wonderful people through Wag, but said, "We will never allow a stranger to take care of our dog ever again." In the future, they plan to use qualified local services with full-time walkers.
"We fully recognize that we trusted a stranger with the most important thing in the world to us," Nick said. "We will have to live with that forever. We also know that Wag provides a service that is life-saving to some dog owners with busy lifestyles. We wanted to share our experience simply so that people could make the most informed decision possible."