Among the devastated dog owners is Dawn Loessin, who lives in Tessier, Sask., about 66 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.
She’s recently rallied together the other 13 pet owners and created a private Facebook group where members are out offering their support for one another as well as organizing legal action against Playful Paws Pet Center.
“We’re going to make sure this never happens again. Those 14 beautiful souls died in vain,” she said.
Loessin she’s been taking her family’s dogs to the Playful Paws Pet Center for close to 10 years, and when her family was off to Calgary for a show-jumping event for her two daughters, Loessin didn’t think twice about where to take her daughter’s dog Linc.
“So we took him to Playful Paws Friday afternoon like I always have — he loves it there,” Loessin said. “We were leaving Saturday morning for Calgary. I said my goodbye on Friday and I didn’t think anything of it.”
But Saturday afternoon she received a call from the kennel that there was an accident and her dog was dead.
The company said the building’s heating system malfunctioned and pumped hot air into the upstairs kennel room. The dogs died from heat exhaustion.
“Honestly, I went numb and a lot of bad words that I know — some came out of my mouth. I said to her, what happened? And she said the room was a little warmer and humid than it usually is because it’s on an upper floor and that when they got in the next morning they had all passed away,” Loessin said.
“They were literally locked in a sauna … To be brutally honest, they cooked from the inside out.”
Like many pet owners dealing with the sudden loss, Loessin had so many questions for Playful Paws, including, questions around the businesses’ claim that pets in their care are under constant supervision.
“I thought there was someone, I get it, not in the room with them, but someone who did rounds and checked on them. These poor animals are locked up overnight and they walk away. I had no idea,” she said in disbelief.
She added she feels duped by the business after learning the heating system has been problematic since January.
“I’m devastated because I never knew and now I’m hearing all these stories from all these people,” she said, referring to posts and comments being shared on social media by former employees at the kennel.
“Now that I was duped, I think that’s why my anger is burning so bright, because no one likes to be left feeling like a bad pet owner and I feel like I let my daughter down and someone needs to pay for that,” she said.
As is the case with the other pet owners, Loessin added the loss has left a hole in her family. One of her daughters suffers from anxiety and Linc was her therapy dog and closest companion. Loessin said her daughter hasn’t slept in her own bed since the incident because she usually sleeps with Linc by her side.
The same loss hit the Irwin family hard. Their son’s $30,000 service dog Ardie died that same night.
Easton Irwin, who was heartbroken by the loss of his best friend, described what it’s like when Ardie puts her head on him.
“Cotton candy,” Easton said with a smile.
The little boy added he was saddened to hear about Ardie as well as the 13 other dogs who died with her.
“It’s really sad. The steam was getting hotter and hotter at her daycare. And 14 dogs died! That’s lots.”