Denver dog dies while in custody of Rover App Sitter, dog owner calls for increased testing requirements – CBS Denver


DENVER (CBS4) – Terence Rugg lost his father and his dog within weeks of each other. He says that thanks to a dog sitter he found through the Rover app, the past few weeks have been “the most difficult time of (his) life”, and he hopes his story will help alert others to potential risks.

Rugg, 35, needed a dog sitter for his Pit Bull-Chihuahua mix named Watson so he could attend his father’s out-of-state funeral in February. He turned to Rover, an app that matches pet owners with sitters, and found a sitter who seemed to have experience.

Watson died while in the care of a Rover caretaker in February (Credit: Terence Rugg)

“He had quite a few returning customers,” Rugg recalled. “Then several reviews stating that he did well with their dogs and it was a great experience.”

But less than an hour after dropping Watson off with the sitter, Rugg got the call no dog owner wants to hear.

“I see a missed call that Watson got loose and kind of slipped off his collar,” Rugg said. “So I called them and they said they were chasing him to try to find where he went.”

Although he had a plane to catch for his father’s funeral, Rugg rushed to help find Watson, but it was too late.

“The guard helped me and drove me around for about 25 minutes, until we finally saw him, a car hit him. He was bleeding. No one stopped. They just hit him and continued,” Rugg said tearfully. “We took him to the vet and he died in my arms in the car.”

Rugg says Watson had never slipped from his collar before.

“I gave him several different harnesses, and the one he left was what they call a no-pull harness. It’s a training harness. So the second he shoots, it’s going to bring them straight back,” Rugg said.

Other incidents found in the metropolitan area

CBS4 Investigates has discovered that Rugg is not alone. Police reports from other cities in the metropolitan area detail various problems with Rover guardians over the past few years.

Reports show that a Rover sitter in Broomfield was charged in 2019 with cruel treatment of animals, after leaving a client’s two dogs locked in the dog owner’s flat for two days without food or water.

Police only discovered the dogs because neighbors complained of incessant barking. Police said upon opening the apartment, urine and feces covered the floor, and one of the dogs was locked in a kennel while another was allowed to roam the room.

According to the police report, when police asked the sitter why she didn’t stop by the apartment to look after the dogs as promised, she said she “f***** up” .

Last summer in Brighton, a dog owner was stuck with the £1 bill after his two dogs were taken out while in the care of a Rover keeper. Police reports say officers spent an hour and a half chasing the dogs.

The dog’s owner – not the keeper Rover – had to go to court to settle an animal charge against him, even though he was out of town when the incident happened. The dog’s owner told CBS4 that was a major inconvenience.

CBS News reported other incidents nationwide in 2019. A Japanese Chin named Mooshu died while in the care of a Rover guardian. The owner said the babysitter ignored strict instructions on how to properly care for Mooshu, who was blind.

“She said Moosh fell off my porch,” Mooshu owner Colleen Nolan said in 2019. “I’m like, ‘how far did he fall,’ and she said, ‘two stories.’ is not a porch.

Despite repeated problems over the years, incidents persist. Rugg believes the company should make systemic improvements to its goalie selection process.

Rover says guards are already required to pass a background check and take a security quiz with training videos. Rover says it also offers “educational resources for sitters and walkers on a variety of topics related to pet care and safety.”

A Rover spokesperson adds that 97% of Rover stays booked in the Denver area that have been reviewed received a five-star rating.

“The vast majority of experiences on our platform go exactly as planned, but in the rare event that something goes wrong, our 24/7 Trust and Safety team will carefully investigate the events and take appropriate measures to support and protect our community,” a Rover spokesperson wrote to CBS4. “All stays booked via the platform are covered by the Rover Guarantee.”

Terence Rugg and Watson (credit: Terence Rugg)

For Rugg, Rover is fully reimbursing him for vet and cremation costs, and offered him a $1,000 refund if he chooses to get a new dog.

“They kept bringing up the word ‘ownership’ and I get that they’re not a kid, but I mean these animals are part of the family,” Rugg said. “It’s just weird that they’re willing to move on so quickly…and hey, let’s get you a new dog.”

Now Rugg is leave colorado live closer to his family, saying the loss was too much to bear alone.

He urges anyone who leaves their dog with a sitter they don’t know to do their homework carefully, arrange to pre-meet the sitter before the stay begins, and vet the sitter carefully.

“You have to make sure that the person you’re working with cares as much about that animal as you do, because you’re just going to go through heartbreak,” Rugg said.

Rover also provided the following statement regarding what happened to Watson:

“We send our deepest condolences to Mr. Rugg and everyone who loved Watson. Our 24/7 Trust and Safety team immediately launched an investigation and we removed the sitter from our community… Most of us at Rover are pet parents ourselves , and it’s heartbreaking when another pet parent has a negative experience on our platform. Pet safety is a top priority and we strive to ensure that every pet owner who uses our platform feels safe with the sitter they choose.


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