KPLC investigates claims made against local dog boarding facility Bark Park
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A viral post on Facebook made allegations against local dog boarding business, Bark Park.
The claims range from dogs not being given proper veterinary treatment, to a dirty facility without adequate cleaning supplies, to exposed insulation within reach of dogs.
After reaching out to several other former employees of Bark Park, and the owners of the business, we looked into the validity of those claims.
Those allegations were made by former Bark Park employee Linsey Roach in multiple public Facebook posts, which have now been shared more than 500 times.
Since making the posts, Roach has sought legal counsel, and declined to speak with KPLC.
Tyler and Leah Bruno have owned Bark Park for about a year-and-a-half, saying they got into the business because they loved dogs.
They bought out the previous owner, who owned Bark Park in the same facility.
They say that when they first heard about Roach’s post, they were shocked.
Like Roach, none of the former employees wanted to go on camera, saying they feared retaliation.
However, we did speak to one of those employees on the phone, who backed up Roach’s claims, and added her own.
“That place was infested with mice, he never did anything about it," said a former employee. "And like I said, we had to threaten to quit just to get air conditioning.”
Two former employees who asked to remain anonymous, submitted statements to KPLC.
FIRST FORMER EMPLOYEE STATEMENT:
"You have to know the conditions of the building first & fore most. It is an old metal warehouse with cement floors, rough cement. Previously a lawnmower repair shop. The walls are partially insulated but rats and mice have been present since we moved in and they have destroyed most of it. There are multiple areas where the roof leaks & when it rains really hard, water comes in the back of the building & the side door. Enough to soak the kennels closest to these areas. The warehouse portion of the building was previously not equipped to heat or cool until about this time last year. We had to complain multiple times to Tyler & document the constantly rising temperatures in the back. (Tyler was given these recordings) Now I can better explain the terrible conditions that the dogs as well as the employees were in.
1. A/C - Tyler purchased a small unit for the kennel area. This was not a large commercial unit, so it barely keeps it in the low 90s during our summer heat.
2. Floor - The rough concrete was painted over before we moved in but because of the bumps in the floor it was impossible to mop with any type of string or fabric mop. Feces & urine get into these cracks and without some type of scrubbing, it's not coming up.
3. Equipment - We had limited cleaning equipment available. This included a household vacuum (not made for commercial use) We had a shop vac for a short time until he complained that the bags & filters were too expensive. We had some dry dust type mops to clean up the urine with. Tyler was the only one allowed to order supplies. He kept a very tight hold & control of the amount of cleaning & supplies we needed to do our job the correct way. On multiple occasions we had to work days, sometimes weeks before he would get us the items we would request. The supplies we were given came from a cheap bulk service that only carries bottom of the line quality products.
4. Insects & rodents -There were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling the entire time I was there. Multiple employees reported to him seeing mice & rats in the kitchen as well as in the walls & ceiling of the warehouse. They crawled all over everything & left their droppings from front to back of the facility. An exterminator was called & glue traps were put down. We had to be the ones to discover & dispose of the ones we caught. We complained about the spiders & flies that were everywhere, including the front of the building & the door handle coming in. Some of the employees bought repellent with her personal money & they cleaned the front entrance.
5. Absentee Owner - From the very beginning when Tyler became owner, his presence was almost zero. He did not take the time to learn how his business ran or what was involved in the jobs we all did. It wasn't until the last of the original employees was leaving did he show even a slight interest in the business.
6. Asking for help - Every employee I worked with, had multiple talks with him regarding the issues that needed to be taken care of. We talked about how he could improve on the look & quality of the facility. He always said he was going to do something but never came through on any of it.
7. Understaffed - Constantly! During my time with BP we had very busy days. It wasn’t uncommon to have 40+ dogs in the building at one time.
On a good day we would have 3 people. Even that was not enough to handle all the dogs, all the cleaning & manage the customers & pets coming in. There was an incident in March that led to a dog getting out of the fence & running away.(he was a know escape artist) An employee was working alone on a Sunday afternoon. No one should have ever been expected to be alone. Eyes are supposed to be on the dogs at all times! Tyler tried to keep payroll expenses down, so this happened quit frequently. But she was responsible for the dogs & the customers that pick up on Sunday. She was attending the dogs outside & a customer came in. During the time she was inside, the dog jumped the fence & ran off. Fortunately he was found a few weeks later & return safely to his owner. It was not Tyler that put out the effort to find this dog, it was with the help & effort of almost all the former & current employees that he was found. The reason for my resignation was the conditions the dogs were kept in & the conditions we were left to work in."
SECOND FORMER EMPLOYEE STATEMENT:
“I was an employee at Bark Park for 1 year. When I started the conditions in the building were not good and only got worse by the time I left. Nothing was done to update or fix anything in my time at working at Bark Park. We went most of the summer without any A/C, when we informed Tyler Bruno that the dogs could not be left in this heat he said they would be fine. It wasn’t till the beginning of July that he got a A/C unit in the back that barely cooled the place off. The kennels shown in the photos are the same broken kennels that were there when I was working there. We constantly asked him to fix them and he did nothing. We had multiple meetings with him on the conditions that the dogs were in and also the working conditions and he showed no interest. He once told me “they could be worse”. Even when the mice were falling from the ceiling and mice feces would be all over the kitchen, dog food, and bowels. They were so many of them by the time that I left I could hear them crawling in the walls. We would have to constantly beg him for supplies. We would go without supplies for sometimes weeks. So some staff would resort in going to buy it themselves. He encouraged us to lie to the customers multiple times about the a/c and the conditions. He as never willing to work with us and the issues we had. He never showed any interest in speaking with us or helping us. When I was employed there neither owners were ever there. If they did come in they would grab what they needed and leave without speaking a word to any of us. He had issues buying a simple light bulb for us in the bathing room and also the front. If anything cost money he didn’t’ want to hear about it. I do not wish for Bark Park to be shut down. I really hope they have the decency to sale it to someone that cares about the animals and the business. Not just someone that’ll take action when someone exposes them like they have done.”
The Brunos invited KPLC to tour the facility and speak with them about the allegations made by Roach and the other former employees.
“We didn’t know about the insulation," Tyler said. "And that’s a very serious thing. We found out Wednesday about the insulation, and last night we had a contractor come in and put up walls.”
As for claims that the facility was filthy, despite Roach claiming she asked many times for more cleaning supplies, the Brunos said mess is normal with a dog boarding facility.
They said their employees always clean it up as soon as they’re able.
Addressing a former employee’s claim about a rodent infestation, Tyler again said he wasn’t aware of it at first, but once it was brought to his attention, the situation was taken care of.
“We had had a rodent problem, and I didn’t find out about it," Tyler said. "Communication for a business like this is really important. And it wasn’t communicated to me right away.”
To further investigate the claims made by Roach and the Bruno’s response to them, KPLC reached out to two families who regularly take their pets to Bark Park.
“They would not allow us to tour the kennel area, or the back part of the facility, which was a little concerning," said Michael Wright, whose dog goes to Bark Park six days a week. "But considering how well they treated him, and how happy he was to go there, I never thought too much about it.”
Tyler Bruno addressed that issue, saying clients aren’t allowed in the back when dogs are in the kennel area because of liability issues.
“When the new management was taking over, we asked if the cameras would be set up, and there’s still no cameras set up to this day," said Morgan Broussard, who has taken her dogs to Bark Park for two years.
Bruno said there was a miscommunication with the camera company, and now they’re waiting until the walls are done in the back, so it will be more visually appealing.
Both customers said that after seeing the Facebook post, they will be searching for new boarding facilities.
They also shared what they’re hoping to see from the Brunos moving forward.
“I think that transparency would go a long way to restoring trust to the dog owners who take their dogs there," Wright said. "We have to know that you’re being completely open and honest. If there are any issues, we want to know how they’re being addressed, and ultimately that it is a safe place for dogs.”
The Brunos said they hope they can eventually regain the customers they’ve lost since the Facebook post.
“Hopefully to the ones that we lost, or the ones that are staying away now, that they give us the opportunity to earn back their business and their trust," Tyler said.
He also said that any current or future customer who comes to the business and requests to see the back will be allowed to in an effort to restore that trust.
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