Owners of dog that died at daycare unaware tourists cared for the pets

Garfield had been swimming with 16 other dogs in Sentosa when it was found floating on the water.
Garfield had been swimming with 16 other dogs in Sentosa when it was found floating on the water.PHOTO: COURTESY OF RAYMOND AND JENNY

The owners of the maltese that died while under the care of a dog boarding and daycare company said they were not aware it had been recruiting tourists as volunteers to take care of the animals.

The married couple, who wanted to be known as Mr Raymond, 31, and Ms Jenny, 29, said they were disappointed with the way Board N' Play had responded, following the death of their maltese Garfield on April 17.

Referring to the person in charge of the place who wanted to be known only as Ms Loy, bank executive Raymond said: "We didn't get any official apology or explanation from Ms Loy about the incident before it resumed (outdoor swimming activities) four days later. We feel that she just brushed off the severity of what happened."

The couple also told The Straits Times on Monday that they are seeking compensation from the company, but declined to disclose the amount.

Garfield, which had joined the daycare in February, had been swimming at Tanjong Beach on Sentosa with 16 other dogs under the care of seven handlers from Board N' Play last month.

A passer-by told The Straits Times later she had seen the maltese lying unconscious on the beach, while a woman performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on it.

Garfield regained consciousness and was taken to a veterinary centre, but he died later that afternoon.

Ms Jenny, who works in advertising, said she was notified at about 9am that Garfield drank a lot of seawater and was unwell, and that it would be sent to the vet.

When Mr Raymond arrived at the veterinary centre, he was told that Garfield had been found floating on the water with no heartbeat and that someone had to perform CPR on it.

"I tried asking Ms Loy what happened but she couldn't give us details," he said, adding that Board N' Play paid Garfield's medical and cremation bills.

The day after the dog's death, the couple questioned Ms Loy further.

"She told us that she and the volunteers were closely monitoring the dogs... But if they were, then why was Garfield suddenly found floating?" said Mr Raymond.

"Her answer was not satisfactory. It's not clear what happened."

Board N' Play has since come under public scrutiny for its recruitment practices, after listings on a backpacking online community came to light.

Tourists are recruited as "volunteers" to care for the dogs, in exchange for free accommodation, meals and ez-link cards.

The couple said they were not aware initially that the company was using "volunteers" and that they were tourists.

Mr Raymond said: "It was only on April 1 that we found out there were volunteers. We didn't think too much about it because ultimately, the responsibility still lies with Ms Loy as the owner of the company."

They found out that the volunteers were tourists only after the swimming incident, he added.

Four days after the incident, the company posted a statement on its Facebook page, listing safety measures it would implement.

It also said it stood by its practice of recruiting tourists as volunteers.

After reports of the authorities investigating, however, the company took down its Facebook page and set its Instagram account to private.

Mr Raymond said the couple have not heard from Ms Loy since.

"All we wish for is a conclusion to this very distressing and heartbreaking situation and for everyone to be fully aware of what they are signing up for," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'Owners of dog that died at daycare unaware tourists cared for the pets'. Print Edition | Subscribe