SEATTLE - For several weeks, FOX 13 News has been digging into the complaints filed against a dog daycare in Seattle.
About two weeks ago, The Dog Resort in South Seattle caught fire. Several dogs got out, and one was hit and killed by a car.
In February, The Dog Resort's Lake City location also burned when a dryer caught fire.
We now know there are formal complaints filed against the business for poor sanitation, another dog death, and an employee accused of urinating in front of the dogs.
"We were overbooked all the time, over 100 dogs at any given time," said Nicholas Funtanilla, a former Dog Resort employee.
Funtanilla says he worked for The Dog Resort for around five years, at the Lake City location and—after the fire—at the location in South Seattle.
"We were always hoping somebody would be investigating the place," said Funtanilla.
King County Public Health Records show that both locations were investigated or inspected after complaints were sent in to the agency, involving The Dog Resort locations and owner Mona Elassiouti. We showed Funtanilla some of the complaints to get his response.
"None of us were there for [Mona], we were there because we loved the dogs," said Funtanilla.
Many of the complaints centered around unsanitary conditions. One complaint filed in paperwork dated Nov. 21, 2023 was from a dog owner who stated that their pet, "would come back smelling of urine and feces, and just a dirty dog."
In April 13, 2023 a complainant reported that, "dogs are covered in their own filth, as the tiny cement potty area is not cleaned."
"She would make sure we had to charge them for baths. We were stuck between a hard place, we wanted to give them a bath because it was ridiculous. They didn’t pay for a bath, and we’d get in trouble," said Funtanilla.
In April, a complainant also wrote, "Earlier this week, a dog got out of the property and was killed by a car. This incident was ignored by employees and the dog's family were not informed until hours later, when the body was picked up by the highway patrol."
"I remember when the dog got hit and killed, I think I was still definitely working there at the time," said Funtanilla reflecting on that time period.
Another complaint from May later stated that the dog that died was named Nori. It was written in the complaint that, "they think that one of the doors was not secure and could be pushed open."
"She has everybody so exhausted, so tired. The facility isn’t necessary organized right. She doesn’t have people necessarily trained up right and accidents do happen," said Funtanilla.
Staffing issues were outlined in documents dated from Aug. 2023, when a complainant stated, "140 dogs cared for by 3 employees on Sunday August 27, 2023. Caller states she believes Mona puts her staff in unsafe situations."
"I do remember there was a Christmas time, when we clocked in over 200 dogs," said Funtanilla.
Several dogs were also reported as having escaped in the past, but survived. In Aug. 2023, it was reported, "a dog was lost in their care and was found many neighborhoods away injured and scared."
"Dogs getting wounded happened all the time. Unless one of our more dedicated people were on call to take care of it, she wouldn’t want anything done, and definitely we weren’t supposed to talk to dog parents. That was her job or one of the manger’s job," said Funtanilla.
Some of the more disturbing allegations were also filed with public health officials after someone reported that there was an employee "who urinates on dogs." A document involving the complaint stated, "A male employee commonly pees on the floor in front of the dogs to assert his dominance. He also harasses and threatens female employees."
FOX 13 News went to Elassiouti's listed address to try to talk to her. The person inside at the time didn't answer the door. She did respond to FOX 13 with a message saying that she was considering an interview, but had no comment yet.
Funtanllia and others have been protesting since the fire to draw attention to issues at the business.
"I hope something can be done," said Funtanilla.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: ‘Mine is dead and missing’; Seattle woman grieves dogs lost in daycare fire
A spokesperson for Public Health sent out a response to our questions about the role of officials there when inspecting the facility:
"The Pet Business Program in Public Health – Seattle & King County permits and inspects pet-related businesses: daycares, boarding services, groomers, mobile groomers, shelters, cat cafes, shops that sell animals (including poultry), and some pet food retailers. Our program is responsible for regulating pet businesses as it relates to animal health, care, and disease prevention, in accordance with the King County Board of Health’s Pet Business Regulations (Code Chapter 8.03). This code isn’t all encompassing – it doesn’t include building, electrical, fire, or codes and regulations that are the authority of other agencies. For instance, the Seattle Animal Shelter collects and responds to potential cases of pet abuse or neglect in Seattle.
Public Health’s Pet Business Program conducts an annual inspection for each permitted facility, in addition to as-needed inspections to follow up on previous violations or complaint investigations. During these inspections, we share educational information and inspect the facility to verify that it is in good repair, that proper cleaning and sanitation is taking place, and that the facility is operating in compliance with code – for instance, that animals have enough space and have appropriate food and water. We also review the facility’s infection control plan and key records, such as rabies vaccines and bite logs. These are all requirements laid out in the Board of Health Code Chapter 8.03, which defines the scope of our authority."
Public health officials last conducted a routine inspection of The Dog Resort SODO Dec. 7, 2022.
A spokesperson wrote:
"We observed and documented several facility issues that were not in good repair and requested a timeline to address several issues by early January. From January through August 2023, we conducted four additional inspections – these were follow-ups to the previously documented violations, as well as investigations in response to complaints we received about escaped and injured dogs, inadequate supervision, and unsanitary conditions. We continued to observe and document violations and communicated with the owner about the necessary steps to bring the facility into compliance. In our communication, we encouraged the owner to have an evacuation plan in place. Emergency evacuation plans are not a requirement in the King County regulations for pet businesses, and we can’t require facilities to have one, but we can and do strongly recommend it to all facilities."
We received a complaint Aug. 29, 2023, regarding inadequate staffing creating an unsafe environment. We followed up with an inspection Sept. 1, and found violations, including inadequate supervision (preventing the facility from operating in a safe and sanitary manner), gross unsanitary conditions due to lack of staffing to perform cleaning and disinfection, not keeping sick animals isolated from other animals, kennels not large enough to prevent overcrowding, not providing water, and insufficient record keeping for dog bites (dog to dog, and dog to human).
In response, on Sept. 13 we issued a Notice and Order suspending the facility’s Public Health permit. The owner submitted a request to appeal this Notice and Order, which is within their rights to do. This appeal allowed the facility to keep operating while working toward meeting the compliance requirements.
We remained in contact with the owner during their appeal to continue to seek improvement in their animal health and disease prevention practices. We conducted re-inspections Sept. 22, Oct. 3, and Oct. 12, observing and documenting progress towards compliance requirements. The last re-inspection was Nov. 8, and we found the facility had substantially met the compliance requirements. At that point, the last step to permit reinstatement was for the facility to send us requested documents, such as an employee handbook that outlined the infection control plan and operational procedures. As we were still waiting on that document, the permit suspension and appeal process continued.
The fire occurred Nov. 13. We conducted a site visit Nov. 14 and learned at that time that the building may not be re-occupied due to structural damage from the fire. As a result, we inactivated the permit. More recently, we’ve learned that part of the building may be suitable for operation. The permit could potentially be reinstated if that part of the building meets occupancy standards, and if the business meets all the requirements of the Board of Health Code, including review and approval of a floor plan by the Pet Business Program, receipt of all previously-requested documentation, and a pre-operational inspection. As long as the facility meets the requirements of all other agencies and the King County Board of Health Pet Business Regulations, Public Health cannot deny the business a permit."