AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beth Adkins and Miles Pequeno are desperately hoping their dog, Mercy, will return home safe before it becomes even colder Monday night.
Adkins and Pequeno told KXAN they scheduled walks through an on-demand dog walking app called Wag! before leaving for a vacation, but as soon as they touched down in Seattle, Washington, they received a call from Wag! The caller told them Mercy got loose.
Adkins said the dog walker fell and accidentally let go of the leash. Monday, they found Mercy’s collar and leash.
“It’s just been a lot. No one ever expects to… I never lost a dog before,” said Adkins.
Adkins and Pequeno adopted Mercy in June. Adkins said after grieving a loss of an older dog earlier this year, they met Mercy at a local shelter and knew. “We looked at each other and, Oh, this is the dog.”
They told KXAN they understand accidents can happen, “but it’s unacceptable that Wag has not trained their people well enough.”
Pequeno said, “They’re trying to protect themselves. Couldn’t be avoided. People fall down. But these are professionals. This is a job you trust to professionals, to take care of your dog.”
They said they’re also frustrated with how Wag has been responding.
“They were just making it seem like I was putting an inconvenience on them. But I don’t think I should be having to force them to help when this is, this is not how any of us wanted to spend our days and nights,” Adkins said.
The volunteers have been searching areas near Loop 360 and Bull Creek in northwest Austin. That’s not far from Mercy’s home.
They’ve also put out some traps. Adkins said, on top of paying for a last minute flight back, they had to pay to put out traps near their home.
“[Wag] didn’t have any traps of their own, so they had us purchase them,” she said. “They have been asking us if we know trackers and trappers and I’m like, I don’t know why I should be an expert on that.”
They said Mercy is frightened, so every time someone spots her, she runs away. They’re hoping a trap can help them safely catch her.
Sunday afternoon, someone reported seeing Mercy limp away after getting hit by a car on Loop 360. The couple’s hopeful Mercy is still somewhere close.
“This is just my worst nightmare. Now she’s just out in the woods,” said Adkins. “The temperatures are dropping. She’s already been hit by a car once, and I just… I don’t, I want her home.”
In a statement to KXAN on Monday, Wag’s VP of Trust and Safety and Corporate Affairs, Heather Rothenberg said, in part:
“Wag’s Trust and Safety team is in close contact with the pet parents and is actively working to help find Mercy who got loose when the walker fell.
Our team has alerted local law enforcement and animal control officials. We’ve also posted to — and are monitoring — lost dog platforms. And in coordination with Mercy’s parents, we’ve printed fliers and worked to get volunteers to help on the ground with the search. We have processed the pet parent reimbursement for the costs they’ve submitted. Additionally, the walker — who is an independent contractor — has been suspended from the platform.
Safety is a company-wide priority. Every walk on the platform is insured and backed by the full support of our 24/7 Trust and Safety team, which means in the rare case of an incident we work directly with the pet parent and the appropriate parties.”
Rothenberg also said that every Wag! walker must pass a “robust” vetting process and a thorough background check before being allowed to join the platform.
“Our screenings include an application and verification process, as well as a background check that includes a Social Security number trace, a facial recognition check against all official documents provided, a document check, a national criminal check, a county criminal check, a sex offender check, and a global watch list check,” wrote Rothenberg. “Every applicant must pass an online test covering dog safety, equipment, and handling knowledge before we allow them on the Wag! platform to care for your dog.”
The couple is asking volunteers to come help search for Mercy near 7700 North Capital of Texas Highway near Bull Creek Trail, but they advise checking their post on the Austin Lost and Founds Pets Facebook page for instructions.
They said, if you see her, do not make any noise or call out to her. Simply get down on the ground, take a photo and contact the searchers.