Nick and Sara Moore know all too well the unintended consequences that can come with letting a stranger on an app give you a ride somewhere or host you for a weekend in their home. For the Houston, Texas couple, their version of the unthinkable happened when they trusted a stranger on the “Wag!” app to walk their dog last month.
It was a convenience the busy 20-somethings enjoyed and had come to depend on — until Winnie died while on one of those walks on Dec. 10, according to separate Facebook posts from the couple more than a month later.
Nick Moore told McClatchy that Wag! representatives have not offered any details into how Winnie, their beloved 10-month-old Wheaten terrier, died while out walking, other than saying that their dog was “hit.”
“We’ve learned from Wag’s responses to some other stories that a ‘good Samaritan’ helped take Winnie to the animal hospital,” Nick told McClatchy. “We have no other details.”
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But for Wag!, just days after Winnie passed away, there was one other detail to iron out: making sure the Moores didn’t go public with their story. Just eight days before Winnie died, another Wag! dog-walker in Danville, Calif. was charged with animal cruelty after police say he kicked one of four dogs he was walking at the time, according to KTVU.
Wag! offered to reimburse the Moores $188.71 for Winnie’s cremation costs, and for the clay paw print the couple had made in her memory, according to an offer letter obtained by McClatchy. But the payment would only be made if Sara signed a settlement and non-disclosure agreement, stating that, among other things, the couple would be legally required to keep quiet about what happened to their dog.
$189 for their silence — about their dog’s death?
“Our thoughts exactly,” Nick, 29, told McClatchy. “We politely declined.”
Wag! released a statement on Winnie’s death, referencing the $188.71 reimbursement, but not the condition that it would only be doled out if Sara signed the non-disclosure agreement, according to the Houston Chronicle:
“We were deeply saddened by Winnie’s death, and we extend our sympathy to the Moore’s during this difficult time,” the statement reads, according to the Chronicle. “The walker has been suspended from the Wag! platform. We have offered to reimburse the pet parents for their expenses.”
The Moores say they have heard from Wag! three times after Winnie died: once when a Wag! representative called Sara to tell them Winnie had been hit and killed; once more, eight days later, with the emailed offer that included the non-disclosure agreement; and then once more after the couple posted their side of the story on Facebook last week.
Sara’s Facebook post had been shared more than 17,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon. A day after they took to Facebook, they got another email from Wag!, Nick says.
This time, he says, the email from Wag! included a link, promising direct deposits of unspecified sums of money directly into their bank account, without the requirement of signing a non-disclosure agreement. Instead of clicking it, Nick said he called Wag! to again inform the company that the couple would decline the offer.
The couple has not hired a lawyer, and is instead sharing their story “to raise awareness so that others can make a more informed decision about whether or not to use the services provided by Wag and others like it,” Nick said.
Wag! CEO Hilary Schneider released an open letter to the app’s users Monday night that said in light of multiple claims made by Wag! users, the company would be “reviewing and revisiting” its customer service policies.
“As a result of your feedback, we’ve already updated our policy regarding such agreements so that we’re responding with the highest level of sensitivity to the nature of each individual case,” the letter stated.
But Nick says that sentiment just amounts to too little, too late.
“We never blamed Wag for anything. We understood that we trusted the most important thing in the world to us with a complete stranger, and we’ll have to live with that for the rest of our lives,” he said. “But when Wag thought our story was worth only $188 dollars, and then wouldn’t provide us with any information, we were hurt. We still are. We are still reeling from all of this.”