DC restricts use of business space where dogs drowned; Bowser meets with pet owners

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office announced Thursday that it would revoke the certification of occupancy for the space that once held the District Dogs dog day care.

The “danger placard” placed at the business by D.C.’s Department of Buildings prohibits access to the space except for cleanup operations, a spokeswoman for the agency told WTOP in an email.

“Any proposed new use of this space shall be subject to a new Certificate of Occupancy and will undergo renewed plan reviews to ensure safety against enhanced flood risk,” the spokeswoman said.

Just two weeks ago, the Northeast D.C. facility flooded, trapping employees and leaving 10 dogs dead.

Earlier this week, the grieving owners continued to ask for answers from regional leaders. Some of them met with Bowser on Thursday to ask for significant changes that would prevent another tragedy.

Colleen Costello, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Northeast D.C. whose shepherd mix, Maple, died, told 7News after meeting with Bowser that it felt like her concerns about the Office of Unified Communications were dismissed and not taken seriously.

Costello’s main concern with OUC is the seemingly consistent delays in dispatching first responders to emergencies in the District. In the case of the dog day care, there was a 23-minute delay from when calls were placed before rescue efforts began.

“We asked that the mayor initiate an independent task force with experts who are familiar with how to run a 911 call center, who are familiar with how to dispatch Fire and EMS and MPD. And she didn’t even acknowledge that request. The impression I got was, ‘Well, there are some staffing issues, but we’re working on it. And we’re hiring people,'” Costello said. “I don’t think the underlying problems were really acknowledged in the way that we had hoped.”

During a press conference on Aug. 21, OUC director Heather McGaffin said that the delay of the dog day care rescue was due to “no policy or protocol” being in place for extreme flooding, adding that it was an “unprecedented event.”

The District Dogs location had experienced extreme flooding before August’s deadly incident.

Costello had also pushed for D.C. to revoke the certificate of occupancy for the building, citing that it’s not “safe for occupancy by anybody, human or animal.”

District Dogs owner Jacob Hensley said that the business is now permanently closed and has issued public statements on social media to express “profound sadness” over the tragic loss.

Another immediate solution, Costello said, would be “installing bioswales along Rhode Island Avenue,” to mitigate the flooding of surrounding homes and businesses. DC Water said a tunneling project to finish the Northeast Boundary Tunnel is underway and is expected to be completed by September.

“This is not something we’re going to let go. We are committed to sticking with this and making sure something like this never happens again,” she said. “I think we’re going to stay very public and vocal about this because we really need the public support.”

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Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is a freelance digital writer/editor at WTOP. She is a recent graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

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