Like many people, Luke Mullaney had taken his dog to a nearby pet daycare and grooming center on a regular basis. He thought the opportunity for his girl to socialize with other canines and to be made a fuss of would be a happy and positive experience in her best interests. But on one day in March 2017, he picked her up from the facility and noticed something strange. In addition to her regular I.D. collar, the poor animal had something else around her neck. And when he took a closer look at what was there, he was appalled.
Luke Mullaney and his girlfriend, Lauren Mayer, are residents of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood in south-west Chicago, Illinois. Together, they own an energetic German shepherd mix named Mya. She was a rescue animal and is two and a half years old.
The couple’s favorite thing to do with their pet is to play with her in the park, conveniently situated over the road from their home. But Mullaney and Meyer also treat Mya to the finer things in life. In 2016, for instance, the indulgent dog lovers started regularly sending Mya to the nearby Posh Pet Day Spa.
Due to her previous traumatic experiences, rescue dog Mya suffered from anxiety issues. As a result, Mullaney and Meyer thought that the opportunity to interact with other dogs at the facility might help her. Furthermore, it would give the couple a bit of space in which they could run a few errands and attend to other day-to-day activities, secure in the knowledge that their beloved pet was enjoying expert care.
So for nearly a whole year, Mya went to doggy daycare twice a week, seemingly happy and without any problems. But on March 11, 2017, all that changed. In fact, something happened that day to make Mullaney and Mayer seriously question whether the Posh Pet Day Spa experience had been good for their dog at all.
On that day, Mullaney had been taking care of some business around the house when the time came for him to fetch Mya. So he picked his pet up as usual. But when they got outside, he suddenly saw that the dog had a smaller black collar he had never seen before fixed to her everyday one.
“I noticed there was a big box on the side of the collar and that box was almost directly on her throat,” Mullaney told ABC 7 Eyewitness News in March 2017. However, at this point the dog owner still had no idea what the sinister device was.
Obviously, Mullaney knew that Mya would be unable to give him any answers. So, he marched back into the doggy daycare facility to enquire about the strange and disturbing extra collar. A staff member’s damning reaction told him all he needed to know. “The troubling thing was the first thing she said when I walked in the door and held it up was, ‘Uh oh,’” he told ABC.
Mullaney discovered that someone at the spa had fitted Mya with an electric Petrainer PET853 anti-bark shock collar. These are designed to issue a warning beep when a dog begins to bark. However if the animal continues to bark, the collar delivers a shock. If the dog then persists in barking, the sound and shocks from the collar become increasingly intense until the animal eventually desists. According to the user guide, such a collar provides a “painful stimulus” to “break bad habits.”
Naturally, it appalled Mullaney that someone had used such a barbaric device on his beloved pet – especially without his express consent. However, the spa staff member he spoke to didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. “I asked her why it was on the dog. She said obviously the dog was barking too much,” he said.
A shaken Mullaney and Mayer could not believe the daycare center would go behind their back in such a manner. Neither of them had ever given permission for Posh Pet Day Spa staff to use a shock collar on Mya. And it was a mystifying decision at that, as in their experience their pet rarely barked anyway.
But Mya does get anxious when in unfamiliar places or situations, and this can cause her to whimper and cry. This led Mayer to theorize that the spa used the collar to prevent her from making these distress noises. However, as she pointed out in an interview with Chicago news website DNA Info in March 2017, “She is crying because she is scared. And she is scared because she has a shock collar on.”
Mayer also thought that the collar could have been triggered by the barking of other canine guests at the facility. Indeed, one of her major concerns was that the use of shock collars was widespread practice at the spa. And that worry was prompted by her noticing that the collar Mya came home with had a number six on it. “The first thing I realized [was] that if there’s a ‘No. 6’ on it, there must be five others,” she told DNA Info.
As a result of her worries, Mayer thought it was only right to warn other dog owners about what had happened to Mya at Posh Pet Day Spa. So, she posted about the upsetting episode on a local Facebook page. Some social media users defended the business, however, insisting that Mya’s treatment was a one-off. Sadly, though, it soon became clear that this was far from the case.
Another pet owner revealed that the very same spa had also used a shock collar on her dog. According to her post, someone had also written on this collar – it featured a “No. 7” in white marker pen. So it seemed that the problem was bigger than Mayer and Mullaney had first feared.
And with the story of Mya’s shocking experience gradually picking up speed online, concerned animal lovers soon began to demand answers from Posh Pet Day Spa. Eventually, word reached journalists at ABC 7 Eyewitness News, who dispatched a team to visit the daycare and grooming facility and quiz its owner face to face on the matter.
The proprietor of Posh Pet Day Spa, Lynn Mulrenin, point blank denied using shock collars on the dogs who frequent her business. She claimed that a new staff member had placed the collar on Mayer and Mullaney’s pet by mistake. According to Mulrenin, the Petrainer PET853 collar found on Mya belonged to either this employee or perhaps her own daughter’s pet.
“I use one on my own dog,” the daycare owner added to veteran ABC reporter Chuck Goudie. “He’s a beagle-basset mix. My daughter uses one on hers. It’s a correction collar. There’s absolutely nothing – I mean – they wouldn’t sell them in the stores if they didn’t work.”
Mulrenin also denied that the collar shocked animals. Instead, she maintained that it was a “training collar” that “makes a beeping noise.” However, the manual for the model of collar Mayer and Mullaney found on Mya clearly states that it does have the capacity to shock its wearer.
In a press statement, Posh Pet Day Spa would go on to state that the “accusation… they would ever do anything to hurt an animal” caused it “tears and heartache.” However, Mayer and Mullaney have secured a refund for monies paid in advance and are now looking for another dog daycare facility for Mya to attend. And the sorry tale serves as a vital reminder to other pet owners that, as their animals can’t tell them about bad experiences, they should thoroughly check out the places they entrust with the care of their creatures.