A couple claim their beloved bulldog died after being locked in a kitchen with “no ventilation” on a hot night.
Judy Robinson, 46, and her husband Robert left their two dogs – Elvis, five, and two-year-old Mildred – with pet sitters when they went away to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
But hours before they were due to collect the British bulldogs, they received an early morning text to say Elvis had died in the night.
Jane and Jaja Santana, who run the Wagtailz boarding service at their home in Luton, Beds., claim he’d suddenly fallen ill – but Judy and Robert believe he was neglected.
Judy claims a friend who has also used the company also received a message from the dogsitters, which read: “The white British stud bull dog is a pain, he’s marking his territory so I’ve locked him in the kitchen.”
Judy Robinson, 46, said: “My dog was a healthy, beautiful boy, he was only five but now he’s in a box.
“We’d got the text at about 7am – but you don’t text somebody that. We went round straight away.
“I walked into the kitchen and saw Elvis laying on the floor and Mildred laying next to him.
“Her head was nodding in stress and there were about four other dogs walking over Elvis.
“He died on a really really hot night. She must have used the oven in that kitchen as well and she had shut the kitchen door.”
Judy and Robert paid £50 to book Elvis and Mildred into Wagtailz from June 12 to June 19 when they went away on a mini-break.
They had previously used the couple in 2016 and were happy with the service.
Both dogs were said to be “perfectly healthy” when they dropped them off, but since Elvis’ death on June 19, Mildred has also become unwell with diarrhea and conjunctivitis.
Judy said: “When she came home I thought Mildred had sores on her chin.
“I took her to the vets, but they treated her for ‘dog bites’.
“She’s also had diarrhea and conjunctivitis, which the vet said could be due to stress.”
But since the stay, Judy and Robert have discovered the couple running Wagtailz were unlicensed – a necessity for anyone running a dog boarding service.
Judy said: “It’s worrying that these places are not checked.
“I just assumed they were, I didn’t ask for any paperwork because I thought if you are advertising in a websites they would be checked.
“I did as much research as I could and I thought these dogs, they need to go in a family home and when I visited Jane that was okay.”
Following Elvis’ death, he was cremated in Cambridge, his body surrounded by roses.
Judy who looks after Rob, 48, who gave up working as a tree surgeon when he injured his back in 2009, have kept bulldogs for 15 years.
She said: “It’s their character, they can be funny, they are boisterous but they just really loving and they just want to be around people, I suppose that’s us as well.
“This was like our first anniversary because we didn’t do anything for our wedding holiday and it’s just completely ruined it.”
Responding to the claims, Mrs Santana said she has closed her company following the incident.
She said: “A dog did die when it was in our care. The dog was perfectly well cared for.
“We went to bed and when we came down in the morning he had died.
“I want to apologise profusely for informing Judy by text. It was early in the the morning and I didn’t have any idea when they were coming back.
“When we went to bed Elvis was fine, lying on the kitchen tiles.
“Elvis spent most time here; the kitchen is the coolest room, or he’d look for shade under the shed.
“The kitchen door to the living room had been left wide open ever since the Wednesday. There was a large fan in the living room since Thursday.
“Mildred did not get bites here. The dogs did not fight.
“I paid for Elvis to be cremated at Judy’s request. She also insisted that she paid the boarding fee of £50 but I returned it.
“Never ever will I board dogs again. It was my decision to close the business.
“We did have pet sitting insurance. We weren’t registered with the council; we’d just discovered that we needed to be.
“To anybody who is boarding dogs, please get yourself a council boarding permit.”
A Luton Borough Council spokesman confirmed that Wagtailz has never been registered with the council.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “We are investigating an incident involving the death of a dog in Luton after being contacted by a member of the public who reported the matter. As this is an active investigation we cannot provide any further information at this stage.”