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Akron woman facing over $21,000 in vet bills after dog nearly loses leg in care of sitter from 'Rover' app

Rover paying for 30 days of care, sitter still active on app
Rover experience Luna
Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 19:12:11-05

AKRON, Ohio — It's every pet owner's worst nightmare: leaving your pet in the care of someone and trusting they'll be fine, only to find that isn't the case. That nightmare became a harsh reality for Hannah Sexton, a traveling nurse from Akron, and her dog Luna.

Back in December, Sexton had to go out of town. Normally, her family is able to watch her two dogs Luna and Cash, but on this particular trip, they were unable. She had downloaded the app Rover, a pet-sitting and dog-walking resource, but had never used it before.

She decided to give it a try.

"I had created an account a long time ago but never actually used it. So I found a sitter that seemed like she would be good. She was in the area. And I asked her to do a meet and greet because I've never left Luna with a stranger," Sexton said.

The meet and greet went well and Sexton decided to employ her services via the Rover app after seeing she had a fenced-in backyard and good reviews on the app.

However, the first day her dog Cash had broken his collar and the sitter, who News 5 is choosing not to name, decided to use a leash with him. Sexton didn't expect that to be required as she chose someone with a fenced-in backyard and knew that her dog Cash could be a little rowdy on a leash.

Still, the sitter used a leash, which would later result in a horrible scenario for Sexton and Luna.

Two days after dropping Luna and Cash off at the sitter's house, Sexton received a call from the woman watching her dogs.

"She said 'Luna's leg hurts. It's pretty bad but I don't want you to be too worried. I checked, nothing's broken.' And I was concerned, obviously," Sexton recalled.

Sexton's father lived nearby and while he was headed to work, he was able to go to the sitter's home and check on Luna. The situation was far more serious than Sexton says the sitter let on.

"When she got to the vet they said she was in shock. Her blood pressure was low, they had to pump her full of a lot of fluids. And then that's when they finally got ahold of me and told me that she had a degloving over her entire lower leg," Sexton said.

A brutal injury, Luna's skin was peeled off the muscle, leaving her Achilles tendon and bone completely exposed. Sexton said the sitter not only failed to rush her to a vet, she left the wound open until Sexton's dad picked the dog up, which may have caused even more damage.

"Her legs started becoming a lot more necrotic, her Achilles tendon kind of slopped off and died," Sexton said. "Luna ended up growing seven different bacterias in her wound, which could because it was exposed to the elements and wasn't covered, and who knows how long she was outside. And so just the risk of these infections, we're trying to get all that cleared up, she's on multiple antibiotics."

Since the incident in December, Sexton has fought to save Luna's leg. Amputation was an early option, but Sexton felt responsible to do everything she could to avoid that. Luna has undergone multiple skin grafts, more than 15 wound debridements and dressing changes and more than one surgery.

Overall, the costs for Luna's care have surpassed $21,000, and she says the bills keep adding up.

Sexton has been in contact with Rover and the company has offered to pay for 30 days of Luna's treatment as part of their "Rover Guarantee." While she appreciates the company taking accountability on some of Luna's medical costs, she believes more should have been done about the sitter in question.

"I just want them to take accountability for this happening under the use of their app and to make sure simple first aid training or emergency awareness or a simple PowerPoint on 'Hey, this is how you handle emergencies' for their sitters is all I'm asking for to make sure that no one else's dog—even if the sitter has the best intentions but they don't know how to handle a situation like this. I just think a little education and acknowledgment for their part in this," Sexton said.

In a statement to News 5, Rover addressed the incident, expressing their concern for Luna and noting that they do conduct background checks on all of their sitters, as well as a "safety quiz."

The sitter is still active on the app and Rover believes she acted quickly to notify both the company and Sexton about Luna's injury. Still, Sexton believes that the sitter's lack of action was negligent and is upset that she is still actively caring for dogs on the app, even though she urged them to suspend her.

"She made it seem like it was just kind of a little scratch or scrape or something that was bleeding and to not be too concerned," Sexton said. "Rover said 'Would you ever use the sitter again?' And I said 'Absolutely not. I don't feel like she's safe. I feel like she neglected my dog and I don't feel like any other pets would be safe with her.' ...I thought they were going to take into consideration my experience and hopefully help other pets. So just recently to find out she's still sitting is upsetting for sure."

In the statement, Rover said they did an investigation into the sitter and based on other good reviews she has on her profile and the background of the incident, deemed this a "deeply unfortunate incident."

You can read the full statement below:

As pet parents ourselves, we join Luna’s family in hoping for her swift recovery. An incident like this is highly unusual and we take it very seriously. Our 24/7 Trust and Safety team launched an investigation as soon as we were alerted about Luna’s injury. After a thorough review, it was determined this was a deeply unfortunate accident and that the sitter acted quickly to notify both Rover and Luna’s family. It is important to note that this sitter has successfully completed upwards of 130 stays through the platform with dozens of 5-star reviews.

The safety and well-being of the pets and people in our community are top priorities, which is why every stay booked through Rover is backed by the Rover Guarantee. This program is designed to support pet parents and sitters in the rare event something goes wrong during a stay. Our commitment to safety is also why we require all sitters who list their services on the platform to pass a criminal background check and a safety quiz, in addition to having their profile reviewed by our team.

We understand that every pet has unique needs and we have designed our platform so that pet parents can customize their search to find sitters who meet those specific requirements. Prior to booking any service, we highly encourage pet parents to meet in-person with multiple sitters to talk through care instructions, ask questions, and ensure the booking is a good match for everyone. We believe in transparency on the platform and offer all customers access to verified sitter reviews from other pet parents.

More than 100,000 services have been booked in the Cleveland area through the Rover platform, with over 98% of reviewed stays receiving 5 stars.

This incident is not the first of its kind for Rover. Numerous complaints similar in nature have been issued to the Better Business Bureau, reporting negligent behavior from sitters, injuries to pets and animals going missing under their care.

Last year, CNN Business reported several cases of missing dogs and dogs that died in the care of Rover sitters.

As Rover mentioned in their statement, more than 100,000 services in the Cleveland area have been booked using their app with "more than 98% of reviewed stays receiving 5 stars."

But Sexton believes if she had seen the 2% Rover can't attribute to 5-star reviews, she would have questioned her decision to use a sitter from the app and hopes that her situation is a lesson to those who may choose someone to watch their pet too quickly.

"I think maybe I wouldn't have even gone out of town, but I definitely would have done more vetting if I knew Rover did so little vetting to start with. I probably would have never even looked into Rover in the first place," Sexton admitted. "I just want everyone to really look into—if they're leaving their dog with a stranger—make sure they know how to handle if something comes up, because accidents do happen, even if this was kind of neglectful. Accidents can happen to anyone and just make sure your sitter knows how to handle those accidents and can take the proper actions to make sure they're safe."

Luna, who is in a cast, recently underwent a bone fusion procedure so that she'll be able to eventually walk on the injured leg since it no longer has an Achilles tendon. Vets placed an external fixator device under the cast with pins to help the bone heal in place, which will stay on for at least the next two months.

"We're hoping as long as the bone fuses together that they can take that off and hopefully she'll be able to walk with no complications, but she won't have any mobility of that joint. So we'll kind of have to see what that looks like after that," Sexton said.

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