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My dog was killed on a walk with a walker ordered through Wag (facebook.com)
775 points by griffinmb on Jan 18, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 442 comments

This is mildly fascinating. Though not entirely unexpected.

A quick Google for "pet sitting dog died" turns up a number of these stories. It seems a number of them are through these dog sitting services like Wag or Rover.

Here's an interesting one I found not through a dog sitting service but just a roommate that had been asked to sit the dog while the owner was away.


It must be awful for everyone involved. I suspect it's nothing unique to dog sitting services but that it occurs with a certain (albeit low) frequency as a phenomenon but that it's showing up through dog sitting services because there is a (1) a paper trail of the transaction and (2) a stable, visible entity on which to lay the blame.

In the pre-sharing economy days this still happened. Only you vetted the sitter first and so you feel less justified blaming them because on some level you know you signed off on them. You also couldn't really go public and say "14 year old Jenny from Ashmore killed my dog" because you can't make a common enemy out of her and while people will feel for both of you, it's not actionable information for anyone.

It's fascinating what phenomenon our society is making visible through new structures made possible by technology.

It's awful for all involved to have this happen.

I have to say that the problem is accountability. With this Wag incident, it appears the person selected through the platform was not the person who was caring for the pet. When I select someone to care for my pet, I know who they are, and can use my own signals to determine if they’re trustworthy and responsible. Wag doesn’t care, they’re just out to “crush it” (cost of business), and the contractor doesn’t care because it’s just another crap minimum wage job.

Stop trusting platforms and acting shocked when the trust model breaks down. They are not designed for safety or trust, but to skim as much volume as possible from transaction flow.

It definitely seems they could and need to do more to tighten up the accountability on the platform. No doubt about that.

I don't know that it's accurate to say the contractor doesn't care. If they were a psychopath I could agree with that, but most people have had the experience of having either a pet, friend or relative die and know how deeply it affects people emotionally and to know you were responsible for that would likely generate a strong, negative visceral reaction.

Edit: Platforms don't kill dogs; people do. Stop trusting people.

Actually this is the part that fascinates me. On some level people expect things to never go wrong. Yet things going "wrong" is kind of the default. It's extremely hard to engineer a situation in which no one ever experiences a negative outcome. To the extent that you can attribute a cause to an outcome, you do.

Infact, it's not at all clear whether the frequency of dogs dying while being sat by pet sitters is higher on platforms or higher when not through platforms. You'd actually have to do quite a lengthy, expensive analysis to compute the truth value of that.

What can likely agree on is that we want the most safe and convenient system. I'm fascinated by thinking about the various trade-offs made when organizing a system one way vs. another. Are we trading more convenience for less safety? Or are we actually getting both more convenience AND more safety, but also increased observability is skewing our perception of the risk such that we think we have got a less safe system when in fact the opposite might be true?

I don't have the answers. But damnit it's important to attempt to look at things the right way in an attempt to compute that actual reality.

It's extremely hard to engineer a situation in which no one ever experiences a negative outcome

True; nevertheless: good engineering practice dictates that you design a product, service or component in a way that it gracefully fails.

A good example is the regulator for scuba diving (the thing that enables you to breathe and which contains the main valve, through which you breathe and the second stage, referred to as octopus, which is conneted to the bottle and the gauges). Any of those components could fail. The device, however, is designed in a way that if this happens it fails "safely" meaning that it's almost not possible that air flow is completely blocked, but that it flows unrestricted. Meaning you can still breathe, alas for a short time since the bottle empties rapidly and the flow is unrestricted.

This gives you a fighting chance and a way out by signalling the distress to your buddy so you can safely mount to the surface using techniques such as buddy breathing. Training for such emergencies is arguably the most important part of scuba diving training. There's still the possibilty that the thing blocks completely, but that's extremely rare and the base design of this equipment part is done in a way to minimize this possibility. [1]

Another example is a dead man's switch [2]. You don't anticipate that a train conductor is rendered incommunicado by, say, a heart attack. But this fail safe mechanism is nevertheless there in the extremely rare case when it happens. If the switch is not engaged, when it signals the conductor the train is stopped automatically.

I think that when you create something like a dog walking service it's almost rekless not to design your process flows with the consideration that an accident may happen and how to handle it. The question is not if, but when.

Wag's panic mode and the waving around of NDAs signals quite loudly that they obviously never thought about it and thus cannot be trusted to care for your animal. And this is actually the most charitable assessment of how they handled this disaster.

Chances that one of your consignees is hurt or killed are probably much greater than that your regulator malfunctions or that a train conductor is suddenly dropping dead

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_regulator#Malfunctions_... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_man%27s_switch

I love this comment and I think it's right on the money to say that we ought to engineer things in the best possible way we can.

I have a couple of thoughts...

There is a sort of dialectic that unfolds with regards to what fail-safes should be engineered and how to engineer them. It perhaps might be possible in some cases to compute a priori what fail-safe mechanisms a system needs to include, but for the most part it seems that a catastrophe (or a string of them) first unfolds which then gives you the necessary information as to what the requirements are for the fail-safe. I think this is a very important point worth stressing. As it relates to this incident, I'll grant you they probably could have done better from the outset, but I stand by the comment that sometimes it's not possible to compute ahead of time what fail-safes you need and experiencing these kind of PR disasters is just part of the journey towards a system that works better. Call it dialectical engineering if you will. If there is another, better, actual name that concept goes by I'd like to know if anyone can tell me.

The other comment would be that I like to think about things from a control-theoretic and systems thinking point of a view and that this particular statement of "It's extremely hard to engineer a situation in which no one ever experiences a negative outcome" is a real core, axiomatic belief for me that I base a lot of my thinking and critiques of things around. I like what you have to say about engineering. It's very apt. I always couch my thoughts / analyses in the broadest possible context. So in the case of the regulator for scuba diving my mind flashes back to the terrifying stories I have read about people who let their concentration lapse at a critical juncture in a cave and panicked when they realised they couldn't find their way back and in that case it didn't matter that their regulator worked or not because it was their mind that had failed them. You mention training as being a crucial input to the system and I absolutely agree. I go so far as to include the cave itself as a constraint in the whole system design as well as all the pitfalls of the human mind. So it's not just the device but the entire context in which the device operates that's the important thing.

Human engineered machines gracefully fail; humans do not. We have this deep need to play the blame game when things go wrong. We all do it and we all understand it, but it's not always justified and I think that matters. I like to try and get to the bottom of whether the moral outrage suffered by people is justified in situations where they were harmed but it wasn't necessarily the fault of someone. Well, it might be the fault of someone, but that also might just be a necessary part of the process a la my concept of dialectical engineering. It's a complicated topic.

Of course you will be outraged or upset if your dog dies while in the care of somebody else and you aren't likely to sit and get all philosophical about it, but when you play the blame game you search for the most salient (to you) cause or potential cause of your effect and you attribute it to that. I think it's often stunningly likely you're making an error in judgement when you do this, because of the hard problem of delineation you can't necessarily compute what the actual cause is with any degree of accuracy so epistemology comes in to play. How do you know that what you're mad at is the appropriate thing to be mad at?

> Edit: Platforms don't kill dogs; people do. Stop trusting people.

I disagree with that notion. Trust has always been a big problem. But when a two way market is built on a platform you trust the platform to carry out it's due diligence on your behalf. Situations like:

The walker that was with Winnie when she was killed had a different name in her bio paragraph than was shown on her profile—which makes me wonder if Wag is monitoring whether or not the people walking your dog are who they say they are. Sara asked the walker what her name was, but the walker did not provide an answer.

shouldn't happen at all.

But it's seems that most of the time platforms forgo the need for verification and think trust should solve itself because "people". It takes a harassment case (in case of Uber) etc for companies to open their eyes and realize "people" are not so simple. It takes a good and concentrated effort to run a clean platform.

>> you trust the platform to carry out it's due diligence on your behalf

Isn't one of the central points of gig economy service provision that services are cheaper since the "red tape"/regulations aspect gets significantly less focus than before?

If I wanted to drive a taxi in London, UK, there are some fairly onerous requirements[0], which come with a cost.

So why did Uber and friends decide not to use the same list of requirements?

Isn't it about saving money (and time) so you can keep prices low and margins high?

[0] https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-and-private-hire/licensing...

Those onerous requirements were actually pretty ridiculous, and included having to basically memorize an entire street map of the city. That may have made some sense 40 years ago, but today we have GPS navigation, so we don't need cabbies to know how to get to any address off the top of their head. Uber/Lyft work well because instead of having your cabbie take you on some overly-long route just to jack up your fare, they have to follow the route prescribed by Lyft/Uber's GPS app, which takes the most optimal route.

I also disagree with my own notion. And I don't.

> It takes a good and concentrated effort to run a clean platform

Precisely. It's hard. Because people. So I can imagine that without the platform and hence no way to actually have a concentrated effort to do the work required to up the quality you still get the garbage that people bring but without the observability or feedback loop to the entity because they're all just localised cases.

But this is my point. It's people that run the platforms and it's people that partake in them. It's people that choose to trust them and it's people that can't be trusted. It's all ultimately a people problem. The platform is just a mechanism to coordinate the actions of people. It's not like this stuff never happens outside of platforms and now that you have platforms platforms are causing this stuff to happen.

Caveat: it may be the case platforms cause this stuff to happen due to the type of actors they attract because the economics of certain things actually scale poorly along one axis and brilliantly along another. I address this elsewhere and am happy to concede it.

I agree with you. I actually do. I also hope on some level you agree with me too. We want things to be convenient and safe and it takes time and collateral damage for things to mold themselves into the right shape.

Coordination of good behavior is a hard, hard, problem to solve. It's not like the default state is "uncoordinated good behavior". Rather it seems to progress through states of "uncoordinated bad behavior", "coordinated bad behavior", "coordinated good behavior".

From what I can see of the sharing economy experiment, once you coordinate things you get to coordinated bad behavior and then from there it takes a few incidents to honestly compute the real risks and appropriate responses and appropriate changes are made and you wind up with coordinated good behavior.

That's a loose model and I'm sure someone out there can present a much better one than me, but I'm willing to at least say the analysis is in the right direction.

Secondly, not actually dealing with the trust problem very seriously limits the actual value the platform provides. Margins should be ultra thin.

Lack of progress on that front has been a big turn off for me. I generally do not make use of gig services.

The problem is I can’t tell which ones care, and those are the only ones I’d want to do business with.

I can respect that. You want to maximize the likelihood the dog survives.

I call this "The Hard Problem of Delineation". You can't delineate between who will and won't kill your dog no matter what system you use. That's the problem.

Though I take your point about the cold, uncaring, capitalist dog walker. Hmmm.

Edit: now that I think about your point I can see what you mean. The "sharing economy (Uber for X)" has become a widely known abstraction that people realize they can exploit for monetary gain and thats likely to attract more people walking dogs who wouldn't otherwise care about, be familiar with and/or know how to handle dogs. I agree, at least in principle, that may be a phenomenon that is occurring.

>You can't delineate between who will and won't kill your dog no matter what system you use. That's the problem.

I think essentially every dog owner will have done something to "kill" their dog but were saved by chance. Dogs sneak out the door when you're bringing groceries in, yank the leash out of your hand, escape fenced yards, among a number of other possibilities of them getting loose. The saving grace is that 999 times out of a thousand there's no traffic or the driver is paying attention or fluffy comes back before anything happens. In a situation like that it's hard to say if the walker is worse than any random owner or walker, or if they were just unlucky.

Exactly. To a certain degree it's just bound to happen.

The problem lies in the blame game. If it happens on while the owner is looking after the dog they just accept the sad event as an unfortunate random happening. If it happens on someone else's watch it was their "fault". Which it might been or it might not have been but we have a really hard time shutting off that need to find someone to blame for bad things that happen that are out of our control.

  You want to maximize the likelihood the dog survives.
Wag, however, has a huge financial incentive for the dog to die even if it could be saved, due to the cost differential between surgery and subsequent care vs. cremation cost.

Well in the case the dog has already been hit and is facing either death or the possibility of salvation by some means then perhaps I might agree that them sweeping our four legged friend under the proverbial rug might be, not necessarily the most moral course of action, but perhaps the most expedient.

The comment that you want to maximize the likelihood the dog survives was referring to the point of market entry after you have decided you want someone to sit your dog but haven't yet selected a provider. They certainly don't have an incentive for the dog to die in that case, unless we invoke a conspiracy theory that they actually also run the doggy crematorium and thus win twice on the deal. But that's a mildly absurb prospect.

This is an interesting point since the owner wasn't involved until the dog was dead we don't even know if any such decisions were made.

RE: Your edit

I think that's close as well. One of the interesting things I've noticed is that people who are participating in the gig economy seem to be participating in almost ALL of the gig economy at once.

I've met many people who do all of the following almost every day:

- Drive for Uber/Lyft - Deliver packages for Amazon - Walk dogs for Wag/Rover - Rent a place on AirBnb - Do some stuff on Task Rabbit - Deliver food for GrubHub/DoorDash/etc...

I can't imagine these folks are any particular loyalty to any of it, nor are they developing skills in any of these in a meaningful way.

>> I can’t tell which ones care

Question - do you mean service companies that care (Wag/Uber/...), or service providers that care (DogWalker93/UberDriver93/...)?

Providers. I only hire child and pet care providers I have performed a background check on, I’ve vetted in person, and who come with references from others.

I do not use ride sharing, pet services, Airbnb, or other such P2P platforms.

If people only hire people with references how does one get references?

Through other trust paths. Start by caring for neighbours' pets, or family/friends, anyone that already knows you. Ask them for tips, guidance (aka "education"). Show them you care and want to expand your services (aka "networking"). Then ask them for references (aka "certification").

This seems like a lot to ask for something that pays substantially less than McDonalds.

Kind of feels like someone should be able to give non dog walking references to walk your dog. Like if people regularly trust their children with person foo person foo can probably be trusted with pets?

>> if people regularly trust their children with person foo person foo can probably be trusted with pets

Isn't that chain of trust completely backwards?

You'd start by looking after pets, then once you have loads of good references, you might just be able to upgrade to looking after kids?

Full disclosure: zero pets + three kids

No teacher starts out by getting references by watching pets...

People have verifiable employment references where they have been in positions of trust where they have justified the trust put in them. It's how every position on earth works.

I think it's also consolidation, as dog sitting becomes consolidated in services there is more of a chance that a dog killed during a dog sitting assignment was killed on a dog sitting assignment purchased through a service.

Yup. That's another way of stating it. That fact gives you observability and that feeds back into your calculus about the safety of such an activity.

>In the pre-sharing economy days this still happened. Only you vetted the sitter first and so you feel less justified blaming them because on some level you know you signed off on them. You also couldn't really go public and say "14 year old Jenny from Ashmore killed my dog" because you can't make a common enemy out of her

Back in the old days, you could hire your neighbor's kid to do jobs like this.

These days, no one is having kids, so you don't have any neighborhood kids to hire for odd jobs. Instead, people are all just adopting dogs instead, so we have to have big corporations to take care of them for us, apparently.

We had a similar (but thankfully, less serious) thing happen with Rover. We booked a dog sitter for 4 days with a woman named "Leslie". When we showed up to "Leslie's" place, the lady who we met did not match the person in the photo, and barely spoke any english. We were on our way to the airport, so I really didn't have a choice at that point but to leave our dog (I realize now I should have done more vetting, or met this individual in-person ahead of time, but the person I booked - Leslie - had dozens of positive reviews). After dropping off our dog, we received extremely vague updates/text messages over the next few days, and no photos. Things like - "Your dog is doing great", "he is behaving so well", etc... Whenever I asked for a photo, they would say they'd send one the next day.

Needless to say, it became obvious that whoever was watching our dog was not the person we were communicating with. Thankfully, our dog doesn't have special medication, or a specific diet that we needed to monitor. Who knows what would have happened if there was an emergency, and we needed to get in touch with one another.

These services like Wag and Rover have literally one job, and that is to make sure you trust the individuals watching your pet. The response from Rover was completely thoughtless, and it was clear they were going to do nothing to investigate the situation. The fact that they don't care that people like this woman who clearly has some sort of questionable scheme going on just shows how little they care about protecting their customer's pets.

> These services like Wag and Rover have literally one job, and that is to make sure you trust the individuals watching your pet.

I think this is where the key incentive misalignment is. These companies are rent-seeking, meaning they have a strong incentive to lower marginal costs. Vetting has to be the largest component of that so it's likely to be cut (or just dropped entirely). But the vetting is the entire point of the exercise, so what you end up with is a company that pretends it vets people but (I suspect) doesn't really. So the profit margin is bolstered by false advertising.

The vetting is 'crowd-sourced' with customer reviews, no? If 'Bill' thinks 'Leslie' is a great walker... what more should wag or rover need to do? Vet Bill now too!? That's just crazy talk...

Currently the problem arises if the reviews are owned and hosted by the company in question.

You can find tons of complains about the quality of Amazon products. And now there is a need for external tools like fakespot.com to find fake reviews. It wouldn't have taken Amazon much to build a similar service.

The amazing thing about smaller markets like Wag and Rover is that even if there are negative reviews you are not going to find them. There will be tons of 4-5 rated walkers but you will be hard pressed to find people who are rated 2-3. The reason being that customers don't want 2-3 rated walkers and it is in the interest of the company to show all high rated walkers.

> It wouldn't have taken Amazon much to build a similar service.

Would people really trust it as much as something completely external?

It's not in the interest of the marketplace actor, like Wag, to see negative reviews, so I would not be surprised if Leslie's rating was doctored somehow. For example with Uber I had a couple of bad experiences with the driver not picking me up but starting to charge me, and I had to settle for getting my money back but could not leave a review because technically I did not ride with the driver.

I would think it would be beneficial for the marketplace to see negative reviews, because they will direct customers to the reliable dogwalkers, leading to greater customer satisfaction and retention. Badly reviewed dogwalkers could be bumped off the platform.

That all depends on the supply of reliable dog walkers.

only if the company ensures that "Leslie" is one profile that is attached to one person. Reputation only works if it follows you, if you can create a new account or masquerade as another person (like in this case) then it doesn't work at all.

there should also be a certain barrier to entry so that e.g. people more likely to do something criminal or negligent instead won't get on the platform in the first place.

I think you are correct. Make people provide photo ID to work and provide a bond. Have someone else show up as you lose the bond.

It's entirely possible that such an id and rep feature could be easily be implemented in a universal fashion outside of their interaction with a particular service.

Don't want your dog walking service or potential clients to discover that while driving with uber you were a complete asshole no problem don't be an asshole.

That's not what rent-seeking means; I am not sure what you are trying to say.

yeah rent-seeking isn't quite the right term, but I'm not sure what is. The companies basically exist as low-touch facilitators that rely on high volumes and low marginal cost. Does that make it clearer? The reason I called them rent-seeking is that (if you remove the vetting aspect, which I believe they have) they don't actually do anything, they just charge a "tax" on top of a service rendered by someone else. If the company only makes, say, $100 per dogwalker on average and background checking costs $50, they'll cut the cost despite the primary use of the platform being to find a trustworthy, pre-vetted dogwalker.


yeah, I'd go with that. It wasn't coming to me at the time.

This is akin to the Airbnb model: tap into people's inherent faculties to determine trust on good packaging ("host guarantee" etc), good branding that makes them look reputable, and good customer service (at least on the service) - but then not give a shit once you look a little bit below the surface, meanwhile building brand recognition and perceived value to exit early investors and founders via an IPO transferring risk to the general public.

Getting VC money and scaling/capturing market share for these businesses artificially seems to be the recipe, the bigger the network effects the better (for them).

Just speculating here, but seems like this "Leslie" could be a person or even group of people who subcontract out the sitting duties to a bunch of people who will do it on the cheap and then send them way more dogs than anyone person should ever be watching.

Why not put an IP camera on your pooch and front yard for the peace of mind and to verify they are actually doing their job?

As another poster said, this wasn't house-sitting, this was basically boarding. This is the problem with dogs as pets: you absolutely have to board them when you go away, or else you have to pay someone to come to your place several times a day to walk them and clean up after them. That's not cheap, and is why boarding exists (the boarding person/company can have a bunch of peoples' dogs all in one place and take care of them all at the same time).

Why anyone wants a pet that costs so much and can't be left alone for a couple of days, and on top of that needs regular bathing and grooming so they don't stink up your home, I have no idea. These animals made a lot of sense for working on farms and living mostly outside (and still do for people who still live that way in rural areas), but for urban environments they really don't.

The pet sitting situation isn't bad at all if you have a strong family or friend network and live near each other and all like dogs. People just casually bring their dogs over to each others house when they won't be home. When I was a teen when my aunts and uncles with pets go on vacation I'd spend the week at their house taking care of their pets.

Without that sort of network, yeah, I don't understand owning a dog either.

They dropped the dog off at someone else's place, it wasn't a house sitting.

I would imagine that placing a camera on a dog in this situation would be pretty illegal in a lot of states, especially if their dog is being card for in another person's home.

Yes most likely it would be illegal in a private residence however in many situations if the individual was advertising doggy day care then the individuals who's pets attend would have the right to record without the consent of the individual unless there was some specific statement in the terms and conditions stating that would be an inappropriate action on their premises which then should lead an individual to reconsider who watches their dog. Would you allow your child to be taken care of by a daycare business would not allow parental surveillance or supervision during any point of the day I would hope not and if in either situation you sign something stating you would not be allowed to surveil your pet or child and you continue using that a service then unfortunately the liability I believe is then on the consumer. Remember the old adage buyer beware. There are some pretty sick human beings in this world who often pray on the weak or innocent and it is the pet owners or parents responsibility make sure that their pet or child is not being abused especially when they are not able to verbally express when atrocities take place!

Sneaking a camera into someones home on your dog would almost certainly be illegal most places. Let the person know that their dog is filming you at all times and you will have no trouble nobody will watch your dog on the condition of your dog filming them.

I'm sure there is a cost at which people would accept that but you probably can't afford it.

I think it's ironic that you were so worried about your dog and thanking that it didn't have any medical requirements because something disastrous could have happened however you left your pet who should be like your child with a complete stranger and not only a complete stranger it's someone who right off the bat appeared to be a fraud! If it were me I would have either canceled my flight or rescheduled my flight because no vacation or leave away from home with an irresponsible possibly psychopathic individual who you have no idea who or what their intentions are you still made the decision being of sound mind to leave your pet with said individual. If something had happened to your pet who would you blame Wag or Rover or would you blame yourself for seeing signs that this was not what you signed up for. I feel like this is exactly the type of situation where people should be accountable for their own pets and or children and not use a company who obviously does not screen their employees to the best of their ability or maybe not at all. Reviews can be faked background checks cannot. You were the one that dropped your pet off and left. I feel like this is exactly the type of situation where people should be accountable for their own pets and or children and not use a company who obviously does not screen their employees to the best of their ability. Unfortunately companies like these who are basically Outsourcing their jobs two people who may possibly have absolutely no qualifications or reason to be doing what their role should have included in the description of the service. However an individual knowing that these services are not held to any standard or requirements unfortunately companies like these who are basically outsourcing their jobs to people who may possibly have absolutely no qualifications or reason to be dealing with what they're all should have included in the description of the service. However an individual knowing that these services are not held to any standard or requirements should out of Common Sense know that is them that needs to do the legwork because the company obviously isn't and is most likely Trading that off for being able to pay little to nothing for their workers because that's exactly what most of them are probably worth.

> ...however you left your pet who should be like your child

Nope, sorry. A pet is a pet. A human child is a human child. The gulf of difference between these two is vast.

I’m fine with you treating your pet like a human child, do what you want with your life etc... but as someone with a pet AND a human child... there’s a fundamental base instinctive difference. Equating the two is completely intellectually dishonest and frankly kinda scary.

This happened recently:

Wag! dog walker charged with animal cruelty; customers concerned about industry background checks


EDIT: and the settlement letter sent from Wag: https://www.scribd.com/document/397139013/SNews-Copie1901081...

Wow. The walker kicks and whips the dog until it vomits blood and Wag offers a refund and a $100 credit as settlement.

Who in the world wants Wag credits after an experience like that. If Wag wants to buy these folks’ silence, shouldn’t they at least make a non-insulting offer?

This is terrifying behavior both on part of the walker and Wag. I don't blame Wag for having occasionally sketchy immoral actors that don't care about animals--that's essentially impossible to entirely prevent, especially as they continue scaling. However, their responses to these issues are extremely concerning and do not indicate a company that's managed well.

If that was my pet, I might settle for the opportunity to kick and whip each and every cofounder until they vomit blood.

It seems that by accepting the token compensation reflexively (before thinking about other alternatives you might have), the case can be argued to be settled and the company will have an advantage over you in case you change you mind after learning about the options you might have had for a better settlement.

And credits are cheap and can be provided almost instantaneously. Sometimes they also expire (you have to use them in 14 days or whatever, or you lose them), so it can be a free settlement for companies in the "best" case.

Think about the minimal cost of a case going to trial. Maybe $2,000 to pay outside counsel for one appearance to request dismissal? The costs balloon exponentially from there. I don't understand why Wag wouldn't offer at least $500 or $1,000 to avoid that.

All that, and the following undated blog post that does not refer to any of these serious problems:


It gives the impression that Wag is just telling the rubes what they want to hear and hoping they can sweep any problems under the rug.


I'm a vegan but your point is tangential to the discussion and doesn't really make sense here.

Found the vegan. Also, I'm vegan. Secondly, is every comment on HN perfectly on point and never tangentially related? No, many many popular threads are not directly related.

There is also a very stark difference between whipping a dog until it vomits blood for fun, and killing an animal immediatly for food.

> killing an animal immediatly for food.

That's often not the case. For instance, male chicks are often killed and discarded solely for not being able to lay eggs, and various other animals are unnecessarily raised in inhumane (meaning "less than human" here) conditions until they are killed, not always for food.

> I understand why people get upset about their companion animal bring purposely hurt, but I don't understand how most everyone in that same demographic has no problem killing (or having killed through their economic transaction) a cow, pig, or chicken.

Im just explaining this.

Yes, killing animals just because they cant lay eggs is fucked up. Animals raised in inhuman conditions is animal abuse and should be followed up as such.

But I do not understand how people can think this is one and the same.

I haven't spent years raising, training and forming an emotional bond with that cow, pig or chicken. I believe it's possible with the cow or pig, in which case I expect the owner to be just as upset and rightly so.

pigs are often clever and affectionate, cows indifferent, and chickens dumb, but it's easy to get attached to any individual animal.

but it's also not hard to eat animals that we don't get attached to. it's not entirely contradictory in that light. just as we can love and defend the people around us and yet be callous to the famine and war needlessly affecting those elsewhere.

The Streisand effect strikes again. This is what happens when the legal department has no customer empathy, and to these lawyers, everything is a nail to their hammer of a contract.

Some people mentioned that Wag should have offered more and demanded less -- absolutely!

But think about if Wag even said "sorry this happened, that's all we can say for your terrible loss" even without a compensation offer and without an insulting NDA. It probably wouldn't have pushed the owner to post this and for it to end up on HN -- and now the world knows.

I honestly believe Wag and Rover and other large companies that offer pet walking services should put up a very high liability bond for pet injury -- on the order of $10K or more. That way they have skin in the game to vet their walkers better. Most owners value their dogs above that, and that incentive is the only way to get these corporations to listen.

Perhaps have the walkers be bonded as well?

Even if it's 1k that's a pretty serious amount of money to lose, but low enough a barrier of entry that you still have people making a go at it.

Obviously it gets returned to you when you close your Wag Walker account.

I don't think you understand how little these gig apps pay. 1k deposit would exclude a very large percentage of the workers. And frankly - who in the hell in their right mind would PAY a company a grand so start working for them? That's sketchy af.

> who in the hell in their right mind would PAY a company a grand so start working for them?

In order: A bond isn't paying them. It would ideally go to a reputable third party. Anyone that works for uber paid a whole lot more for that car, sometimes specifically for the job.

Edit: Would the downvoter care to explain? I'm not even saying it's definitely a good idea, I'm just disagreeing with the particular arguments given.

Not the downvoter, but my thoughts are:

It doesn't really matter whether the bond is going to the company or a third party. The point is you're out of pocket for a large amount of money before starting to work, ostensibly to earn money.

Most people simply aren't in a position to put down that kind of deposit in order to start earning, especially not for a low-paying contract-based "gig" job like this kind of pet-walking.

What sounds reasonable to you about someone making $10-20 an hour having to pay $1000 just to start working? In order to make any money you have to work 50-100 hours (not including tax and whatnot). 1-3 full weeks working before you are back to where you started - how does that seem like a reasonable business model?

I'm painting with a broad brush here, but my guess is that people who would take these sort of jobs are probably not sitting on a grand in cash.

You're right, but maybe that's the point? You're excluding people who are just desperate for money but keeping the people who want to build (or already own) a pet care business.

It’s dog walking, not artisanal mango cultivation. The vast majority of people picking up unskilled labor gigs through apps are just trying to make a buck. It’s almost the entire source of the app’s labor pool. And it’s not an inherently bad trait.

>>I honestly believe Wag and Rover and other large companies that offer pet walking services should put up a very high liability bond for pet injury -- on the order of $10K or more.

I'm not sure how any of this helps with the empathy part. Remember malpractice insurance with doctors?

The real deal is these people will just offload their insurance costs to customers, and then extract whatever damages you are likely to pay from that insurance.

>>Most owners value their dogs above that

Personally I think, that kind of insurance charges are not unfair either. If you value your pets life above $10K, say max $50K, so lets you get to chose whatever you value it. Then a few hundred dollars in insurance is not a lot ask for.

People even take insurance for cars they rent. Because there are always, Just in case scenarios.

I stopped using Wag due to their terrible customer service. I had an incident where a walker, despite explicit instructions, did not put my young puppy (~6 months) back in her crate and left her free in the apartment unsupervised. The walker report card said "I saw you said to crate her but she looked thirsty so I left her out!".

I called several times where they said "we tried to contact the walker but couldn't so we can't help you". So I had to leave work early and still came home to a torn up couch and plenty of chewed up plastic that had to be surgically removed by a vet. Wag compensated for this by trying to offer me a "5 dollar credit for your next walk!"

Incredibly stupid decision to respond this way by Wag.

How bad to you have to be at PR to screw this up? It's not hard. Liability in the case of harmed pets is extremely limited, so you just pay it all and apologize profusely. There's no way the bad press will be worth saving a couple thousand maximum.

Absolute idiots.

> Absolute idiots

Agreed. You do three things in a crisis:

1) Acknowledge the problem.

You killed someone's dog. This hits like losing family. "We're opening an investigation" is a chickenshit message.

2) CEO needs to speak.

Personal call from the top. If a dog is seriously injured or killed while on your watch, the CEO must make the call. This shows seriousness to the customer. It also ensures top brass feels the pain. That pain prevents future mistakes and is a real emotional tool for correcting cultures.

3) Over-correct.

You'll pay for cremation. You'll pay for counseling. You'll refund every Wag bill they ever incurred. If the family decides to get another dog, you'll offer to pay for their shots and food for a year and pet insurance for life.

The message must be we are sorry, this is unacceptable, and we intend on making this about as difficult for us as it is for you.

(Checklist from a video (with unfortunately and unrelated political content) by Scott Gallaway [1].)

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB-AyvgE8Ns

There was a comment that is now removed that said:

> Spoken like someone who's never lost family.

in reply to the parent's comment that said:

> You killed someone's dog. This hits like losing family."

My comment will probably be flagged as well, but fine, I'll sacrifice some karma to show my support. I lost my mother due to cancer when I was eleven and I personally find it offensive when someone tells me they know "what it is like" because they lost a pet.

Sure, there are people who have horrible family members that mistreated or abused them, so the loss of a dog means more than the loss of that relative, but if you're going to claim that it is comparable to lose a human being that meant everything to you because an animal died, then we just have a totally different set of moral axioms and are fundamentally incapable of seeing the world in the same way.

Do we really want to create a hierarchy of grief, to say other people's pain is invalid?

I know that losing a pet hurts a lot more than losing a grandparent or aunt or uncle when they're not ever-present in your life. I have not lost parents yet, but at this remove in my life they are in many ways just people I used to know - my personality and values are quite different to them and I find it hard to empathize with their life choices. I think losing them would be similar to losing the little kitten I reared from a few weeks old. The actual relationship with my parents is mostly dead already, because it's been decades since we were close.

It's not about losing a human Vs losing an animal. It's about losing a relationship that is part of your daily life.

You already maintain a hierarchy of grief. If you found that a colleague was inconsolable because they'd snapped a nail, you'd judge them and respond differently than if their parent was dead. It's also not just based on how "normal" the grief is, there are plenty of very religious people who would be very upset at a relative being gay.

The question "do we want to maintain a hierarchy of grief" is absurd, there is not one human alive who doesn't already do that on some level.

Of course you maintain a heirarchy of grief, but it's your heirarchy - it's not a shared heirarchy where your loss of a close relationship is deigned less or greater than someone else's loss of a close relationship.

Grief is grief. What's at the top of your list might not be the top of someone elses. You don't invalidate someone else's grief because yours ranks higher on your own list.

There are kind of three questions: 1. how much is this person suffering 2. is their suffering "justified" 3. is their suffering the cause of their own actions (who is at fault) I and the poster are leaning towards the second and third question. And it's not at all a purely individual opinion (except in the sense that all opinions are), there are cases when we need to adjudicate it as a group - how much compensation do you get when someone does X vs Y. How much of a crime is it to call someone X vs calling them Y, that's more offense/being upset but this argument is the same for all emotions.

It's just a silly attempt to sidestep the argument.

Grief is subjective, there is no hierarchy, except for the individual.

A wise and correct perspective. Grief is an emotion and emotions are inherently subjective.

Our cat died two years ago and although we've had a few cats over the years, this cat was special. I was totally unprepared for the grief and pain that I, and the rest of my family members, experienced. I didn't feel like I could really even talk about it with people outside the family because it sounded ridiculous to so many people with the view of "it's just a cat!" But not this cat, and not to us.

My aunt died the same year. She was my mom's best friend and growing up I was at her house, hanging with my cousins, all the time. She was a total sweetheart: a kind, goodhearted, sweet woman with a heart of gold. When she passed I grieved, but although I feel genuinely ashamed to write this, the level of emotional intensity - the raw pain - did not reach the same level as when our cat died.

Grief over the loss of a beloved being does not come from a rational calculus of that being's worth.

I have found grief to be in direct proportion to the emotional dependence we have. A pet would have been more consistently there in times of emotional distress, while an aunt would not have been. It's not a question of animal vs. human, it's a question of which has more time and feeling invested, and humans tend to invest their emotions more in pets than each other so it hurts more when they're lost.

A counselor I saw once defined grief as love with nowhere to go. I think that connects well with what you suggest here.

I think a better example would be losing a partner vs losing a distant relative, snapping a nail sounds like apple and oranges.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Maintaining some artificial hierarchy of grief (akin to 'but I loved mom more than you') is toxic at best.

I lost my dad at age 20 and in the months after was mostly surrounded by friends that had no idea what losing a parent felt like. In their attempts, I never felt I had the right to discredit their grief as being lesser, be it for an ex-girlfriend or a dog they grew up with.

Well, I am also offended by your stipulations. Now we are both offended. Let's use this as a chance to practice seeing eye-to-eye even in the face of irreconcilable moral differences, eh? It's a skill we're probably going to need as a civilization.

Now, the specifics - it seems to me the particular moral axiom in question here is that "human life is always worth more than non-human life". Others in this thread have pointed out that you can't use that to make statements about what sort of grief people ought to feel, and I would hope that whatever your moral framework, compassion for grieving humans (whatever their moral framework) should factor into it.

However, I also think it's worth tackling this particular moral axiom head-on. The value of a human life is not constant or consistent between people - your own family is worth more to you than a stanger's, and you even admit that a dog might warrant more grief than a terrible person, even if that terrible person is family. Well, the value of a canine life isn't constant either. If it's possible and justifiable to love a dog more than family because the family is bad, why shouldn't it be possible and justifiable to love a dog as much as family, because the dog is good? There's a continuum, not a hard cutoff of "humans > dogs". Even if you think the average human is worth more than the average dog, you shouldn't be surprised - or offended - by other people's bereavement.

(I'd like to add an argument-from-Hollywood: They even made a whole film about a man cutting a swathe through evil, violent mobsters in a righteous fury, because they killed his dog. They made a very similar film about a man doing this because evil, violent mobsters kidnapped his daughter. Clearly, the emotions are comparable, and according to hollywood dogs and family are both worth more than evil, violent, human mobsters).

As someone who has lost friends and family members, as well as pets, it feels the same.

I see this dichotomy quite a bit in the public discourse, regarding dogs especially, where 1/2 the world treats dogs as family and the other half thinks they are some play toy/object.

We have been living with wolves/dogs for a long time now, we're responsible for how they have evolved, and part of that is how they have evolved to bond with humans. It's not surprising to me that losing a dog feels like losing a child for some people.

I appreciate you responding and explaining your perspective, even though we may disagree on the issue.

> 1/2 the world treats dogs as family

Do you think that half the world, if given the choice between saving either their dog or a stranger's child in a disaster situation (e.g. a house fire), would choose their dog?

Sometimes these sorts of hypotheticals lead to interesting discussion and insights, but other times we get this sort of thing. Sparks are just sparks, but we should be careful because of the possibility of utterly bleak flamewars such as this.

I have family friends who were unable to conceive.

They have had border collies all their lives, who were all astonishingly clever (not just "tricks", but just with intuition etc). These dogs are basically their children.

The "child" part of your hypothetical makes it difficult to know. I think they would save their own dog over an adult, however they are both very compassionate and love kids so I imagine it would be difficult to fight that human impulse to protect a child.

Change that scenario just so slightly and I would bet that answers would significant change:

Do you think a dog owner would risk their own life (to varied degrees) to rescue a family dog if their house started burning?

This is an excellent pivot of the original question, and I think the obvious answer for most answers is yes.

It wouldn't surprise me at all.

My dog is part of my family. She comes before any stranger.

I can't argue with an opinion, but this is just mind-blowing to me. Judging by everyone else's comments, it doesn't appear like yours is an isolated opinion either.

I'm just at a total loss for words. I had no idea so many people value animal life above human life.

You are straying from the original issue which is "is loss of different kinds relatable?" and not "is 1 form of life greater than another".

At what level on the spectrum does the offense creep in when someone tries to relate to the loss of a parent? Is sibling loss relatable? Half-sibling? Cousin? Brother-in-law? Where do we start the grief-gatekeeping?

If I lost 5 children and someone told me they lost a parent so they pat me on the shoulder and say they understand, can I be offended?

I have lost grandparents before, but felt nothing since I didn't know them. If someone told me they'd lost a grandparent close to them, I think it'd be offensive for me to say I could relate.

> I had no idea so many people value animal life above human life.

I think this is the problem. When people say they relate they are not claiming "my dog == your mom", merely that they have felt grief through loss of a relationship/bond. As emotional loss is relative, we don't currently have a way to measure if that loss meets threshold levels that make it acceptable for them to converse with us.

I don't think it's putting animal life above human life so much as putting family before non-family even if the family is an animal.

Granted that wouldn't be the priority that I would consider ideal, but I don't think it's illogical.

What if they value all animals' (that is, including humans') lives equally? Would you rather save someone close to you or a stranger?

I don't think (yeah, please answer if I'm wrong) that's true for anyone.

You may value a dogs life as much as a human, some do. But those same people don't go around with extreme care to avoid stepping on an ant, and would kill insects if they where an annoyance or risk to health. So they do stablish a difference between some animals, where ants are in a different tier than dogs, but humans and dogs are together in the same tier.

Personally I don't think it makes any sense. I do value animal lives greatly, and between a dog and a man I might save the dog in a split-second gut decision (and regret it later).

I reckon many people use feelings to guide (or greatly inform) their morality. Which might or might not be that bad to be honest, I don't really have a solid basis for my morality either.

In the interest of open discussion; what heuristic do you use to value "life"?

I use a combination of innocence, vulnerability, consciousness and intelligence.

E.g a baby life is worth more than a 40 year old's.

There's no playbook for these values, you have to decide for yourself.

I'm honestly curious, this topic (how people arrive at their morality) fascinates me. We would probably agree a lot (I don't eat meat mostly out of a similar logic).

Why innocence? How does innocence make a life more valuable? It's true that the kid has done nothing wrong, whereas the 40yo has sinned thoroughly, but on the other hand the kid has done nothing good for the world, and the 40yo probably has.

And vulnerability? If a high-speed train/cancer/thug is going to kill a 40yo and a toddler, how does the increased inherent vulnerability of the toddler make any difference?

Innocence and vulnerability = ability to defend themselves. There's something inherently wrong about harming something that is incapable of defending themselves. I imagine it's the same instinct that makes humans root for the underdog.

> I'm just at a total loss for words. I had no idea so many people value animal life above human life.

Many people manifestly value inanimate property, as long as it is theirs, over human life outside of close friends and family, so is it really a surprise that that is also true of family pets?

I don't think you understand the unconditional love that a dog has for its owner, and the commitment good people make when they choose to get one.

For me it is moral and ethical that I put the safety and well being of my dog above people. That doesn't mean that I don't care about others, and it doesn't mean that I would ignore trying to save them once my dog was safe, but it is what is right for me.

I love my pets profoundly. I have sacrificed immensely for them.

But I would blow my brains out if I let a little girl burn to death so that I could save my dog.

I'm completely in your camp. I don't know if I would blow my brains out. But the guilt of saving my dog over a child, would, at least for a while, completely consume me, and forever haunt me.

This comes closest to how I feel.

You are responsible for your dog, unlike a stranger. The dog trusts you entirely and would do anything for you.


How do you know that dogs have none of this? Until recently, people believed animals were just automatons (can’t find the famous quote..) and we have in more recent years discovered animals to be a lot more intelligent than we ever gave them credit for. We’ve also been discovering that a lot more animals are self aware than we ever thought (eg. There was a story here a few years back about how elephants recognise themselves in mirrors, but only if the mirror is large enough that they can see most of their bodies)

> How do you know that dogs have none of this?

If they did, they'd want to let us know. Now cats, on the other hand...

If you disagree, that's fine, but at least do so politely.

I fear that this is really getting off track for the main and this might be in response to the wrong comment but is it really that surprising? (sadly)

In another comment of yours you mentioned choosing a pet or a random child? What about another, supposedly easier question, which would you prefer to save? A human life or $23? $23 might seem arbitrary but I picked it from my personal experience with a charity I volunteer with called ICM. It helps those with ultra poverty in the Philippines and I've had the great blessing (and curse) to undertake a tragic trip to the slums to meet these people. So I know the best I can offer is mine and ICM's word but that really can save a life.

I want you to know I don't bring this up to try and start a fight or be argumentative but this question plagued me when I returned home and to some extent still does. How can I buy a video game (random example), knowing that money I've just spent could have saved a life?

How do I, how do we, live like this? I'm an Australian and statistically, we're only giving less with each passing year, and what we do give? As on 2016 a measly $764. For comparison our minimum weekly wage is about ~$670. The least able of us (that are able at all) would only have to give a little over one of their weeks to match that.

Personally I'm the sort of crazy where I think of this almost every time I make a purchase and for the longest time it was killing me. The TL;DR of how I was able to answer this for myself involves a lot of reading, looking and thinking is basically summed up as follows. For most normal humans (myself included) we need to spend on ourselves to make us functional enough to care for others. We are sadly not infinite source of giving.

However I think society today has forgotten or changed enough that we no longer see this self healing as a means to enable us to help others but as the point of living, hence the ever decreasing percentages of people giving but I still have hope.

I'm sorry at this point I don't know exactly where I'm going with this at this but it's not that people value animal life above human life, it's that they value their own life and quality of life above others and as sucky as that answer is, I hope you find it help answer your questions in a manner that makes more sense.


I believe we are spirit children of a Heavenly Father and have infinite worth and potential as his children.

Possibly because a large portion of humans are unethical, immoral, and stupid.

1/4 the human race wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire, 1/4 would actually set the fire, 1/4 would only pour a bucket over your head if it didn't involve walking too far and especially if others were watching.

This situation probably doesn't apply to people on HN, but as a thought experiment: In a pre-industrial society or one where rule of law has broken down I could see a situation where the labor and protection provided by an animal made them a part of the family in a very real way. In those circumstances I could see that the life of an animal might be much more important than the life of an outsider; even if only in a strictly practical sense.

Note that I'm not necessarily trying to argue whether that would be correct in a moral sense.

I'm going to say after reading some of the other responses that there's something seriously fucked up about the idea that you would save your dog. If you even, for a minute, thought that saving a dog with a life expectancy of 10-20 years tops living as a pet for someone's indulgence is remotely comparable to saving a child - who might live to 80 as an independent being - give yourself an uppercut. I'm a dog lover and love my dog, but I would sacrifice her in a heartbeat for a child - any child, regardless of whose it is.

Also, while this is a wild hypothetical, a lot of uncritical celebrators of their dog's apparently human-like right to life and liberty seem overly willing to make the choice between (a) a hypothetical threat to their dog's continued liberty and (b) an unconscionable threat to the well-being of other people - kids, particularly - around them. Everyone who has a dog of some sort of 'questionable breed' who doesn't do everything in their power to socialize and control said breed is gambling with the lives of the animals, humans (kids and adults) around them. The demented sentimentalizing of All Sacred Canine Life has cost a few humans theirs instead.

There would be more social opprobrium to save the pet, and the grief would undoubtedly be greater if the pet died instead. If nobody was looking, I think most would save their pet. Unknown unrelated people simply aren't very important. Wars would be impossible if it were otherwise.

Interesting. Do you ever test your hypotheses? Here is some evidence regarding your "most" claim. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog...

Test his hypothesis how, exactly? By putting a child and a dog into a disaster situation?

Examples available in the link in the comment you responded to.

In order to attempt to falsify a hypothesis you don't need to necessarily run a direct experiment on it. In fact, few things are testable like that.

Anyway, I think I have what I need to know as to how he tests his ideas.

So 40% admit that they would save their own dog over a foreign tourist, when asked.

Now, ask yourself how many would save their own dog if they weren't being asked or observed (and implicitly judged)?

I consider the link fairly strong evidence for my claim.

Very interesting knowledge acquisition technique. Thank you for sharing.

It's far from knowledge acquisition; I'll have forgotten this by next week. But your evidence didn't support your position. I told you why I think it supported mine.

I don’t have a position. I was wondering how to weigh your statement.

Yes, absolutely. I know I personally would.

Now, if it was between a stranger dog and a stranger child I'd choose the child.


Why? This may be how you feel, but you have no reasoning to back it.

I do. See my other post.


It's not constructive to call people crazy =\

This is a fairly divisive issue (what my original comment was about), and further ostracizing either side of the debate is not productive.

Would be nice if people would be less selfish.

We bread dogs to a form where there pure existens is our contact with them.

We bread them in forms and colors as we see fit.

We bread them in forms which makes it hard for them to breath, which gives them cancer with a high rate.

We should stop buying dogs because we like dogs. We should stop putting them in small appartments and get a service for handling our dogs because its inconvinient.

>>As someone who has lost friends and family members, as well as pets, it feels the same.

No doubt to many it feels the same. Others may feel that their pet is more valuable than the entire world. But let's be realistic, if a driver kills your dog you will not be awarded $x-$xx million. Now if they run over grandma or worse, a child...

Sure, that's a financial/legal thing though, which is fairly detached from human emotion.

>>Sure, that's a financial/legal thing though, which is fairly detached from human emotion.

That's the "It happened. We're sorry, how do we go from here..." thing. At some point it has to be valued by others. I also said that emotion is relative.

The grief you felt when you lost your mother may or may not compare to the grief I felt when I lost my mother. So how dare you say you know "what it is like" - you have no idea.

My point is that grief is subjective - people spiral into depression over losing pets, while their parents can die without them batting an eye. Teenagers, with all the out of wack hormones can feel the same way over losing a girl/boyfriend.

When people say "I know what it is like because I lose my dog of 10 years when I was 13", they're telling you that they too have felt great despair, grief and sorrow. They know the feeling deep in their heart and they're expression sympathy. Instead being offended and being angry, let the sympathy help you.

>we just have a totally different set of moral axioms and are fundamentally incapable of seeing the world in the same way.

yes, definitely. I think what you're doing - dismissing the pain of others - is cruel and completely lacks empathy. I'm sorry that life treated you in such a cruel way, yet it doesn't excuse your emotional cruelty toward others. Note: i did lost members of immediate and extended family, including my father and our cat, to cancer, so i know the pain.

Just step back and think what you're doing here - people from the original post are heartbroken by the tragic loss of their dog, and the commenters express their condolences and empathy toward the grieving family ... and here you rush in with your pain and start shouting that their pain is incomparable to yours. I only hope that your actions here make at least your pain easier even if just a bit, otherwise it is just senseless.

I can understand why you are offended; from your perspective it seems like people are equating your mother to their dogs. But this isn't how attachment works. It's not about who we are connected to, but about how much we are connected to them. We suffer when we lose what we are attached to. Whether that is a family member such as your mother or a family pet such as their dog. It's not about whether the woman who was your mother or the animal who was their dog are equal or greater/less than each other at all. It's about the attachments we have to them and how badly we desire for them to still exist in our lives. That's where the common element of suffering exists between losing a mother and a dog.

Our attachments are defined within us, and not by what we are attached to.

I really don't belive the parent meant it like that. He said "like", which means similar, and to many people it is.

Losing a cousin is different to losing a father, which is different to losing a grandfather. And all that is completely different to losing a child, right? And everyone responds differently.

So you took offense because you decided he was comparing dogs with mothers. Certainly he was not; and that was not the point, after all.

comparing to family, as usually a dog is pretty much part of it. and in comparison a lot more family (a lot more like a mother) than a stranger on TV hit by a car.

There is no "how it feels to lose a X", there is "how throwaway713 felt when they lost X". One may have a good but not very deep relationship with a close family member, but spend every day with their pet for 15 years, so to them it might be comparable.

Of course, saying "I know how you feel about your mother cos I lost my dog" is incredibly insensitive and stupid.

> you're going to claim that it is comparable to lose a human being that meant everything to you because an animal died

If that person was that important to you, of course it's not comparable. I don't think that's what the other comments were saying though.

I lost grandparents I was close with; one was after many years of several diseases fighting for the kill, death itself came as a mercy. I love my dog dearly, he's very old and his last breath is near and I get teary-eyed just from writing about it. And still, he's nothing compared to the loss of my grandmother. But that's me.

Suffering is subjective, contextual and personnal.

Suffering linked to attachment to something can be great, not matter the something. It's the attachment that matters, and it's not produced by the nature of the thing, but by the experience the person had of the thing.

It's created suffering anyway, so the amount you generate is up to you, and is not related to the loss.

created? well, yeah, oxytocin is a hell of a drug.

sure, you can shut it down, process it, ride it out, walk it off and whatever, but if there was attachment, memories, associations with places, events, other persons, or even with music, activities, etc. it can and usually will get emotional.

Some people are quick to get over it, some will die - literally - grieving.

You seem to be overreacting hardcore. They didn't say it was like losing your mother. They said it was like losing family. There are many different types of relationships in families, some more or less important than others. I'm pretty sure you'd be more torn up about losing your pet who you see every day than hearing that a cousin you've seen twice in your life has passed.

What a weird thing to get worked up over.

> comparable to lose a human being

Of course it's comparable. The result of comparison is what matters - and among those people who downvoted these two comments, there's not a single one who thinks that these two are equal. However, it's reasonable to assume that while they differ significantly, they're on the same order of magnitude - say, a tenfold difference.

Let me quote Leonard Cohen (why not): Everybody got this broken feeling / Like their father or their dog just died

The strength of the feeling might be different and vary depending on all sorts of things, but it's a similar feeling, it is claimed.

Morals only come into it when we have to choose which one dies: not relevant here.

The problem is not that the comparison is valid or invalid, but that someone supporting you shouldn't be making it about them.

Brené Brown on Empathy - The RSA https://youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Couldn't trying to find common experience be a useful/valid way to express empathy?

I lost my father when I was younger and I lost a cat that meant a lot to me a couple of years ago that and while they were obviously very different, the pain and loss I feel was quite similar and I miss both of them dearly.

That cat was there for me through some very hard times, in a way no human was. To me, that cat had more value than a lot of humans do. Humans are largely (but luckily not entirely) self absorbed in their own lives and their own problems, the cat was always ready and happy to be with me, no matter what. Obviously there are caring people in the world who go above and beyond for others, but there were few of them when I needed people, so to me, that cat was more important than most people, as she helped me when no person could and gave me the emotional support I needed. So of course losing her was just as painful as losing a person.

Thankfully offence isn't fatal. And dogs are wonderful things

Reading through this thread maybe my opinion is particularly un-nuanced, but I have always assumed that people who say stuff like this are just speaking clickbait and they don't mean it and me and them know it.

People seem mostly fine a week after losing their dog and once they get a new one it's like the old one never existed. Meanwhile in my family so many things have changed in ways that are hard to describe ever since my father passed away years ago, and one can still feel the repercussions.

There are people capable of loving their pets as if they were their own children. Just because you're not, doesn't mean they can't. Losing things you're emotionally attached to is very painful. Just because you wouldn't have loved that particular "thing" doesn't mean they can't and doesn't invalidate their suffering. I know it's hard to see beyond your own pain, but that's exactly what empathy is all about. Maybe try it sometime?

> we just have a totally different set of moral axioms and are fundamentally incapable of seeing the world in the same way.

That set of moral axioms you hold was what allowed people - you spiritual ancestors, no doubt - to murder millions and millions of people of different skin color or believing in another god. It's what allowed people to abduct and enslave and murder whole populations for hundreds, thousands of years. The belief that "they are not people, they are beasts, so we can treat them like livestock" is what underlies nearly every atrocity ever committed by the "human beings" you hold so dear as a race.

Today, the set of humans seen as people expanded, which is a good thing. People seem to have learned that people everywhere are fundamentally the same: they feel joy, sadness, rage, love; they all bleed the same when hurt; they all live their lives enduring hardships and enjoying good things.

The thing is, all of that is also true for animals. They are capable of feeling joy and sadness, of getting depressed, of jealousy, of loyalty, of empathy, of fear and anger, of suffering. They cannot voice their opinions, but you know - there are disabled people who also cannot do this, due to disability or brain damage. Such humans are no worse as people than the others: their families love them, care for them, and grieve for them once they depart. Your "moral axioms" are then inconsistent: you should either promote all animals to human status or demote disabled people straight into gas chambers. Just so you know, we've already tried the latter, it wasn't great.


None of the above should be particularly controversial, these are the basics, so let me finish by citing a poem of Andrzej Bursa I quite like, which (roughly translated[1]), goes like this:

  Children are nicer than adults
  animals are nicer than kids

  you say that thinking this way
  I'll find that the dearest to me
  is paramecium caudatum[2]

  so what

  I prefer paramecium than you
  you son of a bitch

[1] https://wiersze.annet.pl/w,,11217

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramecium_caudatum

Ah, we’re playing grief top trumps, are we?

How about losing a child? Have you done that? Well, I find it offensive that you can say you experienced grief over the loss of your mother. Until you’ve lost a child you can’t say you know grief...

What a daft stance. Grief is grief. What someone feels is entirely subjective.

I think you might want to consider counselling, as you seem to be harbouring some real anger over what was presumably a long time ago. I know it’s not easy to deal with the untimely death of a parent - been there - but lashing out at others and holding your grief above theirs isn’t a healthy mechanism.

I'm not entirely sure that the third item is correct. Doesn't that risks you having to repeat that whenever there's an accident?

Of course a dog walking company shouldn't have that many incidents, but if a number of them hit you together you may have a financial problem.

Also, I think that companies are very wary of claiming responsibility because of legal battles. Once they behave like it's their fault, customers can sue them for a large sum.

I'm just challenging a bit whether this is the best way to go about this, although in my own opinion, all three points are correct: You messed up. It happens. But now it's up to you to try to make it better.

If you have a financial problem in case of bad events happening too often, you should buy insurance.

I don't think that is necessary at all.

This is some company which fixes a 'problem' with technology. They have a platform for people to buy the service of dog walking by other people.

There is no certification you need to 'walk a dog'. Kids do this, every day people do this.

Accidents happen.

And yes whatever person was in charge in formulating that email, is not very good in there job. But come on this is probably some person or perhaps 3 or 4 involved in this particular 'support case'.

And i'm assuming that whatever insurance would take a dog walker, is something you would need to pay. And most of the people wouldn't.

Yeah they provide a service via technology but also a brand. People trust the brand, you build trust in the brand to build value in your company. It’s worth a lot of money to keep your brand trusted. Actions like those suggested above are in the best interests of maintaining that trust.

I can easily imagine the policy started like this, and multiple dogs having died in the hands of the Wag service, but over time by gradient descent they slowly tested moving to greedier and greedier policy as long as no scandal arose, such that most people felt powerless and grudgingly took the little on offer. Until they encountered this principled owner!

> The message must be we are sorry, this is unacceptable, and we intend on making this about as difficult for us as it is for you.

Wow! I’m saving this for my customer support toolbox.

This is how it should be done.

> You'll pay for counseling.



Having lost both pets and family (including my mother), losing a dog or cat is different but can absolutely be just as heartbreaking in its own way. Do not underestimate the bond people can have with a pet, and NEVER look down on them for reacting more strongly than you think they should.

People react differently. Some are weepy and some are stoic. But nobody who is mentally normal will react more strongly to losing their dog than they do to losing a person.

Having lost both a family member and close pets that were essentially family... it does make sense. Losing a pet is not the same as losing a human being, but... I can understand the analogy.

A pet may have been an active part of the family for a decade, participating in many of the same activities as the family from dinner time to family outings. Some pets are taken on specifically in times of emotional need, such as after losing a family member or in place of a child that can't be conceived. Such pets may not be actual humans but they do fill a role and fill a hole similar to one.

Again, not the same, but I can see circumstances where the analogy makes sense. And it's special when it does, this doesn't apply to every pet ever.

Is losing the dog you had since you were eight better or worse than losing a distant father?

Different people have different experiences. Gatekeeping grief is so massively weird to me. Guidance for the future: instead of one-upping the griever with an IG post about how you are sadder, just show empathy and move on.

The only time I ever saw my father crying was after our dog died.

Reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwGnCIdHQH0

> Spoken like someone who's never lost family.

Some family members are worth less to some people than their pets. But I agree with you anyway, it was a pointless comparison. Lets just agree on that it sucks to lose someone, human or other animal.

This may vary based on how functional your family is, or especially was growing up. I can relate to the dog = family thing.

The thing Wag screwed up was its total lack of empathy in trying to buy silence.

> a couple thousand maximum

Maximum? Many pups cost more than this and you'd be paying to replace at least. You might also be paying for any amount of vet bills if the animal isn't killed on the spot. If you hit a service or working dog, be ready to shell out tens of thousands for replacement due to the unique tasks performed (not all dogs can do them) and specialized training they receive.

In any case, Wag and its walker are probably not at fault. I'd be after the driver.

Of course, I don't like the idea of a stranger walking my dog anyway. Even a kennel isn't ideal, but at least then I can build trust with a particular business. Wag just puts my dog in the hands of random people I'll probably never see again, opening me up to liability and my dog up to risk.

> In any case, Wag and its walker are probably not at fault. I'd be after the driver.

Not sure how you can jump to that conclusion. A driver can probably assume that a dog being walked by a person, even near the road, will be controlled appropriately by the walker.

The only time a driver could not reasonably assume this is where the dog is too large to be controllable by the person (kid or small adult) who is walking it.

Without any facts, we can't presume the driver is at fault. Also, we have no way of finding out who that person is, except through Wag. So it's sort of pointless to pin our hopes on them.

Lastly, if the driver really were clearly at fault, it would be more likely that the Wag walker would have provided information to this effect. The fact that he/she has not is more consistent with it being the walker's fault.

It's almost like people with an agenda have come here to comment. The GP blames the driver and another blames the dog. Without knowing any details. This is very fishy.

But being Amreica, someone has to be to blame. It can't just be an unlucky accident of circumstances.

I don't agree: I'm not from the US and generally think everyone is over reacting with constantly (threatening) to sue everyone else.

But here the problem here isn't that the dog died, it's how Wag has handled the problem afterwards, and how their (poor) communication suggests that they didn't really do their due diligence in vetting the walkers.

EDIT: a similar thing happened in my country (the Netherlands) where an Uber driver hit (and killed) a young woman after driving around in circles (a technique used to get more clients apparently, instead of parking somewhere), and Uber immediately pulled the "he is not an Uber employee and he wasn't with an Uber customer when it happened, so it's not our fault card". which resulted in public outrage[1]. They could have just send some flowers to the family, now they got a PR crisis instead.

[1]: https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achtergrond/een-uber-chauff...

I think the incentives in play force companies to act callous. It seems to me that companies are wary to act with empathy lest they get sued and the court takes it as an admission of guilt (or at least evidence of culpability, or something the jury will pay attention to). It's like that old advice where you should never say "sorry" after a car accident (as a Brit, apologising is a natural impulse even when not at fault) because it can be taken as an admission of fault.

as a Brit, apologising is a natural impulse even when not at fault

Someone explained it to me as when an American says "sorry" they mean "I'm sorry I did a bad thing to you" and when a Brit says sorry they mean "I'm sorry a bad thing happened to you". Which also explains the not uncommon American response to "sorry" of "Why? It wasn't your fault".

If I do something bad to a person I say sorry and it means "I'm sorry I did something bad to you".

If something that's out of my control happens to someone I might say sorry and mean "I'm sorry a bad thing happened to you".

I'm British and find that sometimes I think similarly to another person who is British, and at other times I think differently to another person who is British. It's wild.

Yeah that's it, though many Brits also share that reaction.

This is a non-issue in this case. As I stated, liability in the case of harm to pets is extremely limited by law.

Pets are treated as simple property by US law and the liability is strictly limited to the cost of replacement. There has never been a civil judgement in the US beyond that. There are CRIMINAL issues involving treatment of animals, but none of those are applicable here.

This is pure incompetence by WAG's legal and customer-service departments.

The author wrote the post because of the company's post-accident behavior, not because there was an accident. His point is that Wag isn't sharing information about what happened, or what parties are involved. Without this information, the author is completely helpless. And the only way to get anything from Wag is to pre-emptively forego all recourse, including sharing his story. This is the primary focus — not on the mere fact of the accident.

Can't object to that. My point was more in response to the following sub-discussion which had become a blame-assigning process.

That's what is so fishy about all of this. And, my comment was immediately downvoted, then got upvoted a bunch.

Someone does have to be to blame even in the case of an accident. When you drive a multi ton machine at high rates of speed you are accountable for it.

Likewise when you take money for a service you are accountable for not letting their dog run into the road which is usually pretty easy for an animal on a leash.

What did wag do wrong that we know?

The walker wasn't the person on the profile. They are withholding information regarding the incident. They tried to force the victim to agree to be legally silenced in order to pay for direct costs incurred.

This is 1000 times worse than paying nothing.

A car shouldn’t be within leash distance of a pedestrian. As long as the walker is behaving appropriately as a pedestrian and the dog is on leash the driver is going to be found at fault. The same is true even in cases where that is not the case.

Obviously we don’t know in this instance but in most cases fault goes to the driver if the dog is on leash, and given that this dog did not belong to the owner I’d be surprised if it was off leash. It might have been a flexilead in which case the outcome might be different depending on jurisdiction and circumstance but in any case the owners are going to have a better time going after drivers.

Neither party in this case involved the authorities or contacted any of the affected parties. The walker was already doing something they might not want Wag knowing about (having a third party walk the dog). I don’t think you can make any conclusions there so I’ll stick with my “probably”.

Do you believe it's likely the driver is at fault given the lack of evidence?

When I imagine a pet getting killed by a car I image it becomes free and running out in front of a car, not a car breaking a law and encroaching on the pets leash space. Perhaps there are some counter-intuitive stats on this I'm not aware of :)

Further, there are a LOT of places where a person on a sidewalk would be within a leash length of a car legally driving 30+ mph.

No matter, this incident in particular is still a drop in the bucket for Wag. Wag knew the dog was dead. All they needed to do in order to look good was pay for the cremation, maybe the cost of the dog, and be supportive. Instead the did the opposite and came off looking greedy, dismissive, and insensitive.

I’d be more sympathetic to Wag if they made it possible for the pet owner to pursue the drivers.

As it stands, it sounds like they have not provided enough details to identify the walker, let alone investigate the driver (if there even was one). So I’d say Wag is just as culpable as a maybe-existing-driver.

In terms of going after the driver: My parents showed dogs semi-professionally; however, when I learned to drive my father taught me that if an animal darts into the road you can slow down, but you don't swerve to miss it since that can cause an accident.

It's certainly possible that the driver was at fault if they were speeding or driving recklessly, but like another commenter mentioned I don't think we know enough to say.

>Maximum? Many pups cost more than this and you'd be paying to replace at least. You might also be paying for any amount of vet bills if the animal isn't killed on the spot. If you hit a service or working dog, be ready to shell out tens of thousands for replacement due to the unique tasks performed

Still a limited and insignificant amount as far as compensations go (which could reach tens of millions in other cases), which is the parent's point.

Parent was putting it forward as a matter of policy. Risking $250-20,000 per $15 walk by people you’ve barely vetted and hoping no drivers whom you have no relationship at all with won’t make a mistake seems neither limited nor insignificant.

The law is not on the pet owner's side here as far as vet bills. Pets are treated as property, so the max amount due is the cost of replacing the dog.

The law is not super relevant to whether or not dog owners trust your dog walking service. Wag should probably be trying to go well above what they're legally obligated to do in this situation.


My understand of civil liability would be whom ever caused the harm is responsible for the actual damages done, not simply some raw actuarial table, so if I have vet bills, actual hard costs, then whom ever caused those costs would be responsible for them.

I have a hard time believing any jurisdiction would simply toss those costs as unreasonable because the dog is only worth X by some subjective analysis of dog bluebook

Your mistake is in assuming vet bills constitute actual damages. In US law, dogs are simple property. If you wreck your car and it costs more to fix the car and replace it, the insurance doesn't pay to fix it -- they pay to replace it. Liability is whichever value is LESS.

Dogs work the same way under the law. If someone injures your dog, they are liable to either pay 1) to fix the dog or 2) replace the dog, whichever is less.

The key here is INSURANCE which is a contract I have with them that limits the amount they pay out.

However in the case of an auto, if I had a rare car for example, and someone caused damage to it, I could, in fact, sue the person that cause the damage and prove the actual damage even if it was above the replacement cause. Their insurance may not cover the difference but that would not absolve that person of the liability

> I could, in fact, sue the person that cause the damage and prove the actual damage even if it was above the replacement cause

No you couldn't, and I challenge you to find a single case where liability for damage to simple property has ever exceeded replacement value.

You won't find it.

The closest you'll find is where the property was fundamental to some business and there was lost income that contributed to the damages. This does not apply to pets (though it could apply to say, race horses or some show dogs).

How about Burgess v. Shampooch Pet Industries, Inc in Kansas...

Where the Pet Owner was awarded damages even though the 13 year old dog "negligible market value" given its age.

Summary of the Case:

This Kansas case presents an issue of first impression as to the proper measure of damages recoverable for injury to a pet dog. The plaintiff's dog, a 13-year old dog of negligible market value, suffered a dislocated hip after being groomed at defendant's establishment. The appellate court found the lower court's award of damages based on the veterinary bills was proper where the bills were not disputed and represented an easily ascertainable measure. Specifically, the court held that when an injured pet dog with no discernable market value is restored to its previous health, the measure of damages may include, but is not limited to, the reasonable and customary cost of necessary veterinary care and treatment. The court was unconvinced by defendant's "hyperbolic" claim that such an award would lead to a floodgate of high-dollar litigation on behalf of animals with low market values.


A dog is an animal. It has no moral responsibility. If a dog does something wrong the fault lies with the person in charge who failed to control it. A professional dog walker should be aware of traffic and anticipate how the dog might react.


Let me preface this by saying I've never paid for a Lyft or Uber in my life and probably never will.

However, what you just described sounds like a typical taxi ride as well, i.e. with a professional driver.

It still means that with black cabs in London, but it's true that the concept of a professional driver was already lacking in most places before Uber/Lyft.

"Might" react. If it reacts in the total opposite way then what? Constrain lead to 20cm, full muzzle, sedate the dog incase it's brute power is too much in a unexpected moment of madness.

That's a weird way of spelling "Use a reasonable leash length for your distance from traffic."

> Have you considered the dog was at fault?

It is never the dog’s fault. We brought the dog into an unnatural environment. It is in our power and thus our responsibility to keep them safe. This is why pet accidents are so devastating.

Dogs have been domesticated for millennia, and because of that, bringing them into an artificial environment is different than causing a wild animal to be in an artificial environment. There's absolutely nothing inappropriate about having a dog in an artificial environment. It's not the artificiality of the accident that's the problem, it's the harm that's the problem.

The fault in an accident, be it car and car, car and pedestrian, car and cyclist, cyclist and pedestrian, cyclist and cyclist, or even pedestrian and pedestrian, doesn't necessarily mean moral culpability. Dogs are never culpable because they lack agency, but considering them to be at fault in an accident for the purposes of determining recourse isn't too far-fetched.

> Dogs are never culpable because they lack agency, but considering them to be at fault in an accident for the purposes of determining recourse isn't too far-fetched.

Yes, it is, because "at fault" means "could have chosen to do something else that would have prevented the accident". Since, as you admit, dogs lack agency, they are incapable of choosing to do something else. The human that is guiding them needs to, well, guide them.

Being to blame for having intentionally done something morally wrong is not the same as being at fault in an accident. Police offers, lawyers, and judges will often make that very clear. I just learned of the term "tortfeasor". https://injury.findlaw.com/car-accidents/fault-and-liability...

I think it's debatable whether calling the dog or the owner the tortfeasor makes more sense when the dog is loose, because while the owner is responsible, there's some simplicity in saying that the dog broke the rule of the road that lead to the accident.

> I think it's debatable whether calling the dog or the owner the tortfeasor makes more sense

No, it's not. A tortfeasor has to be a person. Dogs are not legally persons, so they can't be tortfeasors.

> while the owner is responsible

Yes, exactly--just as any other tortfeasor is responsible.

> there's some simplicity in saying that the dog broke the rule of the road that lead to the accident.

You could say the dog "broke" the rule in the sense that it moved its body in a way that the rule prohibits; and in a mundane description of the facts of the accident, yes, that's what you would do. But the dog is incapable of understanding the rule in the first place, so the owner is responsible for training it appropriately (or, as I would imagine is much more common these days, keeping it on a leash and exercising reasonable prudence in controlling the dog).

> Since, as you admit, dogs lack agency, they are incapable of choosing to do something else

To drive this point home, a pigeon dive bombing your windshield in the middle of an intersection could be correctly caused the cause of an accident. The pigeon is a free bird. It has no custodian.

Pets, on the other hand, are always in someone's custody. Custody relationships are complex, but ultimately come down to "you're responsible for this." Anything a dog could do to harm itself or others could have been anticipated, should have been anticipated and is ultimately the custodian's fault.

If a pet owner is walking a dog on a leash but isn't watching the dog's every step because she's also holding her child's hand, and someone runs a red light and hits and injures the dog, causing thousands in medical bills, that's a very different insurance situation from a pigeon.

The pigeon is a nonentity in the accident. It's as much at fault, or not, as a tree. And it doesn't need medical or cremation bills paid. Cleanup is handled about the same way as debris from a car.

In a situation where the dog or owner isn't negligent but the driver is, it's useful to talk about whether the dog was on the leash, in the crosswalk, has right of way, is walking with the walk signal on, and is visible. You might prefer to leave the dog out of it and talk about the owner, but I could see myself wanting to get straight to the point and talk about the dog. I imagine lawyers also might be inclined to cut to the chase and talk about whether the dog was following the rules of the road.

> In a situation where the dog or owner isn't negligent but the driver is, it's useful to talk about whether the dog was on the leash, in the crosswalk, has right of way, is walking with the walk signal on, and is visible.

All those things, as you say, can bear on the driver's responsibility (or the owner's responsibility, if, for example, the owner allowed the dog to go out into the street when the walk signal wasn't on). But that's part of the factual description of the case. It does not assign fault to the dog; if the dog did something like go out into the street when the walk signal wasn't on, that makes it the owner's fault, not the dog's.

Hmm, that's a very good point, that speaking of the mistake by the dog (which the dog didn't have any way of knowing better) in the factual description is separate from assigning the fault. I concede the point and agree that the dog is never at fault in an accident.

The only argument I have remaining is that while it's an incorrect statement, I don't think saying the dog is at fault in an accident is insulting, because being at fault in an accident is often only an honest mistake (albeit sometimes with tragic consequences).

Would you blame a toddler for leaping into traffic while being babysat by a paid adult human, or would you blame the paid adult human who was tasked with the job of watching over this life form?

Personally I’d blame the “paid professional” before I’d blame the being with minimal rational thought.

> Have you considered the dog was at fault?

Mate... It's a dog, we are the care-takers. Even if a dog is messed up in the head and bites people, it's probably been influenced by its' environment - people.

If we want to have cool pets, we have got to take responsibility.


It should have been the easiest decision in the world for them - a persons' dog is more important than most other humans to most dog owners, yet the law treats dogs as nothing more than property. Pay up and grovel to these people. In-action doesn't make these things go away.

EDIT: just read the non-disclosure section. I understand the impulse to do that, but it's a MUCH better gamble to just kill the story with boundless kindness.

> a persons' dog is more important than most other humans to most dog owners, yet the law treats dogs as nothing more than property

Something I've always found particularly infuriating is how police dogs are considered officers and often carries a worse punishment than attacking an actual police officer. Not because I am upset that the dogs are being protected, but that the police basically can shoot other people's dogs but nobody can touch their dogs.

Jesus I am just going off on tangents tonight. I need to take a break for a bit.

Police dogs are not actual officers, as they can not meet the training and oath requirements.

I'm not aware of any laws protecting the dogs specifically other than general animal cruelty laws. But because they are very expensive to train (I know of a bomb dog that cost $30k+) you are facing felony property damage charges if you injure or disable them.

You should take a break.

So I did some googling and like most things, "it's complicated."

It varies by state, but killing a police dog can put you in jail for 10 years (and this has happened) and that is a federal law. There are some states pursuing stricter measures themselves where killing a canine officer is equivalent to killing a human officer.

As to what I said about killing a police dog having a harsher punishment, that was based on a single anecdote and I meant that the judges serve harsher punishments, not that the laws themselves are stricter.




  and that is a federal law.
There is no such Federal law, as Federal law has no nexus in a local police encounter (unless there is a civil rights element).

Or one encounters federal police. DHS is out there and on patrol now.

There is no such Federal law. Animal cruelty to a dog owned by a Federal agency would be a state statute.

Exactly. The only Federal Law re animals is the Animal Welfare act, which only has to do with research animals. All 50 states have animal cruelty laws.


18 U.S. Code § 1368 - Harming animals used in law enforcement

(a) Whoever willfully and maliciously harms any police animal, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not more than 1 year. If the offense permanently disables or disfigures the animal, or causes serious bodily injury to or the death of the animal, the maximum term of imprisonment shall be 10 years.

I love learning from my mistakes! I misread the preamble (for lack of a better word) to the Animal Welfare Act’s Federal website. It says it is the only Federal Law addressing animals... or the research of: https://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/animal-welfare-act

> It varies by state, but killing a police dog can put you in jail for 10 years (and this has happened) and that is a federal law. There are some states pursuing stricter measures themselves where killing a canine officer is equivalent to killing a human officer.

Killing another person can get you life in prison or capital punishment (depending on state) that's way worse than 10 years.

There IS a law for 10 years. There ARE some states that make it like killing a human officer. The MAX for killing a person is death penalty.

See where your argument loses some teeth?

I imagine $30k to be cheap for a bomb dog. Service dogs with the bare minimum of tasks (2 + a general training) for people with disabilities go for $15k+ trained.

> often carries a worse punishment than attacking an actual police officer.

Do you have any source on this? I'd be very surprised to hear that it was true.

I’m not aware of any jurisdictions where police dogs are considered officers or where attacking a police dog carries a harsher punishment than attacking a police officer.

This made me really mad last year: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/108562071/police-shoot-fami...

TL;DR police looking for somebody went to the wrong address, shot the family dog because it "attacked" a police dog (which was "unharmed by the incident"), and casually told the owners on their way out the door that their dog had died.

In the famous Ruby Ridge incident, a Federal sniper shot the Weaver's dog from long distance... because it barked.

Well, police training in the US takes on average 19 weeks, whereas in Germany it takes at least 130 weeks (https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_7709638).

It takes 12-14 month to become a cosmetologist...

That event took place in New Zealand, not the US.

>yet the law treats dogs as nothing more than property.

Reminded me of a highway sign I saw shortly after crossing California state line. The sign listed fines for 2 offenses: littering and animal abandonment (however it was worded). Littering was a significantly higher amount to the point that the fine for abandoning an animal would be cheaper than doing anything the right way with the animal. Maybe the tack on the littering fine too, but it was still a very striking distinction to me.

Also on the other end. Wag seems to be having issues with walkers committing fraud against the company. I think wag needs to take a more aggressive approach at putting a stop to it. If walkers are committing fraud through the app then they should pursue legal action against those walkers and hold them criminally for fraud.

From what I understand...what walkers are doing is signing up for their friends/family and letting the friend do the walking. Why would someone do this? Well if your friend has a long criminal record and can't find a job (because of their criminal history) then the family member feels compelled to help the family member by singing up for a wag account, get approved with a clear record and then let the family member with a bad record do the actual work. This is why in the story the person doing the walking was basically different from the person in the profile and failed to disclose their real name.

This is basically a side effect of the "gig economy." One can even just sell their account (and good will) when they decide to quit dog walking. Pretty scary when you really think about it.

Also heard of uber drivers hiring illegal immigrants to drive under their uber account, not sure of the credibility of these reports.

It's a second-order effect of a society with deeply ambivalent beliefs about justice, rehabilitation and forgiveness. Background checks and risk-averse hiring policies have an obvious logic, but they have made it considerably more difficult for people to pay their debt to society and become productive citizens. There's a local risk to hiring an ex-offender, but there's a wider risk of creating an unemployable underclass. I'm not sure how to best strike the balance between those risks, but I think we need a serious national conversation about the system we have created and the second-order effects of that system.

Not really. The whole idea of the 'gig economy' relied on independent contractors being independent entities liable for their own issues, and whom reap the rewards for their own work.

Part of the reward is a reputable account as a saleable asset. It's just like selling a company or passing it on to your children. If Joe's Handmans or Joes' Dogwalkers no longer includes "Joe" that's not supposed to be a scary situation, its part and parcel of why people work for themselves.

Now if indies aren't really expected to have owners rights, then they ought to get employee protections.

"Part of the reward is a reputable account as a saleable asset."

Your assessment is wrong. Joe's plumbing is a legally distinct entity that people understand is represented by a variety of different individuals.

An account on a gig site that represents that you are Joe Smith is different on the face of the matter because you are contractually liable for providing accurate info to potential clients and the company. They signed up for Joe not someone Joe vetted.

You breached the agreement under which you agreed to work with the company that is connecting you to work.

You misled the party hiring the company and if anything goes wrong and you let Bob Johnson masquerade as you have fun getting sued by the agreived party and reaping the bad press.

The company will ultimately delete the account when or if your FRAUD is detected meaning you will also be guilty of defrauding the buyer.

The person using the account is guilty of exceeding authorized access on cfaa you are potentially guilty of assisting them.

If you want the benefits of being a corporation you need to incorporate you cannot fraudulently sell your Joe Smith personal account on wag or Uber or what have you.

Well I see the 'gig economy' as large well funded organizations trying to get the benefits of hiring one-man LLCs and non-incorporated DBAs without any of the downsides.

If you want to hold someone to a 'name must match' standard, then I think you hire them personally so they are your employee. For someone using Uber, they theoretically do not care who the driver is so long as it is a 'valid driver' as per marketplace standards. To them, they are doing business only with Uber, not specifically with any individual driver, so any disputes are between Uber and driver or Uber and customer.

If something goes wrong, as you said it's between Uber and whomever they signed a contract with regardless of whom is driving the car at the time but that isn't a higher standard than any other B2B contract.

Personally, I would not mind laws put in place saying that if you want to higher 1 person for 1 job, and the name must match, then you have to classify them as at least a part-time employee.

If someone bought the company for a pittance just for the branding then it is something to worry about. Compare to a seller account on ebay; they're definitely nowhere near an employee but it would still be bad to disconnect reputation from the actual actor that got the reputation.

Why would anyone care if an undocumented immigrant drove your uber? As long as they're licensed and insured, they're just as qualified as any other driver.

There's no way any insurance company providing the kind of commercial insurance you need to drive for Uber would be okay with a driver using someone else's Uber account, immigrant or otherwise.

The finger-pointing likely to result from an incident would make this driver as good as uninsured.

Interesting story but someone I work with was actually severely rear-ended by an Uber driver heading to the airport, and she said the driver's insurance wouldn't cover the driver because the driver was acting as an Uber driver at the time of the accident. Don't know the insurance co., but I definitely remember being shocked by the fact that they wouldn't cover the driver for that reason

Commercial insurance is whole different ball game than personal insurance. Personal insurance typically doesnt cover commercial use. Driving for Uber is a commercial activity.

I guess uber has an insurance policy that covers their drivers during rides now, so hopefully that kicked in to take care of your friend.

Everyone should read their insurance policies to know their exclusions.

Note that most insurance providers won't cover drivers who have used their car to drive for Uber, regardless of whether they're driving for Uber at the time of the incident. Uber may cover you if you're on a trip, but it's up to you to make sure you have the right insurance plan (which usually means paying a nominal surcharge to your insurance provider in the US) to have insurance the rest of the time.

> covers their drivers during rides now

In the US. It's not clear if they have this anywhere else.

I'm shocked that you are shocked. Driving commercially is an entirely different risk profile.

The only way for commercial drivers to be covered by the same policy is to price the risk of an unknown number of commercial drivers into everyones policy.

Well yeah, of course - my car insurance specifically doesn't cover commercial activity in my car(as well as going off road, racing or track use), so if I started driving for uber I'd be 100% uninsured until I got commercial insurance.

I think that was one of the greatest lies of Uber at the start "just drive your car for money in your free time!" - that's all great, but no private car insurance would cover you while doing that.

And then Uber offered insurance, as an appeasement, which for the longest time (still is?) third party liability only.

Total your vehicle? Personal insurance won't touch it, and the Uber coverage you thought you had is useless.

Commercial insurance covers a combination of driver and car. You can get insurance for someone to drive a car that they don't own as part of a contract (e.g. with Uber) that they did not directly sign or benefit from.

All you have to do is be upfront about it, and willing to pay.

Yes, it does cost more to cover employees as opposed to owner/operators of a business venture, but it it is not impossible (if it were taxis would not be able to exist).

What is probably true is the default insurance given out by Uber will not cover people not listed on the policy, and only the person contracted with Uber is listed on the Uber-backed policy.

Its impossible to insure "employees" when said "employees" are not licensed to operate a motor vehicle.

When I hire an Uber I expect my uber driver to be vetted by Uber?

Beyond that

People driving under other people's Uber accounts don't have a license or are otherwise ineligible to drive for Uber (criminal, underage, etc) otherwise they'd get their own Uber account. Uber literally pays people to sign up as drivers - there's no legitimate reason to drive under someone else's Uber account.

Commercial Insurance would probably exclude coverage for any incidents that happen when an unlicensed driver is using someone else's Uber account.

At least in Texas, illegal immigrants cannot get insurance (for themselves) or a driver's license.

Twelve states and D.C. allow illegal immigrants to acquire drivers licensees [0]. Washington State was the first one in the early 90s, but the list also includes the boarder states of California and New Mexico. I would imagine if a state will issue a drivers license then someone has to be selling insurance, otherwise the license is moot as their would be no legal way to drive.

[0] https://immigration.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=...

Texas is not on that list though.

I care because it is a lie and manipulation.

Business done without a solid basis is often high risk. That risk unlikely to be worth it.

Finally, as a basic matter of principle, I do not do business with people who are dishonest.

Doing that is on par with debating liars.

Under someone else's account? How exactly would they be insured in that situation?

It's also IRS fraud, there is no background check, the list of issues with this is just huge.

There are plenty of reasons to care - undocumented people are a legal liability for both the passenger and Uber.

Does insurance cover when illegal immigrant drive the car?

Not if the driver is not the claimed Uber-booked driver.

1) Some people would care because they think undocumented immigrants are subhuman. 2) Other people would care because Uber is sketchy enough with out random sub-sub-sub contractors being added into the mix, regardless of their immigration status. 3) Still other people would be bothered by the obviously minimal pay a sub-sub-sub....sub-contracted undocumented immigrant would be paid.

"It takes years or even decades to build community trust. It takes about 15 minutes to destroy it." - my old boss

Just fyi, the usual quote goes

“Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair”

"Trust is not broken, but shattered."

This is not entirely true though. It took Wag's lawyers more than 15 minutes to draft that NDA. Even after submitting it, and the story being posted online, there is still a chance for them to turn around and admit they fucked up. This isn't a totally unresolvable situation for them, they just need to figure out when they are going to finally decide to do the right thing.

Agree. This is extremely cut and dry – something like this is a very rare occurrence, so you can afford to go absolutely above and beyond for your affected customer. For example, AirBnB changed their policy when a house was wrecked and now offers $50k guarantee they will make it right if something horrendous happens: https://techcrunch.com/2011/08/01/airbnb-offers-unconditiona...

It’s also the right thing to do.

And think of instantly turning all this negative press positive. If I was Wag, I would have thrown money, time and personnel at this until the clients were satisfied.

If I remember correctly, AirBnB initially gave a similarly tepid response. Then they saw the storm of negative PR and quickly turned around.

It's not difficult to do more than $50K in damage to a house, especially via fire.

Missing from the discussion as far as I can see is mention of the walker’s behaviour. I don’t know what rules Wag have, but calling the owner as soon as possible and stating what has happened is a pretty basic thing to do. Deliver the bad news to those that need it as quickly and accurately as you can, with updates when appropriate. Not answering then lying is not ok, and whatever Wags’s rules are this shouldn’t have happened.

From what I know about Wag, it's sort of like Uber pool. You don't get your dog walked alone, a dog walker has the option to walk as many dogs as they can to maximise their profit. Add to this a matching algorithm that doesn't pair a consistent walker with your dog every day, and you get a situation where a new walker is pushed into taking more more responsibility than they probably should. This inherently puts dogs in an unsafe environment.

I can see a dog being excited, put with other dogs he doesn't know very well, and one dog breaking loose... running into the street while the walker holds on to the other 3 they are walking... total shit show. You want a consistent dog walker, you want someone who will put time in to get to know your dog, and you never want unfamiliar dogs around your dog unless it's properly supervised.

The whole situation, in my opinion, is prone to disastrous outcomes. Can you imagine if AirBnB booked multiple families to a site at a time? We'd all flip out. But it's OK for our dogs... likely because when we're at work we don't know what goes on, out of site, out of mind.

I agree with this, it's an obvious train wreck. Dog walkers have to be known and trusted. Our neighbors suspected something was wrong with their dog walker because their dog was suddenly really antsy when they got home and always acted up. They put in a hidden nanny cam and turned out the dog walker was coming over, hanging out on their couch texting and watching TV and never actually took the dog out. Poor thing.

Then in SF another dog walker got busted for driving around picking up all her dogs, but leaving them inside her dog walking van while she went shopping at the mall instead of walking the dogs.


It's so hard to trust anyone to actually take care of your dog, why automatically dilute to a gig economy with no oversight where just get any rando with a record who can buy a fake Wag account on reddit for their burner phone.

This is why we bring our dog to a doggy daycare where we can watch him play on webcams all day. But even that's not 100% safe, the workers could be not watching, or whatever.

It's just like eldercare. If you want to be sure it's done properly you basically have to do it yourself.

As the old saying goes, there are some things that money can't buy. Trust is one of them.

Their FAQ at https://wagwalking.com/faq claims:

> Do you walk my dog with other people's dogs?

>> No! Here at Wag!, your pup is our sole focus on each walk. We believe that each pup has different needs, and the best way to serve those needs is through a one-on-one experience. In the case that you have multiple dogs in your household, we will walk those pups together per your request.

So either that's a straight-up lie or you're confusing them with some other dog walking service.

It seems that some Wag walkers do walk more than one dog at a time:


>> I don’t know what rules Wag have, but calling the owner as soon as possible and stating what has happened is a pretty basic thing to do.

If you were owning/operating your own dog-walking service, sure, because you'd care about your reputation.

Wag appears to be yet another gig economy outfit, though, so the person delivering the actual service cares little (or not at all?) about the reputation of the intermediate service company.

If things go badly wrong, as the service provider you'd just walk away. The service company certainly doesn't care about you, why should you care about them?

I agree, but it is easy to understand why the walker wouldn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. I’ve house sat friend’s pets, and the thought of my accidentally killing one and having to break the news is viscerally painful.

How to sink your own company in 1 easy step

I think perhaps that the press and social media only has so much attention for negative stories. If there's 50 negative stories in a year, and five of them get circulated widely, would having 100 negative stories in a year result in getting ten of them circulated widely? It's doubtful. There would probably be more people reading with a larger number of stories but I don't think it's linear.

To be fair, we know one side of the story. We don't know how many apologies they got before, during or after the settlement offer. Nor do we know what was offered as settlement. A settlement that includes non disparagement is not that unusual. We screwed up, or it happened on our watch but if you take the money consider it closed.

Wag has raised $300 Million (wikipedia,) so if they did it save a few thousand, they are dumb.

This bullying, cover-it-up response toward customers is telling. If I was an early investor, I would be worried that this symptomatic of larger scales issues of deceit regarding metrics and finance. Sociopathic behavior is a huge red flag.

Sociopathic behavior is a huge red flag.

I realize this is an emotional subject, but everything we know about startups, the gig economy, and success in general says that it's actually a green flag.

They are using the same tactics than Airbnb when guests have issues with hosts and it is shameful.

To be fair, we don't know if this is the truth. Has Wag responded with their side of the story?

Unless the entire story is false it really doesn't matter.

Dog died. Wag wanted them to sign an NDA or Wag wouldn't pay for anything.

The only correct response from Wag was to pay everything (again, we're talking about a couple of thousand maximum) no questions asked and apologize profusely.

Even from a purely soulless financial standpoint, that's the only correct response.

Did Wag confirm this somewhere? You just believe everything someone says? Where is the police report? Why didn't the owner call the police to get that information? Why do they say they don't know what happened? If it was a car accident, certainly there would be a report. Can't believe the HN crowd here is so quick to jump to conclusions from a single unverified source.


Sorry, I don't consider a Facebook post to be a good source of information to develop my views on. We don't have sources, we don't have reports, we just have a random post. I personally find it strange that there was no police report that the owner of the dog could check on to see how their dog died. I encourage you to reserve judgement unless you have a few sources to validate the facts.

It'a possible there is, but unlikely. If there is, without knowing location (jurisdiction and precinct to inquire) of the accident or names of the humans involved (likely required to search records) it would be hard to find.

Please explain why wanting to hear both sides of a story gets an "OH COME ON!" from you?

We do have Wag's side of the story. They decided to only reimburse costs if a customer signs an NDA, and then they decided to revoke their offer when the customer refused to sign.

Wag don't need to add anything more than that for us to know they care more about a very small amount of money than the dogs customers entrust to the care of the walkers they employ.

To be honest the money is actually a small and distracting aspect of this story. If it was my dog I'd want to know what happened. The fact Wag won't give any proper answers shows they probably don't know what's happening to dogs people trust their walkers with. That is a HUGE problem for me.

> We do have Wag's side of the story.

No, you don't. You only have someone's claims about Wag's side of the story.

It sounds authentic, but Internet is full with authentic-sounding false stories.

Is it more likely that someone is lying on the internet about their dog being killed, with no one they know replying in the comments to call them out, or that a startup is catastrophically bad at PR and just basic human empathy?

The principle of Occam's Razor applies here.

You are making inferences about the situation after hearing one side of the story. As reasonable as it is, it is still coming after hearing one side of the story.

And no, Occam's razor does not apply.

Does anybody know if wag does any type of background check which might show signs of an unstable individual violence mental health issues or something that might throw up a flare so maybe not hire them if they are not doing so then they are just as guilty as the individual who caused the death of the pet.

It seems you don't understand what it means to hear a side of a story.

It gets a "OH COME ON!" because it's completely irreverent. The actual story here doesn't actually matter. A dog is dead, and there's no recovering from bungling the PR of something that sensitive.

Everything in the world is a matter of understanding the marginal impact. There is no universe in which hearing both sides of the story (or trying to save n number of dollars) results in a better net outcome for Wag as a business than apologizing profusely and visibly showing as much empathy as possible.

Hearing corporate excuses from a fucking dog walking startup that got someone's dog killed couldn't possibly improve my opinion of them.

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