Written by Jaclyn Gallucci, Steve Mosco & Phil Corso, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 09 January 2014 12:09
After Amy Cicio of Syosset left her two dogs, Reba and Ozzy, at Two By Four Dog Walking & Pet Sitting in Oyster Bay, she headed off on an overnight trip with her daughter. It wasn’t until the next day, when Cicio called the company to say she was on her way to pick the dogs up, that Cicio found out something horrible had happened.
Reba, the 6-pound Chihuahua with only four teeth that Cicio had rescued two years ago from South Carolina, was dead. She had been attacked by another dog.
“I’m heartbroken, I went away overnight with my kid thinking that my dog was going to be okay,” says Cicio. “They couldn’t tell me how it happened, what dogs were involved, they don’t know. They never even called to inform me that the accident even took place.”
Staff at Two By Four, a family-run business that opened in 2007, had already rushed Reba to LI Veterinary Service in Plainview. But it was too late. Reba had multiple bite wounds to the head, neck and body, three fractured ribs and her lung was punctured, according to David Chen, the veterinarian who treated her.
"Due to the severe trauma and extent of the injury CPR was attempted, but was unsuccessful," Chen wrote in Reba's medical report. Her cause of death was listed as "severe bite wound trauma."
After the incident, Two By Four issued an email statement to customers and posted it on Facebook.
“With even 100-percent focus on two dogs, and intently watching for any telltale signs of the potential of something catastrophic happening you can’t prevent it from happening,” the statement reads. “It’s like watching a child in the playground, you can’t stop and catch them from falling off a swing; and by the time a dog takes a nip, or a bite the only thing anyone can do is be reactive, because if you truly care there is nothing else you could have done….unless you keep your children, and your dog, out of harm’s way, un-socialized, unable to play with others, [to] live life, and keep in solitude…in a cage.”
But these words did little to comfort Cicio, who believes that if her dog was being watched properly, the attack could have been stopped.
“What they are leaving out of their emails is that Reba was mauled and her injuries were far more than a single bite,” she says. “Dogs bark and growl. No one was there and that’s why they didn’t hear it.”
Gary Rogers, spokesman for the Nassau County SPCA, says this kind of incident where one dog attacks and kills another isn’t commonplace.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and very rarely do I hear about it,” says Rogers. “Dogs definitely have a pecking order. They are pack animals. If a new dog comes in and tries to be the alpha dog, there could be issues.”
But Reba wasn’t a new dog. Cicio had been bringing Reba and Ozzy to Two By Four for a year.
Soon after Reba’s attack, the Two By Four Facebook page blew up with comments both from loyal customers defending the company and angry pet owners horrified over what happened to Reba.
“We come from a home of dog owners and from nothing more than love for dogs,” wrote Two By Four in a response. “Shame on you to think something so tragic reflects the way we feel about our four legged friends and family. People are absurd in their behavior and I am not speaking for anyone else except for my family and what we do for our community. Say what you want, we are all experiencing this tragedy.”
When the Syosset-Jericho Tribune contacted Two By Four, one of the owners, David Nardiello, couldn’t say much due to litigation he believes is pending against the company but said he would welcome the opportunity to talk at another time. In the meantime, Nardiello says he is staying away from the Facebook page to avoid the upsetting comments from people he says he’s never met.
“It’s been a very emotional thing with everybody involved,” he said. “We understand the loss.”
And Cicio, who has used Two By Four’s services for about a year, is worried about the other pets.
“When I picked my other dog up, the dog that bit Reba was still there,” she says. “Other people are picking up their dogs and they don’t even know there’s a dog that killed another dog there.”
“The fact is they did not watch my dogs and they did not segregate the dogs,” continues Cicio. “They can say they keep small dogs with small dogs but there are small dogs that are 6 pounds and there are small dogs that are 40 pounds. There’s a big difference.”
Cicio hopes other pet owners will learn from what happened to Reba and thoroughly investigate where they bring their pets and how those pets are being supervised.
“This horrific experience needs to be known so people can make safe choices for their pets,” she says. “I did not.”
Rogers of the SPCA says that generally the best way to avoid tragedies like this is to question everything about the company that cares for your pet — how many people are on staff, exactly where your pet is going to stay while you are gone, what the policies are and how emergency situations are handled.
“If you’re going to leave your pet anywhere, you should make sure you know everything about the place,” he says.
Cicio has removed her other Chihuahua Ozzy from Two By Four’s care and is unsure who to trust going forward.
“It’s eye opening and devastating at the same time because I still have a dog and I’m still going to need care,” says Cicio. “I just want people to be aware that this happened — that it can happen.”