Michigan family says 2 dogs died during company’s cross-country trip
A family in Oakland County is warning others after their two dogs died last week when a transportation company helped them settle on the West Coast.
“I think we’re still in shock,” Bill Ervin told The Detroit News Tuesday. “We just mourned them. I want to make sure that no one else has to have this experience.
He and his family had spent months planning to move from Bloomfield Hills to northern California in early June. To help with the logistics, they chose to send their cat, Nelly, and two 6-year-old Great Danes, Penny and Cookie, separately.
After failing to find a suitable flight, Ervin said his wife, Kristin, contacted Kansas-based VIP Pet Delivery through another website listing companies specializing in transporting animals.
The manager, Rachel Cottrell, assured the couple that the business is family-owned and that her husband usually escorts the pets with their daughter, Ervin said. “It looked like an ideal situation.”
They signed a contract in April and paid the first of two payments of $ 1,350. The couple also had their pets evaluated by a vet as the required agreement before the hike, Ervin said.
According to the contract obtained by The News, VIP asked owners to “let us know if your pet has recently had or will have any medical problems or surgery before picking it up.” This helps us know how to take care of your pet in the best possible way, or if we need to provide extra care! ”
The VIP Pet Delivery website and Facebook page appeared to be disabled and inaccessible this week.
Neither Cottrell nor the company immediately responded to repeated requests for comment this week.
Less than two weeks before the scheduled departure, Ervin said the company alerted them that his family had been exposed to COVID-19 and promised that another driver would replace him.
A man who identified himself as Shawn picked up the cat and dogs early June 7 in a van and agreed to let the family track his cell phone to watch the trip across the country. He turned off the Apple Find Me Friend app once he left Michigan, Ervin said.
The driver’s father told The News that his son, Jack Nakamoto Jr., was bugged to transport the dogs through another company he worked for. Text messages provided to The News showed that Cottrell told a staff member at that company that another driver named Shawn “bailed us out”.
Shortly after the driver left Michigan, Ervin and his wife learned that he and the animals were in Texas. The couple later learned that the driver had “had a good time” and that on June 9 he was headed to Phoenix, Er
Nakamoto said her son was not in direct contact with customers according to shipping protocol, to avoid distractions, and the couple couldn’t dictate the route they traveled.
It wasn’t until Friday that they got a call from Nakamoto Sr. The California resident said his son was “really broken” by the deaths of Penny and Cookie during the trip and intervened to have them cremated, Ervin said.
Nakamoto said his son, who was unavailable for an interview, expressed concerns about Cookie’s health and shared a video with him during a layover in Texas. The News examined the footage, which showed the black and white dog lying on the grass.
“Dude, she won’t get up,” Nakamoto Jr. is heard saying. “She can’t walk anymore. That’s all … She literally can’t stand up anymore.”
By the time Nakamoto’s son arrived in California at the end of June 9, he noticed the dogs were dead but the cat was alive, he said. “Until then, I’m calling everyone I come into contact with.”
Nakamoto did not have Ervin’s contact number and, after an online search, moved to Gateway Pet Cemetery & Crematory in San Bernardino.
A copy of a receipt The News reviewed showed he brought the two dogs on Thursday.
Crematorium representatives did not respond to a request for comment this week.
“Now I’m looking back, I probably should have called animal control,” he said. “… I didn’t know where to properly dispose of a dog.”
Nakamoto said the company has stopped responding and needs to scour the original website to find the Ervin’s number. “I literally almost cried” when telling them about the Danes, he said.
He added that his son’s van was properly air conditioned and Nakamoto Jr. told him he regularly checked the dogs.
Ervin told The News the dogs were healthy and he wonders if they overheated in the van. Worse yet, no one has reported how the dogs died, he said.
“I don’t know what they were expecting,” Ervin said.
Ervin said his wife contacted Cottrell frequently, but did not respond until Sunday.
Meanwhile, since crematorium workers told Ervin they hadn’t cremated the pets yet, the family are looking for autopsies to determine the cause of their deaths.
“I just want to know what happened, and no one is ready to step in and tell us the truth,” he said.
The way forward for his family may not be clear.
Bee Friedlander, chairman of the board of directors of the nonprofit Attorneys for Animals, said legal remedies would depend on where the dogs died and the applicable laws in that state. Many states have consumer protection laws and consider animal ownership, she added.
However, the Ervins might choose to focus on proof that the company violated the contract of carriage.
“If in fact the terms of the contract were just not being met in a fraudulent or flagrant manner, then there might be a possibility of recovery beyond what the contract provides,” she said.
For now, Ervin urges pet owners to do more research before entrusting their companions with someone else and “asking a lot of questions.” … I don’t want other people to suffer like we did. “