MOORESVILLE, Ind. — Since January, 13 Investigates has received complaints from former customers of a dog day care in Mooresville called Furry Friends Stay & Play, which opened in March 2019.
Just this week, Morgan County Animal Control issued the day care three minor citations for not having proof of a dog’s vaccination records and was called to the business again on Thursday for a report of a dog bite.
MCAC tells 13 Investigates those aren’t the only concern. Since July 2021, the MCAC has collected at least 35 complaints against the business and its owner Eddie Owen, but none have resulted in any charges.
“I thought it was great, too, until it wasn’t.”
Last summer, Sidney Bills was excited to take her dog, Pepper, to Furry Friends Stay & Play. Since her dog has special needs, she liked the idea of the day care being cage-free.
But within a few months, she noticed something was off.
“The whole time she was there, she would come home filthy. I mean completely. She had to have a full bath every single day,” Bills said.
One day, Bills discovered a bite mark on Pepper's side after picking her up from the day care.
“It was a quarter-inch mark on her side. I didn’t know until I brought her home and she wouldn’t get out of the car. Then, I went to feel, and she was being sensitive, and there was blood on her side,” Bills said.
Bills said Owen never informed her about the bite and neither did the employees at the time.
“I texted him, and he had no idea it happened. The employees had no idea it happened, and I didn’t understand how that was a thing,” Bills said.
After that, she immediately pulled her dog out of the day care.
“I thought it was great, too, until it wasn’t,” Bills said. “I wish I would’ve known the stuff that I know now because we would’ve never gone there.”
Dawn Trader also brought her dog to the Mooresville business after it opened. On two different occasions, she said she witnessed her dog, Tucker, tied to a pole with no food or water. Another time, she claims an employee told her Tucker was locked alone in a room.
“He came out and he was just shaking with his tail between his legs. The employee at the time said, ‘Oh yeah, I was told to keep him in there all day because of how he acts,’” Trader said.
After the third week, Trader said she noticed Tucker becoming anxious and aggressive.
“We totally feel like it was a result of the doggie day care because he was not aggressive before he went,” Trader said.
Tucker is now on anxiety medication and can’t socialize with other dogs.
It’s a similar experience Chelsea Barnes said she had after she took her dog, Stroker, there last November to be boarded.
On her way to pick him up, she received a text message from the day care owner, saying Stroker was misbehaving and that, “I put him into a meditative state and fiddled with his wires. It’s pretty cool stuff, and he was very receptive to it.”
“That just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know what he did. I still don’t know,” Barnes said.
When she arrived at the day care, she said Stroker was also acting differently.
“I thought he would be really excited to see me. My fiancé and I walked in there and he was walking really slow, his tail was tucked. He wasn’t himself at all,” Stroker said. “I got him home and I realized he was really skinny, and he lost close to 10 pounds, and the underneath of his paws pads were red and raw.”
The next day, she took him to the vet. The bill ended up costing her about $600.
“I just feel awful leaving him there in the first place. It’s hard not to blame yourself,” Barnes said. “I want people to be aware. Do your research when you take your dog anywhere, and be careful.”
13 Investigates couldn’t independently verify any of these complaints.
35 complaints in less than a year
13 Investigates went to Morgan County Animal Control to ask about these complaints. Officer George Domazet brought out a thick folder showing at least 35 people filed a complaint against Furry Friends Stay & Play since last July.
He said most complaints were filed in October and November.
“It’s employees and it is customers, some that have lost animals in his [Owen's] care or employees who have had a bad experience there and wanted to come forward with us,” Domazet said. “There have been cases where dogs have passed. We had another one where his claws ripped out and the owner [of the business] basically said, 'I had no idea that happened.'”
Domazet also shared a complaint from October. He said a customer left her dog at the day care for seven days. When she picked up her dog, she described its paw pads as raw, irritated and bloody.
According to the complaint, she took the dog to the vet and was prescribed medication. A few days later, her dog died from an infection.
Domazet said he is also working with the Mooresville Police detectives, but they currently don’t have enough evidence to pursue any criminal charges against Owen.
“We need people to step forward, and a lot of the stuff we get, unfortunately, is hearsay, and with hearsay, there is nothing that can be done,” Domazet said.
Domazet has also been to the business several times to pursue some of these complaints, saying Owen is “walking a fine line.”
“Every day, I look at different avenues trying to investigate it or at least see what this guy is about or what his business is about — what’s really happening or not happening there,” Domazet said.
When asked about the certain type of “meditation” Owen uses on dogs like Stroker, Domazet said he has not found any research to back that up.
13 Investigates also reached out to the Mooresville Police Department, who said there are no open investigations into the business.
Police did confirm last year that they received two reports of dog bites at the business.
Inside Furry Friends Stay & Play
13 Investigates then reached out to Owen to learn more about his business. He invited us to come see the facility.
“The goal of this place was to create an environment where dogs could enjoy themselves in a cage-free environment,” Owen said. “They are not confined. They get to run and play all day. Staff is interacting with them.”
Furry Friends Stay & Play offers day care and boarding. Within the last few months, Owen also started a rescue program and currently has about 11 dogs in his care.
“Helping these dogs out means so much to me and being able to give them a place where they can go and not be confined. They are not scared. The shelters can be quite scary,” Owen said.
Most days, Owen said they take care of about 25 dogs, adding it’s usually him and another employee watching them. Owen said he brings in another person if they get busier.
When a new dog comes in, Owen said he will do a temperament test to determine whether they are a good fit for the day care.
“I didn’t always turn every dog away, but I’ve had to, especially with the rescues. I have to be selective in who I take, and that’s one of the issues I’ve been really struggling with because I want to save every dog,” Owen said.
Owen also does not separate dogs based on size.
“They are all kept together because they all generally get along together. Now there are times when I have some that are more timid than others or they just need a little more time; then, I will keep them on one side with a few other dogs, and then, gradually introduce them,” Owen said.
Currently, some dogs can jump over the fenced-in area. Owen said he plans to change that by adding “tiki torches” to the top but is waiting for more funding.
“I’ve never owned a business, so you learn and you grow, and sometimes you have to smack your head on the wall a few times and figure out the best way,” Owen said.
When asked about the dozens of complaints, Owen said he tries to redirect or separate dogs if they are being too aggressive.
“Dogs are like kids — they are going to spat,” Owen said. “Luckily enough, it doesn’t happen very often, and if a dog ever does get banged up, I pay for it out of my own pocket.”
He said he is looking to get the turf replaced in the future and is not aware of incidents where it caused a reaction to dogs’ paws like Barnes mentioned.
“I’ve never once had any dog have that kind of reaction that she showed me,” Owen said.
Owen also confirmed at least two dogs have died at the facility. He said one ate a brown recluse spider and the other he would not talk about on the record.
“I’ve always said, anybody at any time can come down here and participate with these dogs. Anytime. We welcome it. We love it,” Owen said. “It’s a work in progress. Like I said, we’ve been around three years, and I’m learning, just like I’ve learned I can’t save every dog. I have to be selective.”
Owen also explained he does “meditation” with dogs by using specialized music and words that put them in a “deep haze.”
“Most customers have been very supportive of doing that, especially if I don’t have to use any medications or things. It’s whatever works,” Owen said.
Owen is looking to open a second facility in Plainfield that will be the “largest facility in the county.”
Owen said he welcomes community members to visit his current business if they have concerns.
We also reached out to other longtime customers. One woman said on Facebook, “I took my dog there. My neighborhood friends and family do as well. Not everything stated is true and most exaggerated.”
Again, the three citations issued this week are not part of any customer complaints.
You can contact MCAC at email@example.com
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