Family Demands Answers After Puppy Drowns in Pet Sitter’s Pool

For Amy and Sean Houston, the loss of their French bulldog, Coco, is still very fresh.

"Coco was our family member. She wasn't just a dog," said Amy. "It hurts because I smell her."

It was just last year the Coppell couple surprised their kids with Coco.

"It was one of the best days as a family to be able to bring her home," Amy explained.

Last month, the couple was planning a party in their home for their daughter's high school graduation. They were afraid that Coco would escape through the front door or she would accidentally get bumped into their pool in our backyard. So, they booked a pet sitter through the app "Rover" to watch their dog at the sitter's house.

"It appeared that they were safe. They market that safety is number 1 on their site," said Amy.

They thought Coco would be safe, but a couple hours into the party Amy received a disturbing message from the sitter.

"She said 'Oh my god! She's out! We're looking all over the neighborhood,'" Amy explained.

The family said they combed the neighborhood in search for Coco. But the sitter said it was too late.

When the family arrived at the sitter's home, they could see their puppy at the bottom of the sitter's pool lifeless.

"I had her wrapped up in a blanket and let me hold her. To have the kids walk in and see that, it's heartbreaking. This is the worst thing that's happened to our family," Amy explained.

The couple said they reported the incident to Rover and were told Rover is a neutral party, essentially a middle man, and the sitter is completely independent.

"If that's what we were looking for, I could have just gone down the street to find somebody to take care of Coco, but I went with something that was portrayed of having a guarantee and safety," said Amy.

Attorney Robert Tauler said Rover's negligence is not an isolated incident.

"What has shocked me since day one is not only that Rover has such a cavalier attitude towards it, but that they're not doing anything to fix it," he said.

Tauler has filed a lawsuit against Rover on behalf of his client, whose 1-year-old dog Snoopy was hit by a car while under the Rover sitter's watch.

There's even a Facebook group entitled "My dog was killed while in the care of Rover.com" with more than 100 members.

"If us reaching out to you saves one dog and one family then it's worth it," said Amy.

But Rover told NBC 5 these types of incidents are highly unusual.

Rover said in part:

"Incidents of this nature are extremely rare, and our heart goes out to Coco's family ... Our trust and safety team conducted a thorough review of this sitter, and has removed them from our platform. We will continue to support Coco's family throughout this challenging time."

"Safety is one of Rover's top priorities, and there are many different aspects we consider to create the safest experience we can. It starts with high standards for our sitters. We review every sitter's profile to ensure our standards have been met. All new sitters and dog walkers complete general background checks, pass a safety quiz, and are offered educational programs focused on safety throughout their time as a sitter. Additionally, we leverage data from every stay and walk to facilitate smarter, safer matches and ensure sitters continue to meet our standards. On the rare occasion something does go wrong during a stay, we have 24/7 support from our dedicated Trust and Safety Team, reservation protection, access to veterinarians and the Rover Guarantee."

The couple said that Rover offered to pay for Coco's cremation, but refused to pay for the cost of their puppy, which was $2,000. They said they were told for that cost, they'd have to go directly to the sitter.

Of the guarantee, Rover's website says, "We support Rover pet parents, sitters, and dog walkers by offering an unmatched level of protection. That's why every booking made on Rover is backed by the Rover Guarantee. Simply put, the Rover Guarantee is our commitment to you in the rare instance that something goes wrong during a booking. We offer the Guarantee because we believe that being there for our community is a fundamental part of what it means to be The Dog People."

"When you look at the marketing, you think you're going to get a good sitter. You don't know what you're getting. If you decide to use Rover, you're taking a risk, and if something should go wrong, don't expect rover to take care of you," said Sean.

After reaching out to the media, the couple said that Rover offered to cover the cost of their dog. The couple said they were asked to sign an agreement that would clear Rover of all responsibility, so they declined.

Rover maintains that incidents like these are extremely rare and that pet owners in the Dallas area have booked 200,000 services through the Rover, with nearly every stay going exactly as planned.

But Rover would not give me an exact number of how many dogs have been lost, or died, under the care of their sitters.

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