2 dogs got flu from Evanston PetSmart, owners say

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Two dog owners claim their dogs got the flu after staying at a PetSmart in Evanston. And what's even worse is that they say they were lied to.

Lucky the Yorkshire terrier isn't so lucky this week. He is recovering from the dog flu, an illness his owner says he got from PetSmart.

Knowing canine influenza has been a big problem in the Chicago area for months, Rudy Tarafa asked PetSmart about it before dropping Lucky off at PetSmart's pet hotel last weekend.

"That was my main concern: Do I drop off my dog here, if there's something going on? And I'm counting on them to tell me," Tarafa said.

Tarafa said that on Friday, PetSmart employees told him there was nothing to worry about. But two days later, Tarafa picked up a sick dog.

PetSmart took Lucky to the vet to be treated for the flu. Tarafa is convinced his Yorkie was exposed at PetSmart because Tarafa says Lucky is never exposed to other dogs at home.

Even after Lucky became sick, Tarafa says PetSmart was telling customers nothing was wrong.

"They only posted a sign saying that they have an upper respiratory issue after I threatened them with legal action," Tarafa said.

The sign was too late for Susan Blanas' black lab Baily. Her dog also became sick with the flu after a PetSmart stay last weekend. She says Baily was never quarantined. Instead, the dog was allowed to be groomed and go to the PetSmart kennel and day camp.

"So that's three areas of the store that are contaminated by just her alone, but there were other dogs coughing as well," Blanas said.

Blanas also says employees were not being transparent about the illness.

"As I was speaking to the manager on the phone, he said we are telling people not to bring dogs in. So I said, 'Why are there so many dogs barking in the background?'" Blanas said.

Blanas and Tarafa say they have not received any apology from PetSmart, and now they are stuck with the vet bills.

A spokesperson for PetSmart issued the following written statement Thursday night addressing dog flu at the Evanston location:

"We have seen multiple cases of canine respiratory illness in dogs in our Evanston PetsHotel location. Out of caution, we stopped taking new reservations for the PetsHotel and Doggie Day Camp yesterday, August 12. Today, August 13, we learned that a pet who visited our facility earlier this week tested positive for Canine Influenza.

We are in the process of contacting pet parents with pets staying in this hotel to ask them to pick up their pets if possible, and are in the process of contacting pet parents who have had pets recently stay in the hotel. Once all pets have been safely removed from the hotel, we will begin a rigorous 72-hour disinfecting process. In the meantime, pets remaining in our care will be monitored around the clock by a PetSmart associate. In partnership with Banfield Pet Hospital, these pets will also receive multiple visits every day from a Banfield veterinarian.

The health and well-being of pets is our top priority, and we are going to do everything we can to help contain the spread of this virus and ensure the pets in our PetsHotel receive the best care possible. We are closely monitoring the virus and will continue to take precautionary action as appropriate."

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