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Only on 8: Tampa doggie daycare owner speaks out after 2 dogs die of heat exhaustion

TAMPA, Fla.  (WFLA) – The owners of Lucky Dog Daycare & Resort in South Tampa are defending their business after two dogs died of heat stroke in their care.

Michael Hardy, who nearly eight years ago started the business along with Frank Hamilton, spoke exclusively with News Channel 8, telling us they have taken full responsibility and are doing everything they can to ensure the safety of the animals at the daycare.

But former employees and customers disagree.

Sylvie Fineman spoke to News Channel 8 as she sat outside BluePearl Veterinary Partners with her rescue dog, 4-year-old Vashti. She hoped it would be the last visit to the vet, and as it turns out, it would be.

The memories of the experience that led Fineman and her dog to the vet still haunt her.

"And I keep apologizing," Sylvie told News Channel 8.  "I keep telling her, I'm sorry, I didn't know."

She tells us she never expected to see a disturbing video of a Lucky Dog employee with her dog. Surveillance video shows the employee walking Vashti down a hall on a leash. When the employee stops to take off the leash, Vashti makes a run for it before the employee can put the leash on correctly. Moments later, the dog slips and collapses on the floor.

Sylvie said the dog wasn't acting right when a friend came to pick her up from the facility back in May.

"They claim that she got a little excited and probably pulled a muscle," said Sylvie. But she finds their reasoning suspicious.  "Because the employee who was responsible for her well-being lied."

Days later, the vet diagnosed Vashti with a bulging disc and the dog was paralyzed for days on end. Vashti had to have two surgical procedures that cost approximately $8,000, according to Sylvie.

In response to Sylvie's claims, co-owner Michael Hardy told us, "It seems pretty ridiculous that a dog who's only three inches off the floor drops three inches and its spine goes out, it's almost certain to be a medical condition."

When we asked Sylvie if Vashti had a pre-existing condition, she quickly replied, "No.  No."  We then asked if she believed that the owners were just trying to get out of paying the medical bills.  She replied, "I think they're deferring blame."

When we asked Hardy about Sylvie's allegations that he fought her tooth and nail that they would not pay the bills, he responded, "That's completely false.  Immediately made the offer to pay."

But Sylvie said, "At no point did they say we're going to help you."

This particular incident comes to light just after two dogs died in the last two weeks at the daycare.

"As the owners of the facility, we take full responsibility," Hardy told News Channel 8.

As for Sylvie, she wants Lucky Dog shut down but more importantly, she says, she's just grateful that Vashti is alive and well.

"Vashti is the fortunate dog," she told us as she was just about to go into the vet.  "This is fortunate.  That scar on her back.  The suffering and the pain she endured is fortunate."

Some former employees tell News Channel 8 there have been other cases of neglect that have gone unreported.  The owner tells me that is not the case.

The latest case has prompted backlash against Lucky Dog all over social media—News Channel 8 has been bombarded with emails from outraged viewers.

The owner says disgruntled employees are behind it and several of those employees admit, it's them though they're doing it to make sure the dogs at Lucky Dog stay safe.

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