KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Allegations of abuse at Knoxville’s K-9 Center of East Tennessee are coming to light after one of the center’s doggy daycare workers, Savannah Akelewicz, blew the whistle on the alleged abuse by reaching out to more than 40 pet parents who are clients at the K-9 Center.
“I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t find another job because I couldn’t leave my dogs there, because I knew they were going to be tortured,” Akelewicz said. “Five times a day it could be 10 times a day it was every day that she worked. Every day one dog to 10 dogs received her brutal side.”
Akelewicz began working at the K9 Center of East TN in February and says the alleged abuse dates back even further.
“Every girl that works there – they’ve all seen it every last one of them have seen it… I know a lot of our dogs are showing signs of being abused,” said Akelewicz. “Their emotional state of coming to the gate first thing in the morning? They are terrified. They don’t want to come in. We are having to try and coax the dogs in that’s because they know what’s going to happen to them there, they don’t want to come in.”
After coming back from a recent trip – Akelewicz says she couldn’t take it anymore and had to start reaching out to pet parents herself.
“Their heads were going to be slammed into gates, their hair was going to be pulled out of their neck, their ears would be twisted to where they would cry, she would throw the dogs kick them pick them up and throw them to the ground… everything that you could ever think of as the worst thing you could ever see happen to a dog is what you would see,” said Akelewicz.
According to the former K-9 center employee, management spoke to the accused staffer several times about their behavior.
“There have been allegations of mishandling by one of our staff, a former staff, who we terminated about a month ago upon hearing of these allegations,” said Vice President and Co-owner of the K-9 Center of East Tennessee, Ace Russell.
Akelewicz said management has known about the alleged behavior for months now.
Russell confirms an internal investigation has been launched, but cannot say specifically when the first allegation came to management.
“We reached out to hundreds of daycare clients in the last week since this has become known to us and it is helpful to know that many people, even those concerned, understand where we are coming from and that we took care of this incident as soon as we were aware of it,” said Russell. “I would not categorize from the interviews we’ve had so far – it did not border on abuse.”
Some pet-parents are still upset, saying they were kept in the dark.
“When we as pet-parents take our dogs into the canine center there is a trust there and there is a belief that they are going to care for our animals while we are at work or wherever we are throughout the day and based on what I had seen and been told over the last 12 hours that trust was violated,” said pet parent Jeff Stockton.
“There are a variety of ways of handling dogs, this employee – this former employee was well known to be brash and in your face,” said Russell. “Verbal abuse I think is pretty well known among everybody here but there have been no allegations, credible allegations, at this point in the investigation of any injuries to dogs or physical abuse.”
The K-9 Center of East Tennessee is now handling the internal investigation per American Kennel Club Guidelines.
Russell says they are in the process of extending interviews to the accusers and the accused.