BUFFALO, N.Y. — "We're all sickened and horrified that this happened," said Penny Lanich, the owner of Pawprints by Penny.
Lanich says she is in shock about what happened at the business she's run since 2003, where each clients dog becomes part of the family.
"To lose any one of them at an old age is so horrifying, but to lose one at a young age and for just a ridiculous reason is not tolerable," Lanich said.
Saturday staff found a three-year-old Havanese mix dead at the Niagara Street location. As Lanich called the owners and rushed the dog to the vet, she says her son checked surveillance footage which showed an employee slamming the dog into a wall.
"It's just a shock that anything could have happened," said Penny's son, Kyle.
"It almost makes you lose faith in people," Lanich said.
Kyle says they immediately fired the worker and turned the video over to police.
"We're going to do everything we can to strive to make things the best that we can and to ensure the safety of the dogs," Lanich said.
Lanich says this incident will change the way her business is run, and they'll develop a more extensive hiring process.
"We are looking into the best way to hire with background checks. We're looking into how we can check for any mental illness or anything else that we need to be aware of for someone taking care of dogs that are entrusted to us," Kyle said.
They say they'll also make sure no new employees are left alone with a dog. The SPCA is investigating and will determine if charges will be filed. As for Lanich, whose Niagara Street business has a five-star rating on both Google and Yelp, says her loyal customers are helping her get through this.
Among those loyal customers is Jane Cameron, a lawyer who relies on the Lanich family to care for both her dogs while she is at work. She says Penny and Kyle have always been extraordinarily helpful and caring, especially when her dogs were aging or recovering from surgery.
"They have always given intelligent advice regarding a full range of issues. They never hesitate to take the extra step to do things right. Every day when I pick up my dogs, the Lanichs and their staff are full of anecdotes that demonstrate how carefully they watch and care for my dogs," Cameron said.
Cameron calls Saturday's incident "extremely aberrant" and says she will continue to bring her dogs to Pawprints by Penny with full confidence of their safety.
"To know that we have that support... It definitely helps to ease the pain that's there right now," Lanich said.