Wag-a-Saga: See something but say nothing?

Photo by Kirsten Jackson | The Signal

These days, there’s an app for everything. With just the click of a button, dog care becomes a walk in the park. Under the new Wag! app, registered users can sign on to a daily dog-walking routine for owners with a busy schedule.

But there’s a lot more you’re agreeing to when tapping “accept” on your next walk. A few of these apps have been popping up but the biggest and most popular one is Wag!

Wag! markets themselves as an app “[making] dog ownership easier by connecting dog owners with dog lovers in their community they can hire on-demand for dog walking, dog sitting, or dog boarding services seven days a week.”

Clare O’Neill, a Georgia State student, has been with Wag! for three months and describes it as “kind of like Uber; you’re an independent contractor, so you are technically your own boss.”

Both O’Neill and her roommate, Hannae Clark, work full-time with Wag! and has become their main source of income to pay the bills after they both left their server jobs.

“I work as much as I want in one day or as little depending on how much I want to make that week,” Clark said.

But not everything is belly rubs and tail wags, as O’Neill recounts several times when she had to pick between her job at Wag! and speaking up about animal abuse.

“There have been a couple instances where I have walked into what appeared to be animal abuse. It puts you in a really difficult situation because you don’t want to get in trouble with Wag! but there is also potential animal abuse occurring,” O’Neill said.

When joining Wag!, walkers must sign a contract saying they can’t disclose dog owner’s personal information, so if they do see abuse, technically they are allowed to say something, just not where or who.

O’Neill told The Signal she has tried to contact customer support, but there is nothing in the client’s contract that says Wag will terminate their account if walkers report any signs of abuse.

“There ultimately is nothing that says that the clients can’t neglect and abuse their dogs and expect the Wag! walkers to perpetuate the neglect,” O’Neill said.

She recounts a time she walked into a house where she witnessed two Great Danes in a small single cage “covered in their own feces” and looked as if “they were not fed enough.”

O’Neill said they were not easy to walk on a leash and that she felt unsafe as a walker because of the size of the dogs pulling at her aggressively as if they weren’t accustomed to being outside.

Wag! told her that “we can’t say for certain that an animal is being abused” and that it could have “just been adopted or sick” and that she “can’t make any assumptions,” which left O’Neill frustrated and upset that she couldn’t do much to help the dogs she came in contact with earlier.

“Hopefully, we will see a change from the Wag! client agreement soon. Wag! should do their part to fight animal abuse,” O’Neill said.

The Signal reached out to Wag! through their 24-hour customer support line, but the company refused to comment.

These walks can be the main source of income when traditional work doesn’t cut it for students like Clark, who also freelances as a photographer.

Clark recounts, “I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do now. I can work as much as I want or as little depending on how much I want to make that week.”

But she too sometimes feels frustrated contacting customer support.

“I would say trying to reach Wag! support in an emergency or if there is an issue going on can be annoying [and] difficult at times. Also, reporting things that can seem suspicious is difficult because Wag support can’t really do anything about it,” Clark said.

The independent work model has pushed other Georgia State students towards dog walking apps such as Sean Ray who works for Pup Walkr, an Atlanta company. Ray said he likes Pup Walkr because it’s a smaller company and he already knows the developer so he can always shoot him a text if anything is wrong, while Clare and Hanae said Wag!’s customer service is impossible.

He said Pup Walkr over Wag! as it’s an “Atlanta only business and seems a lot more personable” than bigger apps.

Ray said he hasn’t seen any abuse with Pup Walkr but feels confident that if he ever did, he would “take many pictures and report it to the Atlanta Humane Society.”