Dog deaths in Cincinnati: Sick dog's owner says The Pet Spot didn't take situation seriously

Three deaths connected to Norwood kennel

NORWOOD,  Ohio – A dog owner whose pet became violently ill after being boarded at The Pet Spot says kennel operators didn’t take a rash of illnesses seriously until three dogs had died.

Ten days later, Ohio State University veterinarians are still conducting tests and don’t know what killed the dogs, Pet Spot owner Jeff Voelpel said Tuesday.

But Russell Gibson said he believes it was HGE (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis).

Gibson said his 3-year-old Puggle, Max, became ill after he picked him up from Pet Spot on Aug. 9. He said he and another dog owner called Pet Spot the next day to report their dogs were sick. He said an employee told him not to worry about “a little stomach bug.”

Gibson said he took Max to MedVet of Cincinnati for emergency treatment and Max recovered. Max and Gibson’s other dog, Buster, were boarded at Pet Stop Aug. 5-9, but Buster didn’t get sick, Gibson said.

Gibson said he eventually got Voelpel on the phone a few days later.  Gibson said he blew up at Voelpel, demanded a refund and hung up.

“He (Voelpel) failed to mention that a couple dogs had died. I said, ‘You’ve got to close down.’ And I hung up on him,” Gibson said.

“He sent me an email offering to give me a refund and pay for all my bills if I didn’t go the media,” Gibson said.

Speaking to WCPO Digital, Voelpel didn’t deny the email.

“He yelled at me for five minutes and demanded a refund. He sounded like a maniac,” Voelpel said.

Gibson supplied the email to WCPO Digital:

Mr. Gibson,

I wish our phone conversation had transpired differently and wouldn’t have ended so abruptly.

I understand that you will not be using our services any longer and I accept that. I certainly don’t want any hard feelings out there. If you will agree not to go out of your way to make trouble for us, as you stated on the phone, via media, google reviews, etc. I will agree to refund your money completely and reimburse you for all vet bills even though it contradicts our normal company policy.

Please contact me at 513-351-7768.


Gibson said the vet at MedVet diagnosed Max with HGE, a violent illness that causes bloody diarrhea and severe vomiting. Those were the same symptoms found in the three dead dogs, according to Erica Hawkins, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal health care in the state.

Gibson said he got Max to MedVet quickly so Max didn’t reach the later stages of shock and clotting. Gibson said he talked to one owner whose dog died and the owner said dehydration, shock and clotting killed his dog.

“I think Pet Spot must have waited too long to take those dogs to the vet,” Gibson said.

Voelpel disputed that. 

“When one of our dogs gets diarrhea, we go right to the vet. If a dog even has a loose stool, we take it right to the vet,” Voelpel said.

Voelpel said veterinarians told him only the cases of the three dead dogs and one other that got sick and survived were related.

“Mr. Gibson’s dog was not part of the situation,” Voelpel said.

Gibson said other dog owners have told him of new cases of HGE and declared that Voelpel should have closed his operation.

“From the time I called them on Saturday, it took them almost a week to close the day care, and they kept the boarding and grooming open. My dogs were boarded, so I don’t know how they made the distinction between what area was safe and what wasn’t,” Gibson said. “I just hope that from the time they were notified until almost a week later when action was taken that no other dogs became infected.”

But Voelpel insisted he has “taken every precaution” to protect the dogs. He said he consulted with Dr. Paul Stull, assistant state veterinarian, and arranged for testing and sanitizing at his facility.

He posted this on the Pet Stop’s Facebook page:

“All of the veterinarian infectious disease tests have come back negative.

"Independent laboratory test results looking for the usual causes of gastrointestinal issues have come back negative.

"We have had our food and water tested and the results came back clean, showing no issues.

"None of the food consumed was on the pet food recall list.

"In addition to our usual multi daily sanitation, the facility has been completely sanitized numerous times and our daycare floors have been stripped and resurfaced."

Voelpel temporarily closed the day care Aug. 16 and said he doesn’t plan to reopen it until Aug. 26. Before then, he expects to get the test results on what killed the three dogs.

“As soon as I get the results, I will contact my customers and tell them and then I'll tell the media and let everybody know,” Voelpel said.

MedVet of Cincinnati, which treated the ill dogs and referred the cases to Ohio State, has not returned phone calls from WCPO Digital.

Many Pet Spot customers have posted supportive messages on the kennel's Facebook page.


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