Animal Welfare

The Warwick Melrose Somehow Lost a Guest's Chihuahua

Irma Grazdan and her two dogs, Binky the chihuahua and Boomer the Jack Russell terrier, checked into the Warwick Melrose the day before Thanksgiving. She was in town from Houston to visit family and had decided to stay at the Oak Lawn hotel in part because of its pet-friendliness.

Fox 4 recounts what happened next.

"I took my dogs upstairs because I was gonna go have dinner with my son who lives in Denton," [Grazdan] said.

When she got back several hours later she saw one of her dogs with staff members at the front desk. Her heart sank.

"They said, 'They were barking so we took them for a walk.' I said, 'You didn't even ask for permission. Can I have my dogs back?' And they said, 'Ma'am, we lost one of your dogs,'" Grazdan said.

The staff told her Binky ran away.

Grazdan spent the rest of the weekend searching for the dog but to no avail. Binky remains AWOL.

"It's really hard and it's only because of this darn hotel," she told Fox 4. "If they hadn't taken it upon themselves to walk my dog, none of this would have happened to any of us."

Larry Mcafee, Warwick's general manager said hotel staff don't, as a rule, barge into rooms willy nilly to snatch guests' pets. But Grazdan presented a special case.

"This one was a problem from the very start," Mcafee said.

For starters, Grazdan arrived without a credit or debit card, which the hotel requires of its guests. She had just enough cash to pay for the room, so the Warwick decided to overlook the fact that she lacked another method of payment. They also decided to overlook the fact that she didn't have enough to pay the $50 pet deposit and that she had two dogs. The hotel's pet limit, spelled out clearly on its website, is one

By the time Grazdan was done checking in, Mcafee says she was "too emotionally distraught" to sign the required pet waiver that, among other things, stipulates that pets must be crated when left in the room; that a pet causing a disturbance will be housed outside of the hotel; and that the hotel isn't liable for "loss, damages, (and) personal injuries, including death" stemming from the pet's presence.

The Warwick overlooked that, too, and allowed Grazdan to take the dogs to her room. That's where the dogs stayed when she left the hotel a few minutes later. It wasn't long after that -- a couple of hours, maybe -- that the complaints began to come in. The dogs were yapping and generally disturbing the other guests. They continued for the next couple of hours.

Typically, Mcafee says the hotel would call the guest, but Grazdan hadn't filled out the pet waiver and didn't leave her number. So staff members eventually decided to keep the dogs at the front desk, as is occasionally done to shield other guests from disruptive pets. Since the dogs had been cooped up for several hours, it was decided they should be given the opportunity to relieve themselves. It was as they were led outside that their leashes got tangled and Binky escaped.

"The dog took off and never looked back," Mcafee said.

Six staff members canvassed the neighborhood until 4 a.m. before calling it a night. The next day, the hotel printed and distributed a couple hundred fliers and signed up for lost pet notifications. They've since received several tips about found chihuahuas, but none have panned out.

He hopes that media reports will lead whoever found the dog to return it. In the meantime, he's dealing with a former guest who is very distraught. That's understandable, he says, but doesn't mean the hotel deserves all the blame.

"She kept saying to me, 'These dogs are my children,'" Mcafee says. His response? "Ma'am, we would have called CPS if these were your children."