Dog trainer sues ex-employee over one-star Google reviews and ‘terrible’ comments
‘For Dogs’ Sake’ boss Oliver Sciota charges dog owners in South West London up to £13,000 a year to pamper their pets
Image: Champions News)
A dog trainer who claims his posh dog daycare business has been compromised by online trolling is suing a former employee and rival in a dogfight in the High Court.
Oliver Sciota, the boss of ‘For Dogs’ Sake’, charges dog owners in South West London up to £13,000 a year to get their pets treated.
Its website says the company helps pet owners who need help with “dog/owner” issues.
“We believe in empowering the owner and their family with the tools and knowledge to nurture their own unique bond with their dog,” it reads.
But Mr Sciota has told lies on social media – including claims that his staff have been seen ‘hitting and kicking’ dogs, risking the end of his successful business.
The claims were made in “terrible reviews” and “negative one-star reviews” posted on Yell and Google, seriously damaging the reputation of his company, For Dog’s Sake Ltd, he says.
Mr Sciota is now suing the former worker, Adam Tanner, who he says worked for the company for just two days last year, and Hampshire-based Doggieville Pet Services.
He is seeking libel damages of £10,000 each from Mr Tanner for publishing the canine abuse allegations, and from Doggieville for his manager Hollie Colenutt’s online posts about the claims, which he claims were totally unfounded.
“Negative one-star reviews can destroy any type of business, but especially when it comes to a dog-related business, it can potentially end it completely,” says Sciota, 38, in court documents.
Mr Tanner and Doggieville deny responsibility, with Mr Tanner saying he was genuinely concerned about dogs and his comments were ‘an honest and reasonable statement of opinion’.
According to claim documents, the comments were originally posted on Instagram in October last year by Mr Tanner, who was a former worker who had been hired as a “freelance dog sitter assistant and dog walker “.
“Lovely dogs, horrible staff… Something needs to be done about this… I feel so bad for these babies… This should have been my dream job, but it turned into my worst nightmare,” he said.
Ms Colenutt, of Doggieville, became involved when she and a number of others posted online about the claims.
She was allegedly responsible for a one-star Google review and contacting one of her customers directly to suggest that For Dog’s Sake was not properly registered.
Mr Sciota denies his business abused dogs, pointing out that local council in Merton, south-west London, had never received a complaint about For Dog’s Sake and confirmed it was properly registered.
The RSPCA had also looked into the claims last October and found the dogs were not in crowded spaces and were clean and happy.
Mr Sciota had planned to expand the business from its London base to become a national service, but online ‘trolling’ has put ‘tremendous pressure’ on the company’s growth, a- he declared.
“All these negative reviews and comments made on social media and on different advertising platforms such as Yell and Google were written by people who have never even visited our grounds, do not have dogs in their charge and do not own not the work experience to judge the cases,” he said.
For Dog’s Sake Ltd’s claim is for £10,000 damages each for defamation and malicious lying by Mr Tanner and Doggieville, plus a written apology from the two declaring the ‘falsity and dishonesty’ of the allegations so that they can be shared with customers.
In her written defense to the claim, Mr. Tanner’s lawyer, Mina Heung, pointed out that For Dog’s Sake was not even mentioned in the Instagram post, which was by
He also denies “spreading rumours” about For Dog’s Sake and said everything he said was to protect the public interest. He also said the suggestion that there was a plan to ruin the company’s reputation is “bold and vehemently rejected”, the lawyer continued.
“The allegations contained in the Instagram account do not in any way identify the plaintiff. In any event, the words represent the truth and a statement of honest and reasonable opinion.
Ms Colenutt, in defense of Doggieville, denies leaving a negative review on Yell or Google, insisting she was not the author.
“The comment I made on Instagram was my honest opinion,” she says. “Plaintiff deleted my comment from his Instagram almost immediately. Plaintiff has provided no evidence that the comments I made were defamatory or caused harm.”
She denies saying any dog abuse actually happened and says statements she made in private messages to clients were just her “honest opinion”.
“The plaintiff has presented no evidence that he suffered serious harm (or) that as a direct and natural consequence of the publication he suffered any loss that could be specified in monetary terms,” she says.
“I have made no comments confirming Mr. Tanner’s allegations against the plaintiff.
“All public and private communications I have made regarding Plaintiff’s affairs are within the defense of (the) honest opinion and public interest,” she concluded.
The case is expected to go to court for a preliminary hearing next month.