LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As the holiday season approaches, many of us will be traveling to be with loved ones. Sometimes that means leaving our furry family members behind.
Increasingly popular apps offer pet sitting and boarding services, promising loving care from trusted, vetted sitters who say they’ll treat your pets like family.
But 13 surveys have revealed that these claims are not always true.
Jodi Leishman: “And it’s super tough because that’s where his food and water normally is.”
Darcy Spears: “So you stare at that empty carpet every day?”
Jodi: “Yeah. And I just hope we can find him soon enough.”
Leishman holds back grief as she talks about Louie, the 7-year-old Pekingese-Shih Tzu mix in her family.
Instead of getting her Southwest Valley home ready for the holidays, she’s posting flyers, scouring the streets and combing through social media for any signs of the dog they’ve had since the age of 8 weeks.
“How will it survive in the wild? asks Leishman.
Louie disappeared on October 20 while in the care of a Rover dog sitter.
It all started when the Leishmans planned an October trip to California. They turned to the Rover app, which many describe as a ridesharing platform, but for pet sitting and boarding. The user creates an account and searches for a sitter in his area that he thinks will suit him.
“We looked at Rover and looked at the reviews,” says Leishman.
And she focused on one with several five-star reviews, she says, as well as several repeat customers.
“And we went to meet her and we felt like it was kind of like this home environment,” says Leishman.
The babysitter they hired was 29-year-old Angelica Strickland, who at the time lived in a house in a neighborhood near Jones and Warm Springs. Leishman says Louie bonded when meeting Strickland’s toddler. This increased their level of comfort, as did the “Rover Guarantee”. According to the website, it covers $25,000 in vet bills and offers 24/7 assistance if anything happens to the animal while it’s in its care.
“It just seemed like it would be a good situation for him,” Leishman said.
At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19, they dropped Louie off at Strickland’s and drove to California.
Not a day had passed before devastating news arrived via the Rover app.
“I got a text saying Rover is involved,” Jodi says. “That there had been a domestic fight at home and my dog had disappeared.”
Their immediate reaction?
“Pure horror,” says Leishman. “He’s in a neighborhood he’s never been to before. He’s only been home less than 12 hours.”
They called friends and family who immediately began looking for Louie, then cut their trip short to get home.
They’ve been looking for Louie ever since.
Ring’s video shared with 13 Investigates shows a breathless Strickland holding her daughter and knocking on a neighbor’s door at 4 a.m. on October 20:
Strickland: “Could you help us please?”
Neighbor: “What’s wrong?”
Strickland: “I live across the street. My boyfriend, he just… kicked my ass and took my phone. Please, I just need to call my parents or someone.”
13 Investigators got this arrest report from that night. Strickland told Metro that her boyfriend, Sergio Arturo, started knocking on a bedroom door and asked her to leave the house.
Fearing that Arturo “…went to Mexico with their daughter” and because she was harboring dogs, Strickland told police she refused to leave. That’s when she claims Arturo punched her in the face. He was arrested on two counts of domestic violence, including a felony. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to appear in a preliminary hearing in December.
The Leishmans later learned that Strickland herself had a criminal record.
“I was terrified. I felt terrible,” Leishman says. “I chose this person. I chose this person to guard our dog.”
Court records show Strickland was charged with child abuse and domestic assault after an incident in May.
“And if she hurt a child or a spouse, what would she do to a dog?” asks Leishman.
The Leishmans say Strickland’s profile, which has since been removed, showed she had been a Rover babysitter for several years.
Rover says it, “…requires every pet care provider to pass a criminal background check…a security quiz and have their profile reviewed…before being approved to list their services on the platform.” And they say we “proactively remove guardians, owners, and pets from the platform if we believe they pose a security risk.” A full statement from Rover is below.
But we learned that Rover was doing just that, the initial background check. They don’t double-check for crimes that might happen after the warden’s approval, like the one involving Strickland in May.
According to the police report that night, Subway officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at Strickland’s home. She told police she got mad at Arturo because he was “…noisily chewing his food…” When their argument turned physical, their daughter was hurt.
Strickland was arrested. The report says she admitted to scratching Arturo’s neck and said, “If I wanted to kick his ass, I would have put the kid down and kicked his ass, okay?”
Strickland’s child abuse charge was dismissed when she did not contest the domestic battery offense. She was given a suspended prison sentence, and if she stays out of trouble, the battery charge will also be thrown out. The case is ready for a status check in December.
Neither Strickland nor Arturo responded to our multiple requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the Leishmans continue to search using an infrared camera, saturating social media with posts and plastering flyers in local neighborhoods.
“I think we’re at 1,400 flyers now,” says Leishman’s husband, Mike.
The Leishmans remain hopeful they can still locate Louie.
Rover would not provide anyone for an on-camera interview. They provided this statement instead;
“As pet parents ourselves, we join Louie’s family in the hope that he is quickly found and safely reunited with those who love him. This is a very unusual situation and we take it very seriously. As soon as we were notified of Louie’s disappearance, our 24/7 Trust and Safety team immediately took action to help bring him home, including sponsoring a $500 reward $, paying for hundreds of flyers and posting to online animal search forums that send alerts to local shelters and veterinarians, and family a full refund.
Security [rover.com] pets and people in the Rover community is a top priority for our team. We require every pet care provider to pass a criminal background check [rover.com] provided by an industry-leading third party, in addition to passing a security quiz and having their profile reviewed by our team before being approved to list their services on the platform. Our Trust and Safety team is available around the clock to help pet care providers and pet parents, and every booking made through the platform is backed by the rover.com Rover Guarantee.
For more context, the vast majority of bookings on the Rover platform go exactly as planned. Over 149,000 services have been booked in the Las Vegas area, with over 97% of reviewed stays receiving 5 stars.”
The Leishmans say there needs to be more surveillance.
“What if I can save a family from going through this,” says Jodie. “It’s my aim.”
Louie’s story is not an isolated incident. Our investigation continues Friday with a review of other issues involving local Rover sitters and a national push for accountability and oversight of the pet sitting industry.
As for Louie, the Leishmans warn against chasing him. Try to sit on the ground so you don’t be a threat and try to take a picture. Call the Leishmans at (801) 361-5691 with your location.