“I had a cat up for adoption a long time … an employee reached out to a previous client from a hospital she worked at, the person came in, interviewed with me … and she was odd, but pet people are odd. I’m not going to hold that against somebody. I approved the adoption. Unfortunately my employee (misstated) there was no adoption fee … (the new owner) ended up paying me the adoption fee, was disgruntled about it, ended up going to her previous veterinary hospital. The vet there padded the medical bill, charged her for unnecessary things, and diagnosed the cat with a non-existent ear infection … she came back to me wanting her adoption fee back, the long and short is, I didn’t adopt out an unhealthy cat. I had her bring the cat back.”
The woman became belligerent and threatening, Jennifer says. A re-examination showed there was nothing wrong with the cat, despite the owner’s claims. Jennifer says she began to worry about the cat’s safety.
“There was a board-certified surgeon there with me (to verify). I was prepared, I had a check written for her to cover her adoption fee. I reimbursed her for everything she spent, and I kept the cat.”
Unfortunately, the woman was a “professional” blogger with more than a passing interest in SEO. And she was pissed. She wrote her strange version of events, posted it to her personal blog, and got 85,000 hits that week.
And then all hell broke loose. Fake reviews appeared on the likes of Yelp and Google, with non-customers posting truly horrendous fake stories.
Jennifer: “I had people accuse me of taking their pets from the waiting room in the clinic and euthanizing their pets in the back … One of the reviews said her husband was deployed in the military, she brought (her cat) in for basic checkup, and we euthanized it.” None of it was true, but “I was personally getting threats, getting threats against my family, my home, against my pets, against my employees.”
Jennifer’s husband confirmed: “They posted our home address online, we had people driving by honking horns, throwing trash … we got reviews from all over Europe, Australia, coming in by the dozen … We had a guy from Iceland saying ‘Burn it to the foundation!'”
The day after the post went live, Jennifer took her 40-minute commute to work, where a staff member told her that someone had called in, threatening to go to her house and hurt her pets.
“I had to call the police. Luckily I had great neighbors — they sat in my driveway until the police got there … I was terrified. More for my pets than anything else. We lived in a two-story home, and for about six months I had (my rescue dogs and cats) living on the second story, contained,” in case someone attempted to throw something through a ground-floor window. “We bought an alarm system. I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t listen to the radio. One of my biggest pastimes: I love to read People magazine. I just couldn’t do it. I just associated it with the news.”
Jennifer lawyered up — her attorney had also represented former presidential candidate John Edwards, so he knew a thing or two about damage control.
“We probably spent (about) $30,000. Our attorney squashed the story, and the story never really went out there.”
She adds: “I will say after that happened, I lost a lot of gumption. One of the things we talked about with the attorney is that the online damage to our practice was not measurable; there was no way to go back and see how many people saw this.”