Viral photo of dog hanging from harness leads to threats against business owner
 

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A viral photo taken at a New Hanover County dog grooming business has led to investigations by the New Hanover County Animal Services Unit and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office.

The photo shows a dog hanging from a leash.

Now a business owner also in the photo is telling her side of the story, which she said is more than it may seem at first glance.

As far as we know the dog is still alive and well, but a picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. In this case those words have come in the form of angry calls from all over the country and Canada even in the form of death threats.

But the woman in the picture says it is not what it looks like.

The photo led to phones ringing off the hook today at Olga's Dog Spa off Market St.

"If I saw someone post a photo on Facebook I would feel the same way, but the fact that the way it was posted and who posted it," said employee Misty Johnson.

Tim Suggs, a former employee of Olga's, posted the photo of a dog hanging from its leash to his Facebook page. Suggs was fired this week after shop owner Olga Littleton says she caught him stealing.

"I think it is sabotage," Littleton said of the photo.

Littleton says the now infamous picture being passed around the country was taken five years ago. She says it was Suggs who hung the dog.

"I think it was a silly prank, and I think he thought it was funny," Littleton said. "As soon as I saw it I reprimanded him."

Johnson remembers the incident as well.

"As soon as she turned around and saw it, she was like, 'Take that dog down. What are you doing?'" Johnson said.

Littleton is retiring in less than a month after running the business for 15 years.

"I think he did it to make her feel like she is leaving with her head hung down because Olga has her pride," Johnson said.

But that pride has taken a hit after all the backlash.

"I feel like I let a lot of people down," Littleton said. "I had a voice. I had a platform, and I feel like I could have used it better."

Now she's left picking up the pieces, yet still able to forgive.

"I have always forgiven (Suggs) in the past," Littleton said. "I would forgive him again. I love him to death, but I feel like there has just been a death. Something has died. Something is broken. It can never be repaired."

Littleton says she understands people are going to look at her differently, but she hopes she can gain the community's, and now the country's, trust again.

Despite some negative online review of her business, animal control says there have never been any complaints of animal neglect or abuse at Olga's Dog Spa.

Suggs, who has pending drug charges in Brunswick County, could not be reached for comment.

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People really need to get a grip on reality. Why are most people here freaking out over a dog, yet the true criminals who just got arrested for sex crimes with a child, not much to say? I bet if a dog was involved, most of you would go ape sh@t and calling for execution by a firing squad. Geez, what a shame.

I have taken my dog to Olga's since he was a puppy, over 4 years ago.
She has always been a kind and caring person who loves animals. I just dont believe she is capable of dog abuse. When I drive up to her business my dog cant wait to get out of the car to get inside. The photo is absolutely horrible but I believe Olga when she says she corrected the situation as soon as she saw it. The fact that the person who put the dog in that position is the same person who took the picture and posted it online was recently fired speaks for itself. Olga's should have fired him on the spot but she gave him another chance and look what he is trying to do to her. It is just wrong and unfair.

I have one question for you, did you stay with your dog all the time it was there? If not you can't possibly know how your dog was treated since it can't talk. A picture says a thousand words. If this was an employee and she caught him doing this why was he not fired on the spot if she loves dogs that much. I know I would have kicked his a-- out of the building so fast his head would swim. How is it the dog hung there long enough for a picture to be taken. Sounds more to me like the owner is trying to cover up.

All is not what it seems to be! We have known Olga in the context of grooming our pets for over 9 years. Anyone who would groom a dog who bites her every time he gets a hair cut can't be all bad. Our Westie was always her last cut of the day when he went because she knew he was going to bite her. We couldn't bring him anywhere else because of this and I wouldn't have wanted to any way. Olga always treated him kindly and even when he was dying of cancer she made accomodations for him. Shame on all you people who go off half cocked about someone you know nothing about. Olga has had as many as 20 dogs that belong to her at one time. She speaks lovingly of all of them. She may not be a people person all the time, but in lots of instances animals are far more forgiving than people. This woman has devoted her whole life and career to doing things for animals and to malign her in this way is a travesty! I would trust her with any pet I ever owned and will not trash her because of some druggie who worked for her just trying to do something to spite her for firing him. People should get all the facts before stoning a person to death!

This sickens me........Rather the dog is in a collar or body harness it should never be lifted into the air. If this happens in fronts of others what goes on behind the closed doors out of eye shot.

I really don't think Olga had anything to do with hanging the dog. However, when she did not fire the individual responsible for the incident immediately, it tells me that she condones such activity, knowing that it could happen again. Anyone who would do something like this is obviously mentally unstable and not the type person that should be left alone with anything or anyone who might fall victim to his pranks.

I am absolutely horrified seeing an animal treated like this. Olga has a duty of care and is operating in a position of trust. I am perplexed as to why she never alerted the Police if she was aware of this happening . Just sacking an employee for something this extreme seems a little light handed. This gorgeous sausage dog could have died. I would of prosecuted and gone for some serious time. Psychopaths all have their beginnings....

The way that the article puts it, she reprimanded him for that, she didn't fire him. They claim that it was 5 years ago and that he is bringing it back up to get back at her. So, from what I gather, she let an employee do that, gave him a slap on the wrist, then let him work there for more than 5 years. She also said that she is not angry at the employee and will always love that scumbag employee who did that to a dog and stole from her (the reason he got fired). The owner is weaakkk when it comes to laying down the law, which in my eyes makes her a terrible person to run a business and manage people. Imagine that was your dog, and she let the guy off with a warning. I would want him under the prison.

...the pure "Mob Mentality" and the resulting "Witch Hunt" punishment. I love animals as much as anyone on here and certainly will not tolerate animal cruelty, but Dahaaayummm people! Lighten the hell up on this lady and her business and take care of your own for a change! Geeez, I can't remember when I've last seen such mephitic statements of hatred and judgement.

Three posts in ten days all including "mephitic"?

Looks like someone's been trying out a new word they just learned. :-)

This isn't mob mentality. Mob mentality suggests going against someone based on hear say with no proof. A picture is worth a thousand words. She allowed him to work for her for five more years after the fact? Something is clearly wrong with this woman.

People have said she didn't know, it was done while her back was turned. Please tell me how do you hang a dog up 8ft in the air that would take a least 5 minutes to do and nobody was aware. Hello she new what was going on and did nothing to prevent it. This is not acceptable and they have got away with it for too long

I appreciate you showing Olga's side of this story as well as covering the hanging dog side of the story. Every story has two sides and this is good journalism. As one who writes and publishes a bit myself, I noticed this first. As far as Olga and the dog ... not sure what's happening here, but NO dog should be left hanging like that by either Olga or a degruntled former employee. Those grooming harnesses are meant to restrain a dog from biting the groomer and used only on a grooming table. I hope they get this sad mess straightened out. Bad press about animal abuse can be devastating to a business who earns it's keep from proving animal services!

Lynn

WOW sure are alot of stones being tossed at Olga. Your negative comments are rude and ignorant. I am very active in training and the rescue of canines. The harness is made to support the dogs weight. Its like a harness you would wear to climb with or hook to when you ride the large swing ride in Myrtle Beach. It would not hurt unless it wasnt put on proper. The dog actually looks like he is wagging his tail and calm... Not tucked and scared. The only one that has a right to complain would be the dogs owner. There is no animal cruelty being commited here. Leasing your dog with a collar is worst than this. The harness doesnt choke him when force is applied. I wouldnt be surprised if the man whi posted this picture is sued or even charged for posting this picture for the purpose of ruining Olga. P.S. Google swinging dogs....

You are a dog trainer AND do rescue AND you feel there is nothing wrong with this?!?! Wow, i truely hope you are joking. As a REAL dog trainer i can say you are wrong about the fact the dog was safe and in no discomfort. And to say it is like anykind of human climbing harness is FALSE! All of that dogs body mass is now being supported by his front legsanshoulders, this breed suffers from spinal and joint issues in most dogs you RUBE! Please educate your self before posting something so outlandish. A harness can do as much dammage to a dog as a collar, if not used in the correct mannor. God help your clients.

I'd like to know where you are active in training and the rescue of canines? I would never want my canine around you. If you really think this isn't abuse, you are a complete idiot. The picture clearly shows the dog is scared.

The picture does NOT clearly show the dog is scared.

A picture of a hanging dog, is just that...a dog that is hanging! How can ANYONE say that it "isn't what it looks like"?!? I am just OUTRAGED! How would any of these people at this establishment like to be hung and when a picture is taken of them, told that..."It really wasn't like it looked"! I hope they get shut down!

I have known Olga for a long time. She loves animals and helped many abandon and abused dogs. Those of you who condemn her without really knowing her should be ashamed. I know she would not knowingly let anything happen. To one of her clients dogs.

The owner is in the pic and doesn't look disturbed by this cruel act. She should be held accountable for what happens while dogs are under her care and charges should be pressed against her. She is a liar. She obviously knew what was going on and condoned it. So she eventually fired the person who did this but she didn't report him because she really didn't care. Karma is a b!¥€#, I hope she gets what's coming to her.

Olga why are you smirking in the photo if you were against it and reprimanded Suggs who supposedly hung the dog?

Where are pictures of Timmy the doggie dangler? Druggie, liar, thief, animal abuser and all-round loser. Coward too for not owning up. He must be proud of his actions...I'm sure his friends and family are.

I see all of this hate directed at the lady that owns the place and yet this loser is getting a pass. Why?

Absolutely sick to my stomach - it makes me worry about leaving my dog anywhere with anyone now!
The fact that someone could not care enough to report that when they saw it is wrong. He should have been arrested five years ago that moment. She shouldn't be around animals if this is what she allowed to happen. I know I look at my dog like my baby, I would sew if that was my dog

This man Tim Suggs should have been fired on the spot. The owner should be forced to close down and never be able to work with animals again. I can not believe some people try to justify this, it makes my blood boil. Hanging a dog by collar, harness, or any means is not a joking matter. This is disheartening that people would do such cruel things. This poor dog cant fend for himself we have to!!!!

The fact that this photo was taken 5 years ago does not excuse anyone. Having known that the employee did this AND took a photo is more than enough reason to fire him then. What else has he done in the last 5 years that she may or may not know about. What does the owner of the dog think of this? If I saw my dog hanging by a harness or not, I would be contacting law enforcement. This is not acceptable or excusable for anyone.

Olga's Dog Spa needs to be closed and Olga Littleton and Tim Suggs arrested !!!!!!!!!!!!!

This Woman is a LIAR she allowed this guy to continue to work in HER SHOP since this photo and abuse occurred 5 YEARS AGO WTH??? She is a sick person who has no business being around any type of animals , she needs to be shutdown and never allowed to run any animal related business ever again !!!!!!! She is pushing the blame off on someone when again it was HER SHOP, HE WAS HER EMPOLYEE SO SHE IS RESPONSIBLE AND SHE DID NOTHING TO THIS MAN UNTIL HE STOLE MONEY FROM HER !!!!!!!!!

I do know this woman and her staff. She has always posed to me to be a bit bipolar. she does treat her employees like poo. She has no sole. This woman need to be put out of business and never allowed to Owen another pet for the rest of her life. She needs to seek out medical help!

if she seriously saw her help hang the dog why would she reprimand him and not fire him if i had a business and someone did this they would have been fired and reported immediately even if it was not her she failed to protect her clients pets and kept him as an employee for 5 more years she is equally as responsible or if she did it she is fully responsible
This story has made it to western colorado and should be fully investigated thank you news 3 for putting this out there

Owner should have reported the incident to the police and then fired the employee after finding the dog hanging 5 years ago! Who knows what else went on.