When Des Hague, the CEO of sports catering company Centerplate, kicked and choked a Doberman pinscher puppy on an elevator in Vancouver, British Columbia, in early August, he thought no one was looking. However, Hague forgot a basic rule of modern life: Big Brother is always watching. The elevator’s cameras captured the horrifying animal abuse, and the footage was leaked to the public last week. Now animal activists are pressuring the $6 billion sports catering company to fire Hague or face a boycott.
Hague was staying at The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia in Vancouver. The scenes in the video above of the puppy named Sade cowering in terror while it’s being mistreated are sickening. As a result, the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took charge of the animal.
In a statement released through his attorney, Hague blamed his abusive behavior on his annoyance with the dog.
“I am ashamed and deeply embarrassed a minor frustration with a friend’s pet caused me to lose control of my emotional response,” wrote Hague. “I would like to extend my apology to my family, company, and clients, as I understand that this has also reflected negatively on them.”
An investigation by the British Columbia SPCA found that the dog belongs to Hague. “The way she behaves certainly gives the indication of fearfulness, and that indicates she has received this treatment before,” Lorie Chortyk, a spokeswoman for the animal welfare organization said in a statement, according to WNDU.
The Connecticut-based company that Hague heads up provides concessions for a slew of sports and entertainment complexes, including football powerhouse Notre Dame, the new Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, and the Superdome in New Orleans.
Centerplate’s board of directors released a statement on Wednesday, writing that “the company finds Mr. Hague’s personal behavior unacceptable and outside the bounds of our high standards and expectations of all of our staff. We do not condone nor can we overlook the mistreatment of animals and Mr. Hague’s personal misconduct.”
The company said that it is putting Hague on probation, and “as a condition of his continued employment with Centerplate, Mr. Hague will personally donate $100,000.00 USD, which will be donated toward the establishment of the Sade Foundation in honor of the dog he mistreated in the elevator to help support the protection and safety of animals in the city of Vancouver, where the incident occurred.” The company is also “requiring Mr. Hague to serve 1,000 hours of community service in support of an organization that serves to protect the welfare and safety of animals.”
A Change.org petition started by Vancouver resident Erica Perry on Wednesday is calling for Centerplate to fire Hague. It has garnered nearly 50,000 signatures as of this writing.
Perry takes Hague’s apology to task. “He doesn't even call ‘the animal’ by name, and instead focuses on how embarrassed he is to have been caught,” she wrote. Perry’s also not buying Centerplate’s assertion that Hague’s behavior is a personal issue.
“When a corporate CEO is seen on-camera abusing a dog, that is not a ‘personal matter.’ People who are violent to animals often do not stop there,” wrote Perry.
“If they don’t fire him—and that would make them complicit in his actions—perhaps a boycott of the venues that Centerplate caters to would be effective in making them reevaluate their stance,” wrote petition signee Cliff Lawson.
On Thursday, even MTV star Pauly D tweeted the petition to his 4.4 million followers. “PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION & HELP GET JUSTICE FOR THE DOG THAT WAS BEATEN BY #DesHague CEO OF @centerplate,” he wrote.
The calls for Hague’s firing and a boycott of Centerplate have popped up elsewhere across social media.
“Never buying food at the game again, as long as Centerplate has dog abusing Hague as CEO. I'll bring my own food in from here on out,” wrote Yelp user Katharine F. on the page for AT&T Park in San Francisco.