This Wasn’t the First Dog Rescued from an Elevator Tragedy

Johnny Mathis rescues dog with leash caught in elevator doors

Johnny Mathis (the Houston welder/hero, not the famous singer) was in the right place at the right time on Monday. He had stepped out of an elevator on the ground floor of his apartment complex when he saw what could have been the last terrifying moments of a Pomeranian’s life.

As Mathis stopped to admire the little dog, the Pomeranian’s owner went into the elevator. The doors closed before the dog, on a long, retractable leash behind her, could join her.

Realizing that the little dog would be strangled when the elevator car began rising, Mathis immediately took action. His heroic deed was captured by a security camera.

As the woman screamed inside the elevator car, Mathis tried to break the dog’s leash by leaning on it with all of his weight, he told NBC News, but that didn’t work.

“Instinct just kicked in, I just grabbed that leash,” he told CNN. “There was so much fur, that’s why it took me a bit to get that lever off of the collar and when I did, I let go, you could see that leash just shoot off to the top of the elevator.”

The distraught woman returned to the ground floor, assuming her dog was dead. When the elevator doors opened, Mathis told NBC News she was laying on the floor, sobbing.

“I think she just said, ‘Thank you,’ and we hugged, but she was just so overcome with emotion,” Mathis told CNN.

The dog’s owner has received a lot of backlash in response to this scary incident, but Mathis said he felt bad for her. “We’re all human, things happen like that,” he told NBC News. “It just takes a second for your attention to not be there.”

Mathis is right that “things happen like that.” Other dogs have nearly died when the elevator doors closed on their leashes. Those incidents were also captured on security video.

In 2016, Ben Duke, a hotel manager in South Carolina, saved the life of a dog named Boo Boo. After the dog’s owner stepped into an elevator at the Roadway Inn in Greenville, the doors closed on Boo Boo’s leash. “Everybody is calling me a hero, but I can’t imagine the other outcome,” Duke told WYFF. “I just did what you are supposed to do in this situation.”

That same year, a dog in an apartment complex in Springfield, Mo., was rescued from a similar fate when elevator doors closed on his retractable leash. Apartment manager Brian Ussery was able to save the dog’s life by breaking the leash. “I would hate to know what would have happened if I wasn’t able to break that leash before she got to the top again,” Usery wrote on his Facebook page.

In 2013, a Pug in Russia would have been killed if a bystander hadn’t quickly removed him from his leash.

It’s important to note that most of these incidents involved dogs on retractable leashes. Many veterinarians urge dog owners not to use this type of leash because, as in these cases, they allow your dog to get too far away from you. You or your dog can also easily get tangled in the leash, leading to injuries including amputations.

Keeping Your Dog Safe in Elevators

Elevators are generally safe for your dog if you take these precautions recommended by KONE, a global leader in the elevator industry.

  • When you get on and off the elevator, keep your dog right beside you on a short leash, gripping it tightly.
  • Do not push a floor button until your dog and his leash are completely inside the elevator.
  • Stay in the rear of the elevator, with your dog sitting beside you.
  • It’s also a good idea to check to see where the emergency buttons to stop the elevator and open the doors are located.

“If an emergency does occur, act fast,” KONE advises. “If there is a danger of choking, release the dog from its collar as quickly as possible. If the dog is alone in the elevator and its leash is caught between the doors, push the call button immediately. If the elevator car is already in motion, let go of the leash.”

Call the service number of the maintenance company for the elevator. “Remember to stay calm – help is on the way,” KONE says.

Escalators can also be dangerous for dogs. Here’s a reason why you shouldn’t take your dog on escalators.

Photo: @Johnnayyeee/Twitter

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!