OMG is this how all PetSmarts work?!? Someone needs to investigate!
Four employees at a PetSmart in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are being charged with animal cruelty, as well as other crimes, after the death of a poodle in their custody late last year. And from the sound of it, this may be what they were doing to every dog.
The poor victim was an 11-year-old toy poodle named Kobe. His owner, NFL sideline reporter A.J. Ross, brought him in on November 17 for a simple nail trim. It was the last time she’d ever see her good boy alive.
Speaking to People about the terrifying incident, she recalled:
“When I brought him in, I asked if I could stay, because he was just the type of dog that he liked to see where I was at all times. They told me because of COVID I couldn’t stay in the grooming area.”
So, Ross says, she walked to a Walgreens in the area and came back just a few minutes later. That’s when she heard it over the intercom: a request for a manager to come back into the grooming area.
Eventually the manager came out and led Ross into the back. There she saw her beloved poodle “motionless on the grooming table”:
“He looked lifeless. He didn’t even look like he was breathing.”
Ross was told Kobe fainted during the nail trimming. She rushed him to the animal hospital, but they were unable to resuscitate him. He was gone. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
She may be a sports reporter, but A.J. Ross is a reporter, dammit. After a few weeks she was able to view the surveillance footage — and what she describes sounds like some kind of medieval torture device.
“They used two separate leashes. One is directly above the grooming table at a vertical angle, and the other leash was horizontal. So he’s tethered in two different directions. They begin to clip his nails, and there’s two of them and they’re lifting him up in a way that he can’t put his paws down on the table at all.”
Ugh, it sounds like the poor thing was being hanged. That’s exactly what Ross thought:
“He has no stability so he’s hanging by his neck and he starts to writhe and twist in pain because he can’t get any air, and they’re not paying him any attention. They just keep on going… It’s horrific to watch and he goes limp. They never put his feet down until after he goes limp.”
Ross contacted the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh. Their investigation, led by Dr. Arielle Samson, concluded Kobe’s neck was probably hyperextended by the dual leashes pulling in opposite directions.
The authorities agreed. Animal control officer Angela Fry wrote in her criminal complaint that she viewed the footage and saw “exactly what Ross had described.” Not only that, she agreed with Samson’s assessment:
“Dr. Samson stated that the hyperextension of the neck as well as the lack of contact between Kobe’s paws and the grooming table led to Kobe’s airways being crushed which resulted in his death.”
In a statement to People, PetSmart itself took no responsibility, saying the employees did not follow their “pet safety” guidelines:
“We are heartbroken and truly sorry for the loss of Kobe. After this terrible accident, we launched an internal investigation and found unintended failure to adhere to our pet safety processes. Additionally, we cooperated with an external investigation, terminated the responsible associates and facilitated an autopsy to help provide answers.”
That autopsy found no definitive cause of death, but it noted they did not find “bruising/hemorrhaging in the neck tissues” common with strangulation and while “strangulation cannot be completely ruled out” that “makes it less likely.”
We have no idea if the lack of precise cause of death will affect the case, but it certainly seems clear to us what was happening to that poor dog is the reason it died. And we absolutely will think twice before bringing a pet to get groomed at PetSmart ever again.
The (now former) employees in question, Julie Miller, Shaphan Stonge, Elizabeth Doty, and Heather Rowe, await their preliminary criminal hearing in October. We will be very curious to see what they have to say — like if this was how ALL pets are treated behind closed doors…
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