Dog Allegedly Dies Suddenly After Petco Grooming—Don’t Let Your Companion Be Next

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Big-box pet store chains like PetSmart and Petco have a long laundry list of incidents involving animals who have been traumatized, allowed to escape, severely injured, and even killed in their grooming salons. Dogs like July and Coco:

Main Image for Ongoing List of PetSmart and Petco Grooming Injuries and Deaths

These giant corporations deal in volume. The animals they sell come from cruel mass-breeding mills, where they’re crammed into crowded bins; deprived of food, water, and veterinary care; and killed by being bashed against tables or gassed in coolers. The grooming businesses shove animals through quickly and often carelessly. The boarding facilities, like PetSmart’s PetsHotel, are just as bad. Many dogs and other animals have become ill or died, often from neglect, after being left at one of these boarding businesses.

Don’t trust just anyone with your animal’s life. Click here for tips on finding a reputable groomer.

Profit is their priority, and as a result, countless animals have strangled after being left unattended on grooming tables; overheated in cage dryers; been badly cut on the ears by clippers; and been screamed at, roughly handled, punched, kicked, and strangled by frustrated, impatient, and abusive groomers at these chains’ stores. An investigation conducted by NJ Advance Media confirmed these disturbing findings after examining the suspicious deaths of 47 dogs who died during or shortly after PetSmart grooming appointments between 2008 and 2018. The investigation uncovered “secret agreements,” poor training, and pressure put on employees to meet sales quotas.

Click here to read NJ Advance Media’s full report.

Let the heartbreaking stories below serve as reminders that companionship is not something that can be capitalized upon and that these corporations have no regard for animals’ lives, in either their store windows or grooming salons.


While PETA has been alerted to countless other incidents and many have gone unreported, here are just some of the many animals whose suffering and deaths in PetSmart and Petco grooming salons and boarding facilities have made the news:

March 2024

A family in Houston is mourning the death of their companion Zeus, after the dog’s reported rapid decline following a grooming appointment at Petco.

According to FOX 26 Houston, Zeus was taken to Petco for a 40-minute bath and nail trim, but after the service, he began struggling to breathe. His condition rapidly deteriorated rapidly afterwards. His family took him to an emergency veterinary clinic, where he was pronounced dead with an extremely high temperature. It was reportedly speculated that Zeus may have become overheated after being put in a kennel dryer during his appointment, leading to his sudden death.

Apparently, Petco has yet to even show Zeus’ heartbroken family its video footage of the appointment.

“I hope and pray that I get an answer and that someone can be honest enough to tell me what happened or just show me footage for my peace of mind.”

—Karess Sydnor, in an interview with FOX 26 Houston

June 2022

According to reports, One Reynoldsburg, Ohio, family is mourning and looking for answers after they say they found their dog—a 2-year-old beagle named Awet—dead on a local road hours after leaving him alive at a nearby PetSmart for a grooming session.

Awet’s owner, Selamawit Tewolde, told a local NBC affiliate that she had gotten a call from PetSmart telling her that Awet would be ready for pick-up in 20 minutes—but when she arrived, she discovered that he was no longer in the store and had apparently been given to someone else.

She said a social media search later led to the discovery of Awet on a road 2 miles away from the PetSmart store. He was injured and did not survive.

An investigation is reportedly ongoing, but it’s currently unclear why PetSmart employees would have allowed Awet to leave the store with someone other than his family—a move that apparently cost the dog his life.

“He’s a smart dog. Brave. Loyal. He’s family. We loved him with all of our heart. … This has been a very traumatic event for me. … [T]here’s no words to describe this. Literally no words at all.”

Awet’s guardian, Selamawit Tewolde

January 2021

On January 18, William and Elma Hall reportedly took their 3-year-old dog named Max to a Venice, Florida, Petco store for what they thought would be a routine grooming session. The appointment turned out to be Max and the Halls’ worst nightmare come true.

Petco Groomer Allegedly Kills Dog Named Max
Max, pictured here prior to his Petco grooming session, was reportedly a well-cared-for 3-year-old dog with no underlying health conditions.

In a lawsuit that the Halls filed against Petco Animal Supplies Stores, Inc., the guardians are contending that a Petco groomer placed Max “in what appeared to be a tight harness that was too small for the size of his neck . . . a Groomer’s Helper which is a noose apparatus.” According to the lawsuit, when Elma asked the employee whether the harness was safe for Max, the groomer “firmly asserted that the harness was the proper harness for Max.” But when Max “became restless and began to move,” the groomer began “wrestling” him and even asked other employees to assist. The initial groomer “and other employees wrestled Max for over five minutes during which time he fell and was moved around while his neck remained in a fixed position.” Eventually, “Max collapsed on the grooming table unconscious.” Petco staff put his unconscious and possibly lifeless body in a crate and took him to an animal hospital in another city, according to the Halls’ lawsuit, even though Max’s own veterinarian’s office was in the same city.

Petco Groomer Allegedly Kills Dog Named Max
Following a Petco grooming session, Max was apparently dead.

Petco staff allegedly refused to tell Elma what had happened to Max. Only when William contacted the store and indicated that he’d be notifying law enforcement did Petco finally inform Max’s guardian that the dog was being transported to an animal hospital for “injuries.” “Despite said disclosure, Petco, without any justification, refused to disclose what happened to Max and the condition he was in,” the lawsuit says. The guardians “were deprived of all ability to make medical decisions for Max due to the refusal of Venice Petco employees to provide them with information about Max,” including whether a necropsy would be performed—Petco’s alleged decisions and actions ensured that the Halls would never get such confirmation or closure.

The Halls contacted PETA, wanting to share their story and warn guardians to stay far away from Petco and its dreadful grooming centers.

Had the Halls been aware of countless past Petco grooming injuries and deaths—including the slew of incidents detailed below—they never would have frequented the chain. They love Max—he was part of the family. Please, don’t let your beloved family member be Petco’s next casualty. Learn how to groom your dog safely at home, and click below to help PETA and the Halls spread the word:

November 2020

Update (July 28, 2022): A civil lawsuit has been filed against PetSmart for the death of Kobe, the dog companion of A.J. Ross, a sports reporter for CBS.

Ross posted the gruesome surveillance footage on TikTok, and it appears to show Kobe’s alleged killers asphyxiating him with two tethers around his neck while he’s wearing a muzzle. One worker seems to pull him back while he struggles to breathe, desperately moving his head and neck to escape.

(Content warning: animal death)

When A.J. Ross dropped off her dog, named Kobe, at a PetSmart store in Pittsburgh on November 17, 2020, for what should have been a routine nail trim, she never imagined that she’d return to find his lifeless body on the grooming table. “The last thing on my mind was this would be a death sentence,” she said. Ross has shared her story in the hope that it’ll force the chain to overhaul its scandal-ridden grooming practices: “There are no specific standards, and anyone can just wake up one day and do a six-hour online course and have your pet’s life in their hands,” she told NJ Advance Media. “There should be more accountability and oversight.” And she’s already moving the needle: On May 5, 2021, four PetSmart employees were charged with felony cruelty to animals.

October 2020

Please continue to share Simon’s story and never groom your pets at [a PetSmart] facility. We would not want to see your pet suffer.” That’s the message a dog’s guardian had for her Instagram followers after visiting a PetSmart grooming salon. According to her, Simon the dog developed a skin infection after being groomed at one of the chain’s salons.

The woman took to Instagram to tell others that PetSmart staff apparently “did not want to see [the dog] immediately even after showing them the bad situation [S]imon was in.” So she took the pup to his veterinarian, who allegedly confirmed that “it was not [allergies, that] it was an actual infection he got from being [g]roomed.”

We have learned that [grooming] a pet could be very dangerous if they do not carefully sanitize equipment and [common] areas,” she continued in the Instagram post.

It breaks our hearts to see this big company not [caring] for pets in a situation like the one [S]imon had to be in,” the guardian wrote, announcing that she’d no longer be a PetSmart customer.

Don’t find yourself in Simon’s guardian’s shoes—learn how to groom your dog safely at home!

July 2020

On July 23, 2019, Sherrilyn Miller took her dog, Winter, to a PetSmart store in San Leandro, California, for a grooming appointment. For an extra $3, Miller opted to have bows put on the dog’s ears. The next morning, as reported by The Mercury News following an interview with Miller, Winter appeared lethargic—her ears “looked like black coal” and were leaking fluid. To Miller’s “shock and horror,” she discovered that the PetSmart employee had wound rubber bands tightly around the ears to secure the bows, cutting off circulation. Emergency surgery apparently saved the dog’s ears—and her life. She reportedly would have lost her ears within a few hours and would have been dead within a day had Miller not rushed her to a veterinarian.

PetSmart reportedly admitted that the employee had undergone “expedited” training. Now, Miller is suing PetSmart over the incident—she says that Winter is traumatized and Miller fears that unless PetSmart makes serious changes, it’s a matter of when, not if, this will happen to another dog.

“[T]his groomer’s actions, in particular, were so far below the standard of care in the industry that it is shocking,” said Alison Cordova, the attorney representing Miller, in a statement. “Imagine if a day care center sent your child home with rubber bands so tightly wound around their little ears that their ears had turned black and hard and were dripping liquid. That is what happened here, but with Sherrilyn’s dog.”

Don’t make the same mistake that all the guardians below now regret! Discover how to groom your dog properly at home.

January 2020

Minni’s guardian wanted to get the spunky 2-year-old pup a bath and a nail trim. Just 13 minutes later, Minni apparently became the latest victim to die at a PetSmart grooming appointment.

Just a few days after Christmas, Vikki Seifert took Minni to a Las Vegas PetSmart for a 6:30 p.m. appointment, browsing while she waited. But then Seifert saw employees running toward the grooming area. “I ran in there,” she told news outlets. “When I went in, she was crushed under a grooming table. They said that they had listened for her heartbeat and she was gone.”

Confused and brokenhearted, Seifert says that no one could tell her what had happened. “They told me my dog was dead by 6:43 p.m.,” Seifert reported. “What were these two groomers doing? … How does a dog go in for a bath and get crushed in 13 minutes?”

This tragedy and the many others like it are one reason why PETA urges guardians not to support PetSmart and Petco stores. Our eyewitnesses have also documented pervasive abuse of the smaller species sold there, both at the stores and at the breeding mills from which they’re purchased and shipped.

November 2019

What should’ve been a routine grooming session at Petco turned deadly for a young dog named Dali. Unsurprisingly, Petco employees are remaining tight-lipped about what went down.

On November 5, Mafang Yao took her canine companion, Dali, to her local Santa Clara, California, Petco grooming center. According to Yao, Dali was “active, healthy and hyper” when she dropped him off—he even played with another dog he met in the store. But when she returned an hour later, she was told that Dali had experienced breathing issues and had been rushed to Silicon Valley Pet Clinic. According to medical records, he was admitted to the clinic because he was “stressed” and “panting and lethargic after grooming.” A veterinarian reportedly told Yao that X-rays showed fluid in the dog’s lungs. According to Yao, Petco is refusing to release any details about what happened to Dali while he was in the company’s care, despite its claims of having conducted “a thorough review” of what occurred in the grooming salon.

Petco grooming centers are death traps. Save your animal companion’s life—groom them at home instead. >>

In the same month, Angela Weeks thought she was taking her dog, Baylee, in for a routine haircut, but the trip to her local Cleveland, Tennessee, Petco groomer turned out to be anything but routine. Baylee was sporting two bows—an adornment for each ear—when Weeks picked her up from the appointment. Three days later, when she removed the bows from what she assumed would be Baylee’s fur, Weeks realized that the Petco groomer had tied one of them around the dog’s ear, not her fur. Baylee’s left ear was swollen from the lack of circulation and had to be amputated.

Petco reportedly admitted that Baylee’s groomer hadn’t followed protocol and had been let go. According to Weeks, the company also tried to offer her a $500 recompense. She said that a Petco official “kept wanting me to give him a number as to what I felt like this was worth and I said you know, I can’t tell you that.”

Unfortunately, Baylee’s injury is one of many that dogs have sustained at Petco and PetSmart grooming centers across the country. Please, don’t let your dog be next.

August 2019

A 4-year-old dog named Jelly is recovering from skull fractures and internal injuries that he sustained, allegedly from being abused by an employee of a PetSmart store in Daly City, California.

white dog, sad or neutral expression, american eskimo, featured

Workers who found the American Eskimo dog unresponsive in a kennel began reviewing security tapes and reportedly witnessed footage of an employee violently slamming him to the store’s concrete floor. Authorities have charged the employee with cruelty to animals, but he’s pleaded not guilty.

Unfortunately, Jelly’s story is just the latest of many reports and accusations against the company and its employees for abuse and neglect of animals. Please, don’t let your animal companion be next.

July 2019

In the latest saga in which PetSmart harms animals, a dog’s nose was cut open on July 30 at the Chester, Virginia, PetSmart grooming center.

When employees called the dog’s guardian, Victoria Lawhorne, to inform her of the incident, they reportedly said that the dog, Osito, “was moving a tiny bit too much and [they] accidentally cut his nose.” Lawhorne said, “A piece of his nose was kind of missing and open up and … you could see meat inside and blood.”

Although there are multiple veterinary clinics within a 10-minute radius of the PetSmart location where Osito had been injured, he was first transported to the Colonial Heights Banfield Pet Hospital, roughly 20 minutes away. Then he was transferred to Animal Medical Center in Midlothian, roughly 40 minutes from Banfield. PetSmart employees apparently told Lawhorne that they took him to the second location because the first one charges “an arm and a leg.” It took about six hours for Osito to be treated. “From 4:30 ’til about 10:30 … my dog was in the vet because they decided to shop from vet to vet because one was more expensive than the other, [and] that shouldn’t have happened,” Lawhorne lamented.

Earlier this month, Nikki Blakeney took her dog, Kobe, to a PetSmart grooming center in Charlotte, North Carolina. When she picked him up, she became concerned—according to reports, the dog’s left eye appeared irritated. “It was bloodshot,” she said.

Blakeney tried to ask PetSmart if shampoo had gotten into Kobe’s eye, but the store’s staff proceeded to do what they typically do: deny, deny, deny. When the dog’s condition didn’t improve but rather his eye shut completely, Blakeney had him examined. A veterinarian said that he had likely been cut under his cornea, according to the video above.

Kobe’s injury is one of many that dogs have sustained at PetSmart stores across the U.S.

We urge Blakeney and all other animal guardians not to visit PetSmart or Petco stores and to opt for at-home grooming instead.

May 2019

Darren Harris took his 10-month-old English bulldog, Enzo, to a PetSmart grooming salon in Pelham, New York. The animal was dead within an hour, reported on May 21.

Thirty minutes after Harris dropped Enzo off, PetSmart staff called him, urging him to “come quickly.” The dog had been transferred to the Banfield Pet Hospital inside the PetSmart store.

“He had lost so much oxygen he didn’t recognize me. He was slowly dying,” said Harris’ mother, Tabitha Harris. According to reports, a necropsy was never done, so Enzo’s cause of death can’t be known for certain. “[W]e trusted these people,” she lamented.

According to reports, the Harrises both said that they wouldn’t have taken Enzo to a PetSmart groomer had they known about the slew of injuries and deaths detailed below. So please, learn from these grieving guardians’ mistakes—never visit a PetSmart store.

Groom Fido at home instead.

April 2019

It’s been a week since 1-year-old pup Simba went missing from a Petco store in Hanover, Pennsylvania, during a grooming appointment. His guardian, Melissa Gray, told a news outlet, “I am furious. I keep going back and forth from crying to focusing on finding him, but you can’t help but be mad that this company that is supposed to take care of your dog—that you’re paying to take care of your dog—is the one that lost him.”

Gray dropped Simba off to be groomed on April 15, and just an hour later, the store called to tell her that he was gone. According to the store, he was able to get out of a kennel, “push through” a sliding door, jump over a latched half-door, push open the door to the grooming center, and escape through the store entrance.

Gray and her children, who adopted Simba on Valentine’s Day, are determinedly searching for him. They’re working with local news media and a lost-animal group called Find Toby.

4/23/19 REUNITED!!! We are so happy to report that Simba was safely trapped this afternoon!! Many thanks to those who…

Posted by FIND TOBY in PA on Monday, April 15, 2019

Update: After being lost for several days, thankfully Simba was found and reunited with his family.

March 2019

Police are investigating after a 1-year-old companion dog named Sarge died while being groomed at an Otsego County, New York, Petco store. According to the mom of Sarge’s guardian, he was healthy and alert prior to the appointment. According to a statement released by Petco corporate representatives, “protocols were not followed” during the dog’s routine bath and nail-trim appointment. The company’s solution? Offering to help his guardian “find a new pet.” Please, for your dog’s sake, never visit Petco.

Find out how to groom your canine companion at home.

February 2019

A family in Royal Oak, Michigan, has told news outlets that after their dog, Coco, sustained multiple cuts and scratches to her face during a grooming appointment at PetSmart, the store gave them different stories about what had happened to her.

JoAnn and her daughter Andrea—who asked reporters not to release their last name—said that not long after they had dropped Coco off to be groomed, they received a call from the store saying that she had been banging her head against a cage, causing open wounds, and that they should meet her at the vet’s office.

But then, according to the family, the story changed. In a follow-up conversation the next day, PetSmart reportedly said that Coco had fallen off a table and hurt herself. The women said that they doubt both stories. According to them, she would never repeatedly hit her head and hurt herself, and they think the injuries look like she was involved in a fight with another dog.

“I really believe, with all my heart, they’re lying,” said JoAnn.

“I just want them to realize what they’ve done wrong,” Andrea said, “and to try to prevent it from happening again.”

November 2018

An hour after guardian Tania Lara dropped off her small dog, Susie, for a grooming appointment at the PetSmart store in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, she received a worrisome call from a store employee. She rushed back to find Susie bleeding, crying, and unable to close her mouth. Employees had reportedly attempted to take her to the in-store veterinarian, but the vet was busy. So Lara rushed Susie to her vet, who said that the dog’s jaw was broken in two places. She had to be hospitalized and given a feeding tube, and she underwent surgery—for which Lara received a bill totaling about $4,500. When she tried to file a police report, she was told to file through PetSmart first. As of the time of this publication, she hadn’t yet heard from the company.

October 2018

A dog is dead and a woman is injured after a mastiff broke out of a cage at a PetSmart store on Chicago’s Southwest Side. The dog reportedly bit an employee’s arm and killed another dog in the grooming center. The incident is still under investigation, according to reports.

September 2018

Catherine Hess took her canine companion, Duchess, to the Belleville, Illinois, PetSmart earlier this month for a bath and a nail trim. But when she picked her up from the appointment, something wasn’t right. Hess said that Duchess’ breathing was labored, her tail was between her legs, and “it looked like they took a pair of clippers and just twisted off her toenails.” Hess took Duchess to the vet, where she was told that the dog’s bloodwork looked normal. But her condition worsened over the next day or two, so Hess took her to the vet again, where it was discovered that Duchess’ lungs had collapsed. Out of compassion and necessity, she was euthanized. Unsurprisingly, PetSmart is claiming no culpability.

Baboo—a 7-year-old shih tzu—reportedly sustained a broken jaw during a September 16 grooming appointment at the Clark, New Jersey, Petco. According to his guardian, Jennifer Fay Collins, prior to the appointment, he was in good health. But when she picked him up afterward, “something seemed off.” The groomer blamed it on the vaccinations that Baboo had received the day before. But subsequent X-rays revealed that he had sustained a fractured jaw and needed surgery. According to Collins, Petco staff are still refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Within the same month, Teddy—a Yorkshire terrier—was taken to a North Texas PetSmart for grooming. The dog, who was reportedly in good health, was said to have left his appointment subdued, weak, and with difficulty breathing. He was dead a few hours later. “I would like to tell anybody that may be taking their dogs up there [the Cedar Hill, Texas, PetSmart] just to be mindful because I didn’t know. Something is absolutely wrong,” said Tim Daffin, Teddy’s guardian.

Not even one week prior to this, a new investigation broke that was conducted by NJ Advance Media. It examined the suspicious deaths of 47 dogs (not counting Teddy) who died during or shortly after PetSmart grooming appointments. Just as PETA’s investigations have revealed in the past, this report shines a light on the pet store chain’s money-hungry practices and the heartbreaking fatalities they cause.

The 47 deaths that were investigated occurred between 2008 and now—and 32 of them since 2015. NJ Advance Media pointed out in its report that not all grooming-related deaths that occur at PetSmart are publicly reported—so the death toll since 2008 is likely much higher than 47.

“Our investigation finds secret agreements and allegations of inadequate training and intense pressure to grow profits inside the leading U.S. pet retailer,” NJ Advance Media reported.

PetSmart employees are reportedly pressured to groom more dogs in less time in order to maximize profits, resulting in fatal errors. According to the new report, PetSmart has attempted to buy the silence of some of these dogs’ guardians—offering them money if they agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement. But guardians are refusing to be silenced. Many shared their stories with NJ Advance Media, each one just as heartbreaking as the last.

Even PetSmart’s response to the investigation was telling—despite dozens of deaths, the company is claiming that there’s no “systemic problem” here.

Click here to read the full report, and keep reading to discover even more reasons why you should never take your animal companion to a PetSmart.

August 2018

A dog named Dozer died after visiting a Lynchburg, Virginia, PetSmart grooming salon. According to reports, the 7-year-old dog was dropped off at around 3:53 p.m. About 10 minutes later, his guardians got a call from PetSmart staff saying that he had collapsed. He was taken to an animal emergency clinic, where it was determined that he’d likely had a heart attack.

According to his guardian, Dozer was healthy prior to visiting PetSmart. Emergency animal veterinarian Jay Harper explained why these environments can be stressful enough to harm dogs.

“Usually there are lots of other dogs, it’s hot, it’s noisy. Lots of clippers and scissors. The big blow dryers they use are loud,” he said.

Flat-faced dogs such as English bulldogs (like Dozer) can be even more vulnerable. In brachycephalic syndrome, the short, broad skulls of certain breeds can create breathing problems because of shortened air passages. To minimize risks, guardians should avoid the stressful environments of grooming salons like those at PetSmart and Petco. Spas may be a relaxing place for humans, but they can be the opposite for our canine companions. Learn more about best grooming practices here.

In a separate August 2018 incident, Cynthia Beezer took July—her 4-year-old canine companion—to a PetSmart store in Compton, California, to be groomed. According to reports, July almost lost her tongue after a PetSmart groomer cut it “damn near off.” Beezer shared a photo of July in a now viral tweet, saying that the incident occurred while the fur around her face was being trimmed. Of course, PetSmart is blaming the dog, saying that she stuck her tongue out just as the groomer was trimming her face. But according to Beezer, July’s tongue naturally always hangs out of her mouth—she said the “unique” trait is even one of the reasons she first noticed her. She called the incident an act of negligence and said that PetSmart groomers should be better trained—but this incident and the slew of horrifying others below prove that guardians should never trust PetSmart with their animal companions.

In a separate August 2018 incident, a dog named Rufus was dropped off at a PetSmart boarding facility in Tucson, Arizona. A few hours later, the family received a phone call—he had eaten plastic and was being taken to an emergency veterinarian. According to the family, the veterinarian told them that Rufus had been hit by a car on his way to the hospital and had died.

July 2018

According to reports, a 10-month-old puppy named Ziggy was injured during a PetSmart grooming session in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Staff members allegedly told the dog’s guardian that he had been attacked by a Great Dane while being groomed. However, the clean, straight laceration and the flap of skin that was left hanging off the small dog’s body have led many online to wonder whether that’s true. A police report was filed, and an investigation is ongoing. (Warning: graphic images)

In a separate July 2018 incident, Corey Dixon took his 4-year-old service dog, Aspen, to a Toronto PetSmart’s PetsHotel for a weeklong stay while he was out of town. But when he returned to pick her up, she was “extremely sick,” shaking, and surrounded by vomit and saliva. He rushed her to an emergenandcy animal hospital, where she remained in intensive care for several days.

Aspen’s condition worsened, and when she began struggling to breathe, her family made the painful decision to let her go. It’s believed that she became sick while in PetSmart’s care and that staff didn’t immediately call the vet. “If she’d seen the vet when she started showing signs of being sick, maybe she would have had a better chance,” Dixon said. Unsurprisingly, PetSmart denied any culpability.

May 2018

On May 22, Brandi Villarreal picked up her dog, Lexi, from a PetSmart store in San Antonio, Texas, and found her distressed and breathing heavily. Her tongue was blue, and her gums were purple. After multiple trips to the vet over the next two days—during which time PetSmart called the distraught Villarreal requesting the veterinary paperwork—the previously healthy dog was found to have a consolidation in her chest (fluid in the lungs), likely caused by trauma, and had to be euthanized because of her declining condition.

In a separate May 2018 incident, the Soto family took their little dog, Fabio, to the local PetSmart in Tampa, Florida, to be groomed. Just over an hour after dropping him off, he was dead. The Sotos got a call from PetSmart telling them that their dog was unresponsive and they needed to come back to the store immediately. Workers reportedly brought over the veterinarian from the on-site Banfield Pet Hospital, but the dog went into cardiac arrest, and the vet wasn’t able to save him. Then, according to the family, PetSmart offered to buy them a new dog—but with a caveat: They would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting them from discussing their experience with media outlets. The family declined the offer, and a necropsy report later revealed that Fabio had heartworms and cited stress as a factor contributing to the cardiac arrest.

April 2018

Ollie, a 4-month-old Maltese mix, sustained a broken leg during a grooming session at a Petco in San Antonio.

March 2018

Oliver Buttons, an 18-month-old cairn terrier, needed stitches for lacerations to his face and neck as well as surgical glue for nicks all over his body inflicted by a Petco groomer in Appleton, Wisconsin.

A cat named Cloudy died during a grooming session at a Petco in Providence, Rhode Island.

Abby, an 8-year-old corgi, died during a grooming session at a PetSmart in Toms River, New Jersey.

February 2018

A PetSmart groomer in Houston was fired after a video of her violently handling a small dog went viral.

December 2017

At least one dog allegedly died, and another sustained a back injury, after being taken to a New Jersey PetSmart for grooming.

An 8-year-old shih tzu named George reportedly returned home in extreme pain and arching his back. Veterinarians found that he’d sustained a back injury and prescribed him heavy steroids and 10 days of cage confinement.

Another dog, named Ranger—who was allegedly lethargic after returning home—died two days later on Christmas Eve. His heartbroken guardian had to break the news of his death to her children on Christmas morning.

July 2017

Michigan resident Allison Yates and her husband claimed that Beauvine, their 7-year-old Great Dane, lost 28 pounds in the nine days he spent at a PetSmart PetsHotel in Rochester Hills. The couple said that they chose the PetsHotel because the facility offered soundproof rooms and private time, and their dog has a nervous temperament. According to Yates, PetSmart called four days into Beauvine’s stay to report that he had diarrhea and had vomited. Had she known the severity of his condition, Yates said, she would have returned home immediately.

The couple claims that when they dropped Beauvine off at the PetsHotel, he weighed 138 pounds, but when they picked him up—nine days later—he weighed only 110 pounds. They also said that their veterinarian informed them that Beauvine was dehydrated and appeared to have “been neglected for a week.”

March 2017

Ollie, a 5-year-old pug in Newport, Rhode Island, died after a grooming session at Petco. E.J. Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that it was clear the Petco technicians were not trained to deal with an emergency. “It’s very troubling here, what happened,” he said. “We have an otherwise healthy dog that goes to have his nails clipped, and he ends up dead, and there’s not much we can do about it.”

When Pepper got home from a grooming session at a La Quinta, California, PetSmart, she wasn’t acting like herself. Her guardian immediately took her to the vet, who found that the dog had ruptured blood vessels as a result of “some sort of trauma.” While PetSmart denied wrongdoing, it paid for Pepper’s vet bills.

August 2016

When Demon’s guardian came to pick him up from a grooming session at an O’Fallon, Illinois, PetSmart, she immediately noticed that he had labored breathing. He was rushed to the vet, where it was discovered that his temperature was over 103 degrees. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the vet, he was dead.

June 2016

When 5-year-old Casper was taken to a Petco groomer in Moses Lake, Washington, his guardian, Desiree, had no idea that he’d never make it back home. Instead of getting a call from the store to let her know that her dog was ready to be picked up, she got a call informing her that he was “non-responsive” and being taken to the vet. Sadly, he passed away.

May 2016

A dachshund named Henry reportedly died after being taken to a California PetSmart for a routine grooming session, and an employee was arrested on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals. According to reports, just minutes after Henry was dropped off for a haircut, employee Juan Zarate emerged from the grooming office with the dog, who was bleeding from the mouth and having difficulty breathing, and took him to an on-site veterinarian. He was said to have died shortly after the vet began treatment, still in the store. His guardian may never know exactly what happened in the back room of that PetSmart store, but a necropsy revealed that the dog had sustained two broken ribs and a punctured lung and died of strangulation.

April 2016

Shortly after Buff, an 11-year-old golden retriever, went in for grooming at a Poway, California, Petco, he began to have trouble walking and developed an infection. Soon after, he died.

March 2015

An employee of an Atlanta Petco was fired after reportedly being caught on a cell phone video violently yanking on a dog’s paw and shoving the terrified animal around on a grooming table while trying to clip his or her nails.

July 2014

When Sierra was taken to a Beckley, West Virginia, PetSmart for grooming, she came home with razor burns and a cut on her foot pad that needed suturing. PetSmart paid for the dog’s vet bills.

July 2011

A California woman reportedly sued Petco after her dog Sadie suffered from heat stroke, internal bleeding, and burns when a groomer left her locked inside a cage dryer. Sadie had to be euthanized because of the extent of her injuries.

Don’t Trust Just Anyone With Your Animal’s Life

If it isn’t possible to groom your animal companions yourself, hire a groomer who makes house calls, and insist on staying with them at all times during the process. Groomers who have nothing to hide should welcome your presence, and it’ll help your animal companions to feel at ease, too.

Always thoroughly research and screen potential groomers, and don’t hesitate to get your animal companions and leave if something seems suspicious or “off.” Here are more tips on finding a reputable groomer:

  • Choose veteran groomers who are confident in their skills, recognize their own limitations, and are knowledgeable about animal behavior. An experienced professional will know the individual needs of different types of dogs. For example, elderly dogs may have heart problems, and some breeds may have breathing issues. All these factors are of special concern when it comes to bathing, drying, brushing, and clipping. If a groomer appears to be afraid of or impatient with animals, take them elsewhere.
  • Consult the Better Business Bureau regarding groomers you’re considering using, and do Google searches to see if any patrons have encountered problems with them. Look on Google, Yelp, and other review sites for comments from previous and current customers.
  • Request references from other clients.
  • Use a groomer who is a graduate of a training program and a member of a trade organization. Although groomers aren’t required to be licensed, an affiliation with groups like the National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc., can indicate experience and professionalism. Evidence of participation in industry seminars is also a good sign.

If, despite all your precautions, your animal companion is injured by a groomer, you can file a small-claims suit or a lawsuit against the groomer or salon. You can also warn other animal guardians not to patronize the groomer by sharing your story with local television stations and newspapers.

You can apply many of these same rules when choosing a sitter for your animal companion. Your best bet is to select someone you know personally and trust, such as a relative, close friend, coworker, or neighbor. Be sure that the person you choose likes and is comfortable around companion animals. It’s best to have the person come to your house at least once prior to your trip so that he or she can meet and get acquainted with your animals. Click here for more tips on finding the right companion-animal sitter.

Remember, you’re your animal companions family members’ advocate and protector. Never just hand them over to service providers while simply hoping for the best.

Help us spread the word by sharing this article with your friends and family:

Pledge never to buy pet supplies from retailers that sell any animals. Let PetSmart officials know that you’ll shop at businesses that don’t sell animals—such as Target, Walgreens, or online retailers—instead:

Have you had your own nightmare experience with grooming services at PetSmart or Petco? Use #PetSmartGroomingNightmares or #PetcoGroomingNightmares to share your animal companion’s story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram—urge your family, friends, and followers to shun these big-box pet store chains and their cruel practices.

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