Owners Of Deceased Puppy Claim PetSmart Strangled It During Grooming

A couple is suing a PetSmart in California, claiming that their puppy died as a result of injuries it sustained during a grooming session. They say their four-month-old English bulldog was “healthy and happy” when they brought it to PetSmart last May, but then took a turn for the worse while in the groomer’s care.

According to CBS 2 in Los Angeles, the civil suit alleges that the puppy died because of its experience at PetSmart.

“Shortly after dropping her off, they received a call that she was vomiting blood and that they should pick her up and take her to a veterinarian,” said the attorney for the plaintiffs who specializes in animal law.

They then took the puppy to a vet, and she died 45 minutes later. A necropsy determined the cause of death was likely strangulation that occurred during her grooming session, claims the complaint. The owners also say PetsMart ordered the puppy to be cremated before they were able to pick up her body.

The “plaintiffs were horrified, as this was done against their wishes, beliefs and without their consent,” said the attorney. They’re seeking damages upwards of $25,000.

PetSmart responded with a no-comment, sort of comment statement by their spokesperson, saying:

“The facts as represented in the recently distributed press release by an attorney are not what we believe to be true relative to this unfortunate situation. As a practice, however, PetSmart does not comment on pending litigation.”

PetsMart Sued Over Alleged Grooming Death Of Puppy At Downey Store [CBS 2 L.A.]


Edit Your Comment

  1. GuJiaXian says:

    How did PetSmart order a cremation? That doesn’t make sense in any reality.

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      That’s my question as well.

    • Ben says:

      Also, why WOULD they want the body destroyed? The only necropsy that was done hurts their case. Why wouldn’t they want to be able to get their own vet to do a necropsy that clears them of blame?

      • Gambrinus says:

        Guessing it’s just SOP. The necropsy may not leave the pet’s body in a state that the owners would typically want to see.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      It seems as if PetSmart took the pet to the vet, and then ordered cremation before the Owners got the chance to see their dog. Bad wording, I think.

      • jayphat says:

        Nope. I re-read the original article and video. The couple picked up the puppy, rushed it to a vet themselves, then it died. Later, someone from PetSmart called and ordered the dog cremated. PetSmart and the Vet are likely on the hook for that alone. Also, I’m think the Vet may have been linked to PetSmart(IE contracted for when their animals have issues)

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        From the linked article:

        “The couple brought the puppy to a veterinarian where she died 45 minutes later.”

    • momentsofabsurdity says:

      If the dog was treated at a Banfield animal hospital (usually attached to and operated in conjunction with a PetsMart store) I suppose its possible that if the family didn’t want to take the body home right away, the store manager ordered a cremation.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      im confused on that part too…. the owner took the dog to the vet…. how did petsmart get access to the dog that prevent the owner from picking up the dog before it was cremated?

      • Lyn Torden says:

        A crime was committed for that to have happened. The owners need to also file a police report about that.

    • Yomiko says:

      The original article doesn’t provide any more clarity. Most of the original article is posted here.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      The only possibility I can think of is that the vet worked in the PetSmart store.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      In this article http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-petsmart-lawsuit,0,1075329.story (which someone linked below), it says the following, which clears this up:

      “Benitez took Rita to a clinic, where she died about 11:45 a.m. that same day.
      The veterinarian told Benitez “…something had happened. He just didn’t know what,” Benitez said.
      Benitez took his dead puppy right back to PetSmart.
      Employees later took Rita’s remains to Banfield Pet Hospital in Whittier, where a necropsy was conducted.”

      So, they took the puppy back to PetSmart to ask for compensation/explanation. PetSmart sent it to their vet for the necropsy, and then, while the body was still in their custody, requested the cremation.

  2. ArcanaJ says:

    Soo… PetsMart called the vet and ordered a cremation? And the vet complied? The hell?

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Yeah, really. No one but the owners should be able to do that. If they sue, I would include the vet in that as well.

  3. baltimoron says:

    Did someone from PetSmart pretend to be the owner of the pet? How else would the Vet’s office comply with the request? There has to me more facts.

  4. RedOryx says:

    Okay, I’m confused because if you RTFA, it’s not clear if the dog actually was cremated or not.

    “The couple brought the puppy to a veterinarian where she died 45 minutes later.

    A necropsy was performed on the dog and it was determined the cause of death was likely strangulation that occurred while she was being groomed at the Downey PetsMart,12126 Lakewood Boulevard, the lawsuit claims.

    The plaintiffs also allege PetsMart ordered the puppy be cremated before the owners could retrieve her body.”

    If the dog wasn’t dead yet, why would Petsmart order a cremation? And if the owners picked it up while it was still alive, did the dog end up being cremated or not?

    • LightningUsagi says:

      It sounds like the store ordered the cremation from the vet at some point after the dog died.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    my guess what happened. the dog’s collar was attached to a leash during the grooming process.
    the dog was scared and try to get away which caused the strangulation.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That makes sense. Attaching a leash to the collar is a pretty common way of keeping a dog on the grooming table, I think.

      • Laura Northrup says:

        I’ve had dogs (cocker spaniels) that needed regular grooming for… uh , most of my life. 22 years and change.

        Grooming tables, at least at any professional place, have a built-in collar/leash instead of having the dog stay in its own collar. I’m not a groomer and don’t own one of these tables, but I can see how strangulation would happen if you left the puppy unattended for long enough and it tried to escape. Solution: you don’t leave it unattended.


        (Wow, that looks a lot like a gallows.)

        • VintageLydia says:

          I know for a fact PetSmart policy is hand on the dog at all times it’s out of the kennel but especially when it’s on the table. If this was a strangulation, a groomer and possibly grooming manager manager are/will be out of a job.

          (I used to work for PSmart as a low level manager and had to be familiar with grooming policies. The safety of a salon depends on the store. Some are great, most are middling, and some let dogs get strangled on the grooming tables.)

    • Zer0.MediA says:

      If properly restrained according to policy and procedure, that can’t happen. All collars should be removed, and restraints should be around a dogs neck and waist which keeps it from falling off the grooming table. Also, since the dog only needed to be bathed, there’s little reason to keep it on a table if it’s resisting.

      The obvious answer here is they left the dog in the tub by itself, likely to answer a phone call, and the dog jumped out the tub, hanging itself.

  6. Thalassa says:

    PetSmart ordered THEIR vet to cremate the puppy? I don’t think so.

  7. El_Cheapocabra says:

    Much better version of the story:

    But about 10 a.m., Benitez received a call from PetSmart, advising him that Rita was vomiting blood and needed the attention of a veterinarian.

    Benitez arrived and saw Rita getting her ears cleaned. She was having trouble breathing, according to the lawsuit.

    “She was gasping for air and she was throwing up blood,” Benitez told KTLA.

    Benitez asked a PetSmart employee about Rita’s breathing problems and he was allegedly told, “It’s nothing. These bulldogs always have breathing problems.”

    Benitez took Rita to a clinic, where she died about 11:45 a.m. that same day.

    The veterinarian told Benitez “…something had happened. He just didn’t know what,” Benitez said.

    Benitez took his dead puppy right back to PetSmart.

    Employees later took Rita’s remains to Banfield Pet Hospital in Whittier, where a necropsy was conducted.

    When the results came back, PetSmart told Benitez Rita died of natural causes, he said.

    Benitez and Espinoza obtained a necropsy report, which told a different story, according to Jill Ryther, their attorney.

    “An independent vet looks at (the report) and says, (Rita) was strangled,” Ryther said.

    That vet determined Rita suffered lacerations to her neck during a strangling and even lost consciousness, according to Ryther.

    CPR was attempted and as a result, Rita’s trachea was pushed out of line by two inches, she claimed.

    And when she called Banfield Pet Hospital so she could privately cremate Rita’s remains, Espinoza claimed she was told that wouldn’t be possible.

    “They did it themselves,” Espinoza said. “I was livid. I was screaming. I was so upset.”

    • LightningUsagi says:

      Banfield. That explains a lot.

      • tungstencoil says:

        I’ll disagree one two counts:

        1. The negligence seems to be on the part of the groomer, not Banfield. Banfield may be inside PetSmart, but they’re not directly part of it. In other words, Banfield staff isn’t working in the grooming salon (or vice versa), and they don’t necessarily know what the other is doing.

        2. Banfield vets are no better or worse than others. I’ve taken my hounds to crappy vets who own their own practices, work in a private practice they don’t own, and to Banfield. I’ve had good/bad experiences at all – the kind related to quality of care, not warm fuzzies like “they’re nice to me.”

        Vet school is *very* competitive. Pretty much ANY vet is the cream of the crop in terms of intelligence. How they apply is may be another story, but I’ve found as frequently as not the vets in private practice have a vested interest in soaking the pet owners for as much treatment/tests/blood work as possible.

        Banfield vets or those who aren’t a partner in a practice simply don’t have as direct a business interest in jacking up your costs. My current dog breed can have some unique blood values (causing unaware vets to declare them sick) and some challenges with anesthesia, and my current Banfield vet happens to own the same breed, and is very tuned in to the particulars.

        • LightningUsagi says:

          I agree that Banfield had no part in the dog’s death, dispite what my personal feelings towards them may be. My comment was more directed at how Banfield creamated the dog without consent from the owner. I had to sign papers to have that done to a dog that I had put down.

          • tungstencoil says:

            Oh that’s a good point. I interpreted the article as Banfield really having no idea, e.g. assuming that PetSmart was acting with some form of authority or permission, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. I don’t think that “rules” apply or are as strict with veterinary care as with, say, having a human cremated.

            Good point!

          • kobresia says:

            I suspect that part of the necropsy service involved a cremation release, so they wouldn’t have to hand back a mutilated puppy corpse. Even if they were too distraught to read what they were signing, that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook for anything they agreed to.

        • Coyote says:

          The dog in your avatar has a nose about 7 feet long and appears to be laying flat, so I’m guessing you have greyhounds.

          You have a vet that knows sighthounds who happens to work at Banfield. You can and do trust the vet, but do you trust the company? The vet has to do what Banfield management says. What if the company goes over the vet’s head and does some kind of CYA move like having an animal cremated without consent?

          Here’s what I don’t like about this whole thing: A dog starts to show obvious signs of serious injury while being groomed. PetSmart contacted the owner but didn’t even offer to take the dog across the store to Banfield for treatment. Apparently the owner had to take the dog to an emergency clinic… why?

          • VintageLydia says:

            Not all PetSmarts have Banfield vets in them. At my old store we did so that’s what would’ve happened. I’m not sure what SOP is when there is no vet.

        • Bionic Data Drop says:


          Although Banfield may not have done anything wrong in this case, but I’ve read enough complaints about them to make me never want to step foot in one. I realize every company has complaints, but they have a ton of complaints about their employees being money-grabbing, no-caring, undertrained shills. You may have a good Banfield location, but from what I’ve read, a lot of them are just downright dispicable.

          • kobresia says:

            Banfield is probably not much better or worse, just a larger target for disgruntled customers who had a bad experience to take aim at.

            Upsells are par for the course. Banfield vets probably need to make enough sales to justify their continued employment, small vet practices need to make enough sales to pay their lease, their employees’ wages, their student loans, and put food on the table. Six of one, a half-dozen of the other.

        • kobresia says:

          Agreed. After some less-than-favorable experiences with local vets, I started taking my critters to Banfield because they’re convenient relative to my place of work and work schedule. When my oldest dog recently went through a twilight-of-life situation that was a little prolonged, I found it to be a plus that there were multiple vets and vet techs reading the notes to brainstorm on what the problem was and what could be done. They were also supportive when it came down to the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a long time, when it was clear she wasn’t going to get any better and was not very comfortable either.

          I complain about the upsells and unnecessary antibiotics that every vet seems to be big on, Banfield isn’t any exception to that. Really, they seem about on a par with most local vets I’ve taken my animals to, just slightly more convenient hours and location.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      thank you!!!

      that’s crazy. how can you be cleaning the ear when something is wrong with the dog 0-o?!

    • Yomiko says:

      From the same site: a bit of puppy cuteness/cheer to counter the puppy sadness of this story:


  8. Hi_Hello says:

    base on some of the comments on the articles’ site. I wonder if PetsMart and the Vet has some deal going on. Clean each other mess type of deal.

  9. Cat says:

    Dead puppies aren’t much fun.

    Also, “the attorney for the plaintiffs who specializes in animal law.” There’s such a thing?

  10. wellfleet says:

    Don’t trust your laptop to Geek Squad? Then dear god, don’t trust your pet to PetsMart. I shop there for food and some toys, but I wouldn’t let their groomers cut my lawn. I brought my dog there once for a bath, short hair, no hair cut, just a simple wash and dry. They basically toss ’em in a kennel and turn on a blow-dryer. When I picked him up, he was still wet and terrified.

    • LightningUsagi says:

      I took my dog in one time for a nail trim because she’s too wiggly for me to do it by myself. I held her while they did it, and after one paw, they’d cut all of her nails way too short and had to pack every one of them. I was done at that point. I’d rather pay a little extra for my vet to do it (and do it right) when I can’t manage it alone.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      And you especially don’t take a puppy anywhere without being able to stay nearby. Young animals barely know you, let alone the strangers who are picking them up. It’s not a stretch to say the dog was probably scared.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I’ve encountered really awful groomers, including one that gave my dog bad enough razor burn that she had to go to the vet, was terrified of groomers for life, and had to be muzzled. And my local Petsmart (Crossgates Commons, Albany, NY, if you must know) has always been really kind to me and cut my dog very competently. I never find any stray bits of hair or areas they’ve missed or cut too short. Her nails turn out great.

      I was more disorganized than usual one week and she needed a last-minute cut but I couldn’t find her rabies certificate. They called the Banfield at a different store where her rescue took her for shots, and got the verification for me.

      Of course, I could always go in next time and find completely different staff and they shear her ear off or something. But I like the people I’ve encountered so far. I generally go there when I can’t get an appointment with her regular groomer, who only works on one dog at a time and gets really booked up.

  11. axolotl says:

    “Goodnight, sweet prince.”
    *dumps can of puppy ashes directly into the wind*

  12. Vox Republica says:

    If you want to overcharge me for goods or services, fine. Offering substandard customer service? No big whoop. Terms of use or service that force me into arbitration also force me into not giving a single crap. But if you ever–ever–mess with my puppy, so help me…

  13. Misha says:

    …did PetSmart pay for the cremation? When my pet died, I had the choice between taking his body home for burial (free) or paying for cremation (several different price levels depending on whether I wanted the ashes back). I chose cremation and agreed to pay the fee, but if someone else had chosen the cremation without my knowledge or consent I’d definitely put them on the hook for that cost.

  14. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    This is sad. I suspect it was partly caused by the problems that have been bred into bulldogs. They have a hard time breathing to start with, and then someone ties it’s leash too tightly. In my opinion, it’s cruel to breed a dog into a shape that is essentially deformed.

    • Posthaus says:

      I’m definitely in the camp that the breed’s inherent short comings definitely played a part in all of this. And bulldogs are notoriously tough to care form.. But why the fuck would you take a 4-mothold puppy to a dog groomer..god forbid a brachiocephalic breed?

  15. The Porkchop Express says:

    A horrible thing happened here, but $25K? In most states a pet is considered property. meaning you can sue for what it cost, possibly for the medical treatment as well. $25K seems to be more than those cost would have been.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      You can sure for anything. Doesn’t mean you will get it or it’s even allowed.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        I know that, just seems high. And I agree with others that the pet is part of the family, but legally they are still property.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Better to ask for too much than not enough.

    • Mrbyte2k says:

      I’m torn, sure pets are just considered property legally, however, to their owner they’re part of the family. $25,000 is a bit high but I don’t think something in the mid 4 digit range is outrageous.

      • eturowski says:

        If it was a bulldog, the owners may have very well (over)paid four digits for her.

        • kimmie says:

          Not just bulldogs. I was looking into adopting a dog from a reputable breeder, a toy poodle, and it was going to be close to $1000.

    • AllanG54 says:

      Just remember, the attorney has to make something on this as well. I’m sure she’s taking the standard 33% and hoping for a quick settlement rather than going to trial.

  16. bchiarmonte says:

    Have you ever seen the grooming tables at a petsmart? They have an arm with basically a noose hanging off of it. They slip it around the dogs head and pull it up to keep them standing there. I took my pug there once to get his nails cut, they gave up cause he was squirming too much, like he does. If a dog fell off of the table while squirming, I could see how it would just hang there like a gallows. Scary stuff.

  17. SilentAgenger says:

    All I know is this: I once saw a PetSmart groomer handling a dog as if they were a wrestler and the dog was their opponent…after which I made a mental note to never use PetSmart’s grooming services.

  18. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    We totally think this suit is without merit. At least we WOULD be saying that, except we don’t comment on pending litigation.

    TOTALLY not our fault….we would be saying, if we ever commented on pending litigation. We aren’t. Nope. No comment.

  19. Bionic Data Drop says:


  20. kobresia says:

    I would wonder if terms of the necropsy involved cremation. I mean, it seems like the LAST thing Banfield would hand back is a mutilated dead puppy. Sure, they could stitch it back up, but still, that would be nightmare fuel on top of everything else they distraught folks were going through.

    From the more detailed account, it sounds like the most severe damage done to the puppy’s throat was when they were trying to revive it via CPR when it had trouble breathing. That’s hardly something to sue over, it would indicate someone got the puppy breathing again when it stopped. I’m not sure how a necropsy would determine that the puppy lost consciousness due to a strangling event while it was alive, though lacerations on the neck would be self-explanatory.

    Of course, lacerations on the neck would be more of an effect of garroting, so either the Petsmart groomer was psychotic (who knew piano wires made bad grooming station leashes?), or there were contusions and/or abrasions on the puppy’s neck from being strangled by a collar or lead rope.

  21. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    Years ago a friend had their dog at Petsmart for grooming and they got a call that he fell off the grooming table (WTF?) and broke his hip. While Petsmart paid Banfield to set the hip, the subsequent follow-ups and medicines were not paid for, and the dog was never comfortable again. Poor Bandit, I miss him. That’s when I decided to never go there. This was maybe 10 years ago.

  22. idontbelieveindiets says:

    banefield and petsmart are generally in the same building and work with each other (I assume??). I was stupid enough to sign my puppy up with them to get his first shots. He ended up getting parvo a few days later. We took him to an emergency vet, he recovered. We took him back to banefield to get the rest of his shots a few weeks later (bc we paid for a deal that included pet insurance and all his shots for one cheap(ish) price). They said they needed to give him a parvo shot again, and I told them “i am pretty sure he got enough parvo in his system in the last few weeks, so no thanks” and so they told me the plan I paid for would not work any longer then. After fighting with them I got my money back for the plan and walked out. I went to another vet and they agreed, giving him a parvo shot was not necessary. I refuse to use them now.

  23. drowse says:

    I have heard of this happening before – in fact I believe it happened to my relatives. They brought their dog home after grooming and discovered the dog was not well – they took her to the vet and the vet said the dog had to be put down – I believe in this case the neck had been broken,..

  24. framitz says:

    The story seems to be, at least in part nonsense.

    They took the dog to the vet where the animal died, and somehow PetSmart ordered the cremation?

  25. Kate says:

    What vet would cremate a dog on orders of someone who was not the owner?

  26. WhiteWolfAniu says:

    Wrong wrong wrong.
    First – you brought your puppy to be groomed at petsmart.
    Second – it’s a puppy, probably really hyper and bouncy.
    Third – how lazy are you that you can’t learn how to bathe and trim your puppies nails? It’s not -that- hard.
    Oh, and a fourth – the puppy probably was anxious and stressed bringing them to a place they don’t know and don’t recognize.

    – works at an animal shelter, has seen puppies poop blood cause of stress. Also, puppies are very hard to handle. I blame the OP – sorry. If you want something done, learn how to do it, and do it right.

  27. Philosopher's_Dog says:

    Some of the “facts” are puzzling me, as well, and I’m a dog groomer who, yes, once worked at Petsmart. I can actually understand that the pup was strangled. I’m in touch with many of my former co-workers and I get a lot of dogs whose owners are unhappy with Petsmart. They seem to be employing a lot of young, unexperienced people nowadays. I also work on a lot of Bulldogs and it’s a given that they cannot breathe very easily. It’s easy for me to visualize some gung-ho young groomer wrestling with the pup and, say, pinning it down while the grooming noose is on, effectively strangling it. What I don’t understand is the failure of the manager–any manager–to rush the pup to the vet as soon as she saw there was a problem. There is usually a Banfield in every Petsmart. We used to carry dogs over immediately when we thought there was an injury. I had a little dog collapse once (due to a pre-existing heart problem the owners neglected to mention) who was revived because I ran over to Banfield with my manager right behind me. Recently in my own salon I worked on a pup who was apparently choked by his previous groomer. Petsmart in any case should pay the vet bill and the cost of the necropsy, as the pup was in their custody & control. As for the cremation? That boggles the mind–Petsmart would never authorize that! And as for the $25K in damages? The owners can give that a try but pets are property, folks; no charge for the groom, pay the vet bill, pay for the necropsy, maybe-maybe-maybe reimburse for the cost of the pup, but they aren’t going to collect damages.

  28. Chooi says:

    I wouldn’t trust Petsmart one bit. I took my basset in there a couple of years ago for a routine toenail trim and the lady who did it cut one of his nails completely off and didn’t tell me. We got to the dog park later and the nail started bleeding again all over the place and he started limping really bad and whining in obvious pain. To this day he still hates getting his nails done. I understand mistakes happen sometimes but normally with a nail trim it is just cut a tad too short not the whole nail gone. The thing I was most upset about was that she didn’t even tell me she did it. I don’t think their “groomers” are trained properly at all.

  29. dark_inchworm says:

    Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?

  30. seeUserName says:

    No pet is worth $25,000. I am OK with criminal charges where applicable though. Just no profiteering. They can choose the dog of their choosing from the pet store or something.

  31. HugoBoss says:

    Couple of years ago a PetSmart location in New Jersey did dislocate my dog’s front leg and return it to me drugged up and without saying anything. When I did realize something is wrong and I did take the dog back to them. Guess what they did claim dog was OK and they did not hurt my dog.

    They have tons of cases against them and they just settle with owners quietly.

  32. Zer0.MediA says:

    I worked in a Petco grooming salon and frequently heard stories from customers regarding abuse at the nearby PetSmart… There was a time I had a customer come into the salon and ask me if I knew why PetSmart’s doors were covered in police tape, for what it’s worth. I never heard any more of it regarding the cause, but one can speculate why police would be called to a pet store.