Tara Fiet was in full-fledged holiday mode last December when she dropped off her dog, Ranger, for routine grooming in advance of her upcoming Christmas party.
The dog seemed really tired afterwards, but Fiet initially attributed this to holiday exhaustion. After all, Ranger had just been to the vet’s and received a clean bill of health. It never crossed Fiet’s mind that something untoward could happen at PetSmart, a well-known national chain.
Two days later, however, Ranger had died, leaving Fiet racked with grief and confusion on Christmas Eve.
Within days, another New Jersey dog owner, Danielle DiNapoli, would also be informed that her otherwise healthy 8-year-old bulldog, Scruffles, had mysteriously died during a routine grooming at PetSmart.
So did Abby, an 8-year-old Corgi whose owner, Chuck Crawford, was curtly informed of his pet’s mysterious passing over the phone. Though it didn’t die, another dog left with a serious back injury.
The swell of negative publicity — driven in part by a viral Justice for Scruffles Facebook page — finally forced PetSmart to trigger an internal investigation, though the company still refuses to disclose the actual number of animals that have died in its care.
Meanwhile, a local newspaper has launched its own investigation. Those findings revealed that 47 dogs have died over the past ten years, which is still a small percentage considering the millions of animals groomed at PetSmart each year.
At the same time, the investigation only considered reports from 14 states, which doesn’t fully account for PetSmart’s 1,600 locations spanning U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Fuzzy licensing and reporting practices don’t help matters either; apparently, there isn’t even a single state that requires individual groomers to be licensed!
In the end, the paper wasn’t able to conclude whether or not pets died at greater rates at PetSmart than they did in other places.
If we’ve learned anything from these unfortunate encounters, it’s that we can never take our pets’ safety for granted. Ask to see your groomer’s qualifications, ask about the company’s safety/emergency policy, inquire whether a human will accompany your animal at all times, and take your pet to the groomers for a trial run. If s/he doesn’t appear comfortable, take that as a sign to go elsewhere!
Learn more about this perplexing case in the video below!
J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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