Four PetSmart Groomers Charged After Senior Dog Strangled To Death

It’s great to have a groomer you trust. But sadly, not all groomers are licensed, and not all of them are gentle with the dogs they care for. NFL sideline reporter AJ Ross learned that the hard way. She recently lived through every dog parent’s worst nightmare. She dropped her dog Kobe off for a quick nail trim at PetSmart, and when she returned a few minutes later, he was dead.

Now, Ross is demanding change for dog grooming facilities, and she’s begging for PetSmart to acknowledge their mistakes. Dogs don’t have a voice, so we need to speak up on their behalf.

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

Nail Trim Becomes a Horror Story

Ross’ 11-year-old Toy Poodle needed a nail trim, so she stopped at a PetSmart in Pennsylvania. She wasn’t allowed to be in the grooming room because of COVID, so she ran to the Walgreens next door to grab something. A few minutes later, she returned and overheard an announcement paging the manager to the grooming room. When Ross looked in there, she saw her best friend lifeless on the grooming table.

The manager told Ross that Kobe had fainted during grooming. But when she arrived, several groomers had been standing around, staring at the pup, but doing nothing. Ross grabbed Kobe and rushed him to the nearest vet. They tried their best to get him breathing again, but it was no use. They told her he was gone.

“Throughout the highs and lows of my life, he had been there,” said Ross. “I don’t have kids, so Kobe is, or was, for lack of a better phrase, like my child. You know, my family.”

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

Sadly, PetSmart grooming has had lots of reports of abuse.

What Went Wrong?

Later, Ross was able to view PetSmart’s grooming security footage. What she saw in the video was even more horrifying than she could’ve imagined. The groomers had leashes tightly looped around the pup’s neck during the nail trimming, suspending him off the table.

“They used two separate leashes,” Ross said. “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.”

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

Ross added that the longer Kobe was hung by his neck, the more he struggled and twisted. He clearly couldn’t get any air, but the staff showed no concern. They continued to trim his nails until he went completely limp.

PetSmart, the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh, and other officials all launched investigations on this event. A necropsy was also performed for further information. Sadly, this isn’t even the first grooming incident involving abuse within the past year.

Demanding Justice for Kobe

Four PetSmart employees (Julie Miller, Shaphan Stonge, Elizabeth Doty, and Heather Rowe) were fired following the incident. They were also charged with several offenses, including at least one count of felony animal cruelty each. They are currently awaiting their preliminary hearing.

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

Necropsy results came back with no signs of bruising on Kobe’s neck tissues. But the results noted that strangulation is still a strong possibility for Kobe’s death. Other medical professionals have also confirmed that the senior Poodle was strangled to death based on the evidence.

But test results and arrests aren’t enough justice for Ross. She wants to ensure that an event like this never happens again. So, she’s fighting for a bill from 2005 to be passed. It would ensure that all dog groomers would require a license. As of now, groomer licenses aren’t a requirement in Pennsylvania. In the meantime, she urges dog parents to be cautious of where they get their dogs groomed.

Questions to Ask Your New Groomer

When you find a groomer for your dog, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Stories like this make groomers seem bad, but most groomers are very kind and gentle with the dogs they groom. But it’s always best to be cautious.

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

The Humane Animal Rescue has released the following questions that you should ask a new groomer.

Can I See Your Facility?

Pay attention to how the grooming room looks and smells. While your dog is being groomed, you might not be allowed in because it’s distracting for your pup, but a good groomer will have no problem with you looking inside beforehand. Make sure it looks like a place that you’re comfortable leaving your dog.

What Services Do You Provide?

An experienced groomer can do more than just bathe, brush, and cut hair. Ask about services like trimming nails, removing mats, brushing teeth, and cleaning ears. You’ll want a groomer who will be knowledgeable enough to let you know if something seems wrong with your dog’s health. You can also ask them what products they use to ensure that they don’t use anything with too many chemicals.

Do You Have Experience with My Dog’s Breed?

In many cases, your dog’s breed isn’t important, but for grooming, it could be. Some breeds have specific grooming requirements, so you should make sure your groomer is knowledgeable about your dog’s specific coat.

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

What Type of Training and Credentials Do You Have?

Groomers come from a variety of training backgrounds. Some went to school for it, while others simply learned from experience. Don’t be scared to ask a groomer about their background in the industry. A more experienced dog groomer is more likely to know how to handle your dog.

How Will My Dog Be Housed?

Your dog won’t be on the grooming table from start to finish. They should be put in a crate by themselves when they’re not being groomed unless you specify otherwise. Make sure your dog will be in a safe, secure, and comfortable location.

What Are Your Emergency Procedures?

Of course, no one expects an emergency to occur. But it’s good to be prepared. A staff member at the business should have first aid knowledge and supplies. They should also ask you if your dog has any medical concerns to ensure that they care for them properly.

Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

Don’t let horror stories like this one deter you from getting your dog groomed by a professional. Instead, please take it as a warning to be more cautious with who you trust. It’s heartbreaking that Kobe’s life was cut short, but Ross will continue to do everything she can to make a change. And you can, too, by following the above tips and spreading the word.

Rest in peace, Kobe. You will be missed more than you know.

Featured Image: @kobe_ross_/Instagram

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