CBS News reports that over the past decade, 47 dogs have died after a grooming session at PetSmart stores across the country. The investigation was conducted by NJ Advance Media.
The most recent death reported occurred on Monday. A dog died in Texas just hours after leaving a PetSmart.
The nine-month investigation is based on reports from customers in 14 states. Thirty-two deaths have happened since 2015, which is the same year the company was bought out by a private equity firm. So far, 25 different breeds of dog have died. PetSmart performs millions of groomings annually, so these deaths only represent a small fraction of the pets groomed by the company.
English bulldogs and similar breeds accounted for 20 of the deaths. These breeds have short noses and smushed faces, which can often lead to breathing issues, especially in hot environments. According to the Associated Press, veterinarians and groomers alike agree that groomings can be dangerous for dogs if the animals become overheated or if they experience intense stress or rough handling.
One of the recent deaths was a Yorkie named Teddy. Teddy died on Monday, just a few hours after being groomed. The dog's owner, Tim Daffin, said Teddy seemed unusually weak. He stopped the truck to check on him and he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Unfortunately, Teddy died a few hours later. After the dog's death, Daffin and his wife searched online to see if other PetSmart customers had experienced anything similar. They were shocked to learn they weren't the only dog owners this had happened to. Daffin said, "I would like to tell anybody that may be taking their dogs up there just to be mindful and careful...because I didn't know. Something is absolutely wrong."
In a statement that PetSmart made before the investigation was published, the company said, "At PetSmart, nothing is more important than the safety of the pets in our care. That is why we have set the highest grooming safety standards in the industry." The company says their stylists go through 800 hours or more of hands-on grooming instruction, receive a safety certification, and have experience working with at least 200 different breeds. PetSmart also emphasized that their stylists must also complete safety re-certification annually and participate in quarterly grooming safety training sessions.
But the company also said it's always trying to improve and that it has implemented a comprehensive safety plan to provide pets with a safer and more fun experience.
The company has offered to pay out-of-court costs for owners whose pets died. "PetSmart works every day to be the trusted partner to pet parents. If an accident of policy violation occurs while a pet is in our care, we take immediate action and full responsibility."
But unfortunately, money won't bring these beloved pets back to their families. Daffin says the hardest part about losing Teddy has been telling his teenage daughter. "Just to see her tear up caused me to tear up. Now, being here throughout the day sometimes and looking in that corner that he used to sit in, it's like, there's nothing there. It's empty."