PITTSBURGH (CBSNewYork) — How did a trip to PetSmart become a death sentence for a 12-year-old poodle? The latest case highlights what animal advocates say is a growing problem over pet groomers not being licensed.
The memories AJ Ross has of her spunky toy poodle are filled with pure joy. Every waking moment, and even when they slept, Kobe was her sidekick.
“The endless affection, the unconditional love,” she told WCBS-TV’s Jessica Layton. “He was just always there with me.”
The CBS Sports reporter still can’t fathom how a quick trip to a PetSmart just outside Pittsburgh for a nail clipping ended in Kobe’s death. “Lifeless on this grooming table,” Ross said. “I collapsed outside the store on the curb. I’m him. ‘Please wake up, please wake up.'”
She raced him to an animal hospital, but it was too late.
“The store eventually let you look at their surveillance video, and what did you see in that video?” Layton asked.
“They tied him on the grooming table with two leashes, two contrasting leashes,” Ross said. “The leashes get tighter as he’s, you know, struggling.”
MORE FROM CBS PITTSBURGH: 4 PetSmart Employees Facing Charges After Dog Strangled To Death During Grooming Visit
PetSmart says it launched an internal investigation and found “unintended failure to adhere to pet safety processes.” Four workers were fired and criminally charged. The company also says the necropsy, done by the company’s own pet hospital, found no definitive cause of death, but a separate medical examiner backs up Ross’ belief that Kobe was strangled.
Ross, a former New Jerseyan, says her heartache highlights the need for all pet groomers to be licensed. Right now, that’s not a requirement. She’s pushing for a bill drafted back in 2005 in Pennsylvania that would change that.
“How could we have an industry go unregulated?” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, of Englewood, New Jersey. She proposed a similar bill in New Jersey in 2014. It passed the Assembly in 2018, but three years later, it still hasn’t made it through the Senate.
“So I think the pushback is about the profits … I would think all of us that have pets would say pets over profits,” Vainieri Huttle said.
“They don’t have voices, you know?” Ross said.
She’s now left praying other pets will have a voice, through the compassion and care that Kobe didn’t have that day.
WCBS-TV’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.