Woman sues PetSmart, groomers in connection with toy poodle’s death at East Liberty store – TribLIVE


A woman whose toy poodle died during a PetSmart grooming appointment in Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit this week against the pet store and two employees in connection with the November 2020 incident.

AJ Ross, a Pittsburgh native who works as a CBS Sports reporter, had taken her 12-year-old poodle Kobe to the PetSmart on Centre Avenue in East Liberty for a nail trim. Covid-19 restrictions meant she could not remain in the grooming area with the dog.

Ten minutes later, Kobe was dead, the particular lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit said surveillance footage from inside the grooming area would later show that two employees, identified as Julie Miller and Elizabeth Doty, used tethers “to create an arrangement not unlike a hangman’s noose if Kobe were to lose his footing. ”

The tethers were meant to keep the toy poodle still during the nail trim, but the groomers turned the dog’s legs in a way that left him suspended over the grooming table, “in effect hanging Kobe by the neck while they trimmed his nails, ” the lawsuit said.

Ross said the dog was “in obvious distress and panic, ” but neither woman did anything to help him. When they removed the tethers, Kobe collapsed, according to the lawsuit.

Ross has said — plus reiterates in the lawsuit — that PetSmart employees and managers claimed that Kobe had just gone limp and collapsed without cause. She said she was not permitted to see the surveillance footage for two weeks.

Miller and Doty are both awaiting trial on animal cruelty charges related to Kobe’s death.

Ross’s lawsuit contends that PetSmart has shown a pattern of abuse. It cites 47 incidents reported to Consumer Affairs regarding alleged injury and death caused by PetSmart groomers.

Ross called it “a pervasive pattern that needs to be rectified. ”

“The purpose, really, is to shine a light and force transparency in the hiring practices and training of PetSmart employees, ” Ross told the Tribune-Review on Monday. “I think the lawsuit vividly lays out how many dozens of cases have come to pass. ”

In a statement, PetSmart said the company was “heartbroken by and truly sorry for the loss of Kobe. ”

“Following this terrible accident in 2020, we immediately launched an internal investigation and cooperated with the authorities involved, ” the statement added. “In response, we terminated the associates who violated our pet safety policies and did not meet our high standards of care. We proudly perform more than 13 million grooming services per year and the actions of these two affiliates do not represent the standard associated with care provided by our more than 10, 000 salon associates. ”

She said she is still grieving and healing from losing Kobe.

“I don’t think when you lose a loved one you ever really get past it, ” the girl said. “There’s still this particular void. ”

The lawsuit alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress on the part of PetSmart and Doty and Miller. It further accuses the company of negligent hiring plus supervision practices, violation associated with consumer protection laws, breach of warranty of good faith, and fraud.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] com or via Twitter.

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