Former PetSmart Employees Charged After Murdering Dog During Grooming Visit
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Pittsburgh woman who says her dog was strangled to death at a PetSmart in East Liberty while having her fingernails clipped is calling the company to account.
Now, four employees involved in his claim face animal cruelty charges, and PetSmart has said it has been fired.
AJ Ross says her dog, Kobe, was a part of her life for 12 years and her companion as she moved across the country to further her career. On November 17, 2020, she says she brought Kobe to PetSmart in East Liberty to have her nails cut.
She says she watched the groomer walk into the living room with Kobe. A few minutes later, while shopping for treats and toys for him, she said she heard the manager call on the intercom.
Moments later, the manager brought her to the salon, where she says she saw her stuffed poodle lying lifeless on the grooming table. She says she came to get him and ran.
“I rush out of the store and hope some fresh air helps. If I just rub it and the cool air hits it, maybe it will wake up, ”she told KDKA. “I say, ‘Kobe, wake up, wake up’ and he doesn’t wake up. And I just collapsed outside the store.
Ross rushed Kobe to a local vet, where, according to an autopsy report provided to KDKA by Ross, workers attempted CPR but were unable to revive him. Ross said she said goodbye to Kobe and started questioning the actions of PetSmart employees.
She says the director of PetSmart told her that Kobe had just passed out while having his nails done.
“Like, he looked sick?” What were you saying? He just passed out? And they couldn’t really give me a clear answer, ”Ross said.
She says after several attempts to get responses from PetSmart employees, a regional manager brought her into the store to view the surveillance video on December 1, 2020. What she claims to have seen traumatized her.
“They had him attached to a leash and tied to the end of the grooming table. Her neck is therefore hyperextended in different directions, ”she recalls. “He was hanged. He was suspended for over a minute. He struggled and was tortured. They didn’t do anything, they kept cutting his nails.
According to Animal Control, Ross called Humane Animal Rescue the same day she saw the video and requested an investigation.
What Ross describes as having happened to his dog is corroborated by criminal complaints filed by an animal control officer against the four former employees. The officer writes that an employee is seen holding Kobe as he struggles with the leashes, and another employee is cutting his nails. Eventually, according to the video description of the complaint, Kobe goes limp, and that’s when employees call a manager.
The complaint says the animal control officer showed the surveillance video to a veterinarian, who describes what happened as being compatible with an animal suffering from a crushed trachea.
In a statement provided to KDKA, PetSmart said, “We are sorry and very sorry for the loss of Kobe. After this terrible accident, we launched an internal investigation and found an unintentional breach of our pet safety processes. Additionally, we cooperated with an external investigation, terminated responsible associates, and facilitated an autopsy to help provide answers. “
Ross says she has requested information from PetSmart on how its employees are trained and the protocols employees must follow. In an email from a PetSmart manager in Ross, provided by Ross to KDKA, he tells him that he can provide this information to him, and says, “We would ask you to sign an acknowledgment (sic) to keep these. private documents because our academy training and policies and procedures are proprietary and these documents are generally not accessible to the public. We are prepared to make an exception here, and we want to share them with you, given these circumstances. “
But Ross believes PetSmart’s policies on how the company trains its groomers should be public and transparent, so pet owners can make informed decisions about who to trust their dogs and cats.
“Just because someone took a six hour training course in pet grooming, is they really up to the task?”
Ross says reliving the experience of the days since the former employees were indicted on May 7 has been difficult, but she wants something to stand out from her experience so people are aware and protected.
“It’s a void. To me, Kobe was like family, ”Ross said.