Darren Harris, a 22 year old man from Yonkers, NY, had never had a dog before. His first was an English Bulldog named Enzo. He absolutely adored and loved him, looking at Enzo like a son. He took Enzo, just 10 months old, to the groomer at PetSmart in Pelham. About 30 minutes later he received a call from the store to “come quickly.” Shortly after he and his mother Tabitha Harris arrived on the scene, Enzo died before their eyes, breaking their hearts and leaving them desperate for answers.
PetSmart Says They Acted Appropriately
PetSmart groomers are allegedly trained to recognize signs of distress in the dogs entrusted to their care, particularly short snouted dogs like English Bulldogs. Dogs like English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers are Brachycephalic breeds. These and any dog mixed with one of these breeds receive “specialized care” at PetSmart grooming salons.
This specialized care protocol includes:
- An enhanced Hands on Pet Assessment at check-in and check-out.
- An Express Groom requirement, meaning very minimal time in a kennel
- The use of harness-style methods, rather than leads around the neck.
- Pets are towel dried or hand-held drying is utilized, rather than kennel drying.
- No muzzles are to be used.
PetSmart says that they followed this procedure and as soon as Enzo showed signs of distress, the grooming was immediately stopped and Enzo was taken to the vet, located in the Banfield Pet Hospital inside the store. They say that they gave Enzo oxygen therapy, sedation, and CPR but the fact remains that Enzo died.
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PetSmart appears to be hanging the blame on an existing kidney condition Enzo was previously diagnosed with by his primary care veterinarian. Dr. Richard Jakimer, the owner of Manor Veterinary Clinic in Pelham, NY, who diagnosed and cared for Enzo contends that is not the case.
He told Pix 11, “Kidney failure usually takes a long time. There are signs of illness. The dogs won’t walk, doesn’t want to eat, will vomit. Enzo was not exhibiting any of those signs. Kidney disease, especially in the state Enzo was in, would not lead to an acute death. It was pretty much incidental at the time.”
The Harris Family Has Huge Doubts
Without a necropsy (an autopsy of an animal) we will never for sure the cause of Enzo’s death, but the Harris family has serious doubts that PetSmart handled the situation appropriately. Tabitha Harris told Pix 11 that everyone she encountered, including the vet, seemed lost and didn’t seem to know what to do.
“Enzo was running back and forth because he was in such a panic because his throat was closing up on him,” Tabitha Harris said. “I don’t know how well equipped they are to deal with English Bulldogs.”
The Harris family is convinced that Enzo’s death was entirely avoidable and have filed a suit against them in small claims court.
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PetSmart Has a Long List of Similar Complaints Against Them
An investigative report by NJ.com published last year shows a host of similar complaints against PetSmart. All told, from 2008-2018 there have been 47 dogs in 14 states that died during or shortly after being groomed at PetSmart stores. We aren’t talking about an isolated incident here. Not by a long shot. Interestingly, 32 of those cases occurred after the chain was bought out by a private equity firm in 2015.
Twenty of 47 deaths documented in the report were English Bulldogs, including Capone who went in to have his nail trims and died on the way home and Scruffles who became unresponsive during a grooming and died on the way to the emergency vet.
Our hearts go out to Enzo, the Harris family, and all of those who have suspiciously lost their dogs after a simple grooming service at PetSmart. We hope that the Harris family finds the answers they seek in their case against the retailer.
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