BROOKLYN, Ohio -- Brooklyn police filed misdemeanor charges of animal neglect against a 20-year-old groomer from the Pet Supplies Plus in Ridge Park Square. Investigators also questioned in their report whether Kalie Balestra of Rocky River was telling the truth about what happened when a dog she was grooming was found dead last Thursday morning.
“We believe she wasn’t truthful,” Police Chief Scott Mielke told Fox 8.
The dog’s owner, Paula Schoch of Cleveland, said she was told by store employees that her 2-year-old Schnoodle, Nana, died last Thursday morning after falling off a groomer’s table with its head in a noose.
"We still can't grasp it, it's still very surreal," said Schoch.
It turns out the explanation Schoch said she was given is not the same story Balestra gave to Brooklyn investigators. A police report said Balestra claimed she put Nana "in the grooming tub in the grooming noose and left her unattended to do a nail trim." A second employee told police the dog was found unresponsive inside the tub; Balestra told them the 20 pound Schnoodle was lying on its side, a scenario the investigating officer insisted was not possible. Referring to Balestra, he said in his report, “I repeatedly gave her the opportunity to revise that answer but she swore that was how she found her."
The report also made mention of a significant amount of blood found on the floor that Balestra is accused of cleaning up before police had arrived. Pictures of the dog show its back feet bloodied. An investigating officer said “I saw blood on the floor, under the tub, up the wall next to the tub, on a dehumidifier against the wall across from the tub. On the front of the grooming tub there was wet hair all over the front and scratch marks clearly made from nails. When the grooming noose was extended it reached perfectly over the side of the tub to that spot.”
Fox 8’s Lorrie Taylor went to Balestra’s home to give her an opportunity to explain what happened the day her client died. She did not answer the door.
The 20-year-old groomer is scheduled to make an appearance in court on July 12th. Her manager refused to answer questions about the incident, however Pet Supplies Plus Dave Bolen CEO released the following statement via email:
“We sincerely apologize for the heart-breaking accident that occurred on Thursday, June 21, 2012 with one of our customer’s pets in our Brooklyn, Ohio grooming facility. We understand how very devastated the family is and our hearts go out to them. The welfare of our customers and their pets is our top priority. We are thoroughly investigating the situation as we await the results of testing to understand what happened to Nannie, and we are fully cooperating with local authorities. Although our groomer training program is comprehensive and focused on pet safety, we are instituting new, recurring retraining procedures to ensure that our staff remains fully educated. The groomer in question has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Most importantly, we continue to work closely with the family to provide support in any way we can.”
Meanwhile, the death of Nannie, as her owners called her, has left a void with which the family struggles to cope.
"There's still a certain silence that only Nannie filled," said Schoch.