At least 47 dogs died after PetSmart grooming

NEW JERSEY – A new investigation is raising questions about the safety of dogs at PetSmart.

The nine-month probe by NJ Advance Media uncovered 47 dogs’ deaths shortly after routine grooming—sometimes just a 15-minute nail trimming. In a lengthy response, the chain insists it has the “highest safety standards in the industry,” but also said it is rolling out improvements in training and oversight.

The investigation documented 47 deaths in 14 states since 2008, with Pennsylvania having the most at nine. Two points:

  • English bulldogs and similar breeds, known to have breathing difficulties, accounted for 20 of the 47 deaths. The chain says such breeds will now only be allowed to have “express” groomings that limit the time the dog spends in the salon.
  • Most of the deaths—32—occurred after 2015, the year PetSmart was acquired by the private equity firm BC Partners for $8.7 billion.

One former employee told reporters that the new owners put pressure on stores to increase volume.

“When the new owners bought it, they demanded six to eight dogs in eight hours,” says the worker, who worked as a salon manager at two PetSmart locations in New Jersey before quitting after the takeover. “This is in addition to walk-in clients, the phones are ringing off the hook, you’re meeting with pet parents, doing paperwork. … There’s always pressure to do more dogs.”

PetSmart released a statement reading in part,

“At PetSmart, nothing is more important than the safety of the pets in our care. That is why we have set the highest grooming safety standards in the industry, and our stylists complete 800 or more hours of hands-on instruction and safety certification, working with at least 200 dogs of all breeds and sizes. In addition, stylists complete annual safety re-certification and participate in quarterly grooming safety training sessions. In 2015, PetSmart played an active role in shaping and advocating for the adoption of care standards for all pet groomers in the industry. More information about this effort, as well as the proposed standards, can be found here.

While it’s clear we have set the highest safety standards in the industry, we are always looking to improve. We recognize the responsibility we have every time a pet parent chooses PetSmart, and we want to live up to our promise of being their trusted partner every day. That’s why we implemented a comprehensive action plan in February 2018 to provide pets with an even safer and more enjoyable experience in our grooming salons.”

Click to read the full investigation or the chain’s full response. (Prior to the investigation, the chain had been hit by lawsuits such as this one.)

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