Groomer Enters Not Guilty Plea in Dog’s Death

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BROOKLYN, Ohio — State Representative Nick Celebrezze is no stranger to answering calls for help. He's a former Parma city councilman who’s dedicated his career to protecting the public, a duty he says Ohio law has neglected when it comes to four-legged members of the family. 

Celebrezze didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked by Call For Action for help drafting a new law that would require professional groomers to be licensed in Ohio, following the hanging death of a Cleveland family's pet at the Brooklyn Pet Supplies Plus on Ridge Road.

"Our animals are not just our pets, they’re beloved members of our family,” said Celebrezze. “So anything to protect any member of our family is an important thing for us," he said.

Celebrezze said it wasn't until the hanging of Paula Schoch’s Schnoodle, Nannie, that he realized Ohio is one of the few states that doesn’t demand licensing for professional groomers.

"We're a little bit behind in times, especially in this area of law,” said Celebrezze, “Obviously licensing to protect our citizens is a great thing and something I hope we'll be able to introduce in the fall."

Celebrezze wasted no time putting his staff to work on what he said would be called, "Nannie's Law." It was news that Schoch said brought enormous comfort to her and her family during their struggle to adapt to life without their two year old dog. They took Nannie to Pet Supplies Plus for a shampoo and clip.

“I am scared to death now to take any of my other pets to a groomer," said Schoch, as she explained why she’s grateful for Celebrezze’s efforts.

Schoch said Nannie's groomer, 20-year-old Kalie Balestra, told her she left Nannie unattended on a grooming table with her head in a noose. Police said Balestra gave them a different version of what happened; she claimed the dog was left in a groomer’s tub and was found lying there on its side when she returned from helping with another dog. An investigating officer said evidence found at the scene did not match Balestra’s story.

Schoch said she was hoping to hear from Balestra at a scheduled court appearance Wednesday afternoon, but according to court personnel, the groomer arrived for a morning session  and entered a plea of not guilty, a development Schoch found upsetting.

"Nannie was part of the family, and we really wanted to be there, we want to monitor what's going on with this," said Schoch.

Pet Supplies Plus CEO Dave Bolen previously issued the following statement:

“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.”

Balestra is scheduled for a pretrial in late August. She remains on suspension from Pet Supplies Plus pending a company investigation.

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