Dogs & Laws

California PetSmart Groomer Found Not Guilty Following Dog’s Strangulation Death


A California PetSmart groomer has been cleared of all charges of animal cruelty following the strangulation death of a young dog just minutes after being dropped off for a nail trim.

petsmart groomer

Juan Zarate, 39, of San Francisco, was arrested at the San Mateo PetSmart store last year after Henry, a 1-year old Dachshund died after only 3 minutes in his care.

Henry’s owner brought him to the store for grooming. Three minutes after dropping Henry off, Zarate came out of the grooming office holding the dog, saying he was having a medical emergency. Henry was bleeding from the mouth and having trouble breathing.

An on-site veterinarian was unable to save the dog. X-rays established that he’d suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Police investigating the incident confirmed that Henry arrived in perfect health with no injuries. Zarate was charged with one felony charge of animal abuse and cruelty, carrying a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

A jury found him not guilty Friday.

A necropsy after the incident revealed that Henry had died of “thoracic compression leading to asphyxia,” or strangulation, according to prosecutors.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said it was up to prosecutors to prove the dog’s death was intentional.

“We presented the evidence of an expert veterinarian who testified that this was not an accident,” Wagstaffe told The Mercury News, “but obviously, the jury did not find her persuasive. I accept that.”



  1. Gail Marceaux

    Jun 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    The verdict makes no sense whatsoever. Bones don't break by themselves. It's past time to require groomers to attend formal training and be licensed and bonded!

  2. Barbara Robertson

    Jun 26, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    I strongly feel that the groomer, Zarate was guilty in the death of Henry. No other person handled the Dachshund after his owner brought him to PetSmart. Poor baby two broken ribs, punctured lung and strangulation. Hopefully the groomer will pay for the owner's grief and the cruelty of Henry.

  3. April

    Jun 26, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    This is way I never buy anything from petsmart. The way they treat other people's furbabies is not ok. I will NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM PETSMART

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