Four former PetSmart employees are facing charges, including felony animal cruelty, after a dog in their care was strangled to death during a routine nail trim appointment.
AJ Ross took her Poodle, Kobe, to the East Liberty PetSmart in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a routine nail trim. Just minutes later, her beloved best friend of 12-years was dead.
Ross said she watched on November 17, 2020 the PetSmart associate brought Kobe into the grooming salon before heading into the store to pick out new toys and treats for him. Within a few minutes, she told KDKA she heard the store manager paged over the intercom.
Shortly after hearing the page, the manager found her in the store and brought her to the salon. That’s where she saw Kobe lying lifeless on the grooming table. She scooped him off the table and ran.
“I’m rushing out of the store, and I’m hoping maybe some fresh air will help him. If I just rub him and the fresh air hits him, maybe he’ll wake up,” she told KDKA. “I’m saying, ‘Kobe, wake up, wake up,’ and he’s not waking up. And I just collapsed outside the store.”
She rushed Kobe to a nearby veterinarian, but it was too late to revive him. According to the necropsy report, PetSmart employees had attempted CPR. The store manager told her Kobe had just fainted on the table while having his nails done.
“Like, he looked sick? What were you saying? He just fainted? And they couldn’t really give me a clear answer,” Ross said.
After multiple attempts to get answers from store employees, Ross said a PetSmart regional manager asked her to come back to the store to review surveillance footage recorded during Kobe’s nail trim. What she saw traumatized her.
“They had him tethered to a leash and tethered to the end of the grooming table. So his neck is being hyperextended in different directions,” she recalled. “He was hanging. He was hanging for over a minute. He was struggling and being tortured. They didn’t do anything, they just kept cutting his nails.”
Ross immediately contacted Animal Control’s Humane Animal Rescue and asked for an investigation into her dog’s death. Following the investigation, Animal Control officers filed criminal complaints against four PetSmart employees, corroborating Ross’s account of the events that November day. A veterinarian also reviewed the tape and described Kobe’s death and suffering as a result of a crushed windpipe.
PetSmart released a statement saying, “We are heartbroken and truly sorry for the loss of Kobe. After this terrible accident, we launched an internal investigation and found unintended failure to adhere to our pet safety processes. Additionally, we cooperated with an external investigation, terminated the responsible associates and facilitated an autopsy to help provide answers.”
Four former employees were formally charged on May 7, and are facing multiple charges including felony animal cruelty.