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A North Carolina PetSmart store denies responsibility, but initiated changes to their grooming policies after an irate and heartbroken customer discovered broken blood vessels in both his dog’s eyes following a standard grooming appointment.
Now, that dog owner has launched a social media campaign to protect other pets from the same, or worse, fate at the hands of PetSmart groomers.
Michael Batchelor of Rocky Mount, NC, brought his English Bulldog, Gunner, to a local PetSmart for a routine grooming. When he returned to pick the dog up, he immediately saw that something was wrong.
Batchelor was heartbroken to see one-year-old dog Gunner “obviously in distress, he was breathing hard, and his eyes looked really bad.” Without even leaving the store, he rushed Gunner to the on-site Banfield Pet Hospital where he was diagnosed with hemorrhages in both eyes.
Concerned that Gunner had been choked or abused in some way, Batchelor visited an off-site veterinarian for a second opinion. To rule out any underlying medical condition, his veterinarian performed bloodwork that showed Gunner to be in otherwise great health.
Batchelor’s veterinarian explained how the hemorrhages may have occurred. “A neck leash that was too tight for a period of time would be the top differential for his diagnosis, subconjunctival hemorrhage. This can even happen by Gunner being really excited and pulling on his neck leash. I would hate to think that someone intentionally did this to your guy. I hope there were cameras and they show an innocent accident,” he wrote in an email.
Following the incident and diagnosis, Batchelor spent nearly a week trying to reach someone at PetSmart. It wasn’t until a Facebook post describing the events and photos of Gunner went viral that Batchelor received a return call.
In that return call, PetSmart offered to pay Gunner’s veterinary bills in exchange for Batchelor deleting his Facebook post, retracting his statements, and signing a non-disclosure agreement.
“Yes not all groomers are bad, but it only takes ones as we have seen to hurt your fur baby. Since making this post I have been sent messages of from people who have had similar and even worse experiences with injuries to their Fur Babies at the hands of PetSmart,” Batchelor said in a Facebook post.
By the time he’d heard back from PetSmart, Batchelor had been contacted by hundreds of other pet parents making similar claims of injury and abuse at the hands of PetSmart groomers. Batchelor declined PetSmart’s offer to pay his bills saying, “it wasn’t about the money, it was about getting justice for Gunner… I don’t want anything from them, I just want to get the word to the public.”
PetSmart sent the following statement to WRAL, “We completed an investigation and found our associates followed all protocol during Gunner’s grooming service. Based on our investigation, we believe that the cause of Gunner’s injury occurred outside of his service at PetSmart.”
Still, despite denying any wrongdoing, PetSmart has initiated changes to their grooming policy to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, adding, “As a result of this incident, however, we have updated our check-in process to include an expanded list of existing signs of stress such as excessive panting, redness in the eyes, trembling and resistance to entering the salon. We will decline service if two or more of these signs exist.”
In addition, PetSmart has made it policy to only use figure 8 or cross-body restraints on 5 breeds including English Bull Dogs, French Bull Dogs, Pugs, Boxers and Boston Terriers.
Today, Gunner is recovering, although his eyes are still bloodshot and showing signs of inflammation. Batchelor says, “This abuse has to stop. Gunner can’t tell me what happened so we have to be his voice.”
In addition and as a result of the hundreds of incidents at PetSmart salons around the country, Batchelor has started a petition urging PetSmart stores to close their grooming salons until regulations are put into place that show PetSmart puts the welfare and well-being of pets at the top of their priority list.
PetSmart grooming salons around the country are no strangers to injury and death of dogs in their care.Just last month, a PetSmart groomer was fired after being caught on camera mishandling a dog. In December, two dogs died and a third was injured following separate grooming appointments at the same New Jersey store. And, last year, a Chihuahua died following a simple nail trim procedure at a California store, a Dachshund was strangled to death only minutes after arriving to be groomed, and a Newfoundland died of heat stroke following a grooming at an Ohio store.