For many pet owners, PetSmart is a popular destination for a wide range of needs, from food to grooming.
However, a recent investigation has uncovered some alarming information that has many people rethinking their visits and questioning the safety of their dogs at the chain store.
NJ Advanced Media has been looking into PetSmart's practices over the last nine months, after the death of an English Bulldog named Scruffles in Flemington, New Jersey.
NJ Advanced Media found that since 2008 several dogs died shortly after their routine grooming. Some of the dogs that died only had their nails trimmed during their visit.
In total, there have been 47 canine deaths across 14 states, nine of which occurred in Pennsylvania alone.
The probe revealed that breeds such as English Bulldogs and Pugs, which tend to have breathing issues, accounted for 20 of the deaths. It is also noted that majority of the deaths took place after 2015, which is when PetSmart was acquired by BC Partners for $8.7 billion.
The outlet was able to obtain this information by looking at reports filed by customers who have lost their pets. Since none of the states require pet groomers to be licensed, NJ Advanced Media believes that there are others who didn't bother to file reports because legally nothing would come of them.
Additionally, the media outlet also alleged that some PetSmart customers had to sign nondisclosure agreements, which signals a lack of transparency.
However, NJ Advanced Media has made it clear that while questions should be asked, it's important for pet owners to note that 47 is just a small fraction when compared to the millions of dogs that get groomed at PetSmart locations.
The chain has since released a long statement defending their business and reassuring the public that they have the "highest safety standards in the industry."
"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."
The company also revealed that they "implemented a comprehensive action plan in February 2018 to provide pets with an even safer and more enjoyable experience in our grooming salons."
Some of these new changes included appointing a review board to go over the training curriculum, hosting salon open houses, enhanced salon monitoring, and improved safety standards.
"Additionally, all PetSmart groomers perform a broader safety assessment of every pet at check-in. They closely observe pets for any combination of the following: lethargy, excessive panting, excessive drooling, trembling or shaking, redness in eyes, and resistance to entering the salon or kennel area. If a pet exhibits any two of these behaviors, PetSmart will not perform the service at that time. Pet parents are welcome to stay in the store with their pet to see if the behaviors pass within 15 minutes."
The statement also included rebuttals of NJ's claims, and PetSmart made it clear that "any assertion that there is a systemic problem is false and fabricated."
Despite these serious allegations, loyal, longtime customers have no plans to stop taking their pets to get groomed at PetSmart.
This isn't the first time that PetSmart's practices have been brought into question. Prior to the investigation, they have been a part of several lawsuits, including one where a California couple claimed that their one-year-old dog Dachshund's death after a routine nail trimming was the store's fault.