A Pennsylvania woman is suing a local PetSmart after her toy poodle died during a grooming appointment back in 2020 when her pet dog Kobe reportedly asphyxiated from a “hangman’s noose” while receiving a nail trim.

AJ Ross, a Pittsburgh-native CBS Sports reporter, claims she brought her 12-year-old poodle to a PetSmart location in East Liberty, Pennsylvania, for a routine appointment, according to WPXI. The 36-year-old’s lawsuit alleges that the dog died after just ten minutes with PetSmart employees.

Lawsuit Accuses PetSmart Employees Of Killing Dog During Routine Grooming Visit

The lawsuit names the company and two of its former employees in connection with her dog’s death.

“As I go in, I see him, lifeless on the grooming table, the groomers are standing there gawking,” Ross told local outlet Channel 11 last year. “The managers are standing there, no one’s doing anything, and I’m, I’m just freaking out like, what happened to my dog, and they…they said he fainted. He passed out.”

Surveillance footage from the store’s grooming area shows employees Elizabeth Doty, 22, and Julie Miller, 29, tying up the dog into place. The suit claims the tethers used to tie Kobe into place would have created “an arrangement not unlike a hangman’s noose if Kobe were to lose his footing,” which is reportedly what happened during the November 2020 appointment.

Asphyxiated Due To Workers Using Two Different Tethers, Making A “Hangman’s Noose”

Kobe was asphyxiated as a result of the tethering, the suit alleges.

“Kobe was tethered using two different tethers, causing his neck to be pulled in two opposite directions as well as hyperextension of the neck,” court documents read. “The hyperextension of the neck as well as the lack of contact between Kobe’s paws and the grooming table, led to Kobe’s airway being crushed, which resulted in his death.”


Doty, Miller PetSmart managers Heather Rowe and Shapan Stonge allegedly told Ross that the dog suddenly collapsed on the grooming table seemingly without cause and denied the tethering as the reason behind Kobe’s death.

It was only after “persistent inquiries” that Ross returned to the location the following month and viewed the surveillance video. The store offered to help Ross adopt another dog in response to the incident.

PetSmart Workers Criminally Charged In May With Animal Cruelty, Neglect

Ross is accusing the company and employees of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to WPXI.

“We are heartbroken by and truly sorry for the loss of Kobe,” PetSmart wrote in a statement. “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.”



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