Woman files lawsuit after dog died during grooming in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood

PITTSBURGH — A woman whose toy poodle died during a PetSmart grooming appointment in East Liberty back in 2020 has filed a lawsuit this week against the pet store and two of its employees.

AJ Ross, a Pittsburgh native, took her 12-year-old poodle, Kobe, to the PetSmart on Centre Avenue in November 2020 for a nail trim.

According to Ross, 10 minutes into the appointment, Kobe would be dead.

Surveillance footage from inside the grooming area provided by Ross, shows two employees, identified as Julie Miller and Elizabeth Doty, use tethers to keep Kobe in place. The lawsuit says Kobe was asphyxiated by the PetSmart employees after they used tethers to “create an arrangement not unlike a hangman’s noose if Kobe were to lose his footing.”

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According to the lawsuit, when the employees removed the tethers, Kobe collapsed.

“As I go in, I see him, lifeless on the grooming table, the groomers are standing there gawking. 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,” Ross told Channel 11 in 2021.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions back then, Ross wasn’t able to remain in the grooming area with Kobe.

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The lawsuit alleges that PetSmart employees and managers claimed that Kobe had just gone limp and collapsed without cause. The lawsuit also states that there was negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress on the part of PetSmart, along with Doty and Miller.

The lawsuit also accuses the company of negligent hiring and supervision practices, violation of consumer protection laws, breach of warranty of good faith, and fraud.

PetSmart sent Channel 11 a statement about the incident:

“We are heartbroken by 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.”

Ross tells Channel 11 that PetSmart offered to help her adopt a new dog, which she declined.

Miller and Doty are also both awaiting trial for animal cruelty charges related to Kobe’s death.

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