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4 former Pittsburgh PetSmart employees charged in death of toy poodle

PITTSBURGH — Four employees from PetSmart in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood are facing felony animal cruelty charges in connection with the November death of a toy poodle named Kobie.

AJ Ross brought her toy poodle to the store to be groomed. When she came to pick up the dog, he was dead.

“I felt helpless. I felt angry. I wanted to know what did they do to my dog because he was fine moments ago, and then I come in, and he’s, he’s just laying there motionless,” Ross explained.

Ross told Channel 11 that she rushed Kobie to Banfield Animal Hospital and after 15 minutes of CPR, the hospital staff pronounced him dead.

She went back to PetSmart because she suspected that something wasn’t adding up. Ross also requested an autopsy for Kobie and asked to see the surveillance video.

“So there’s one leash that was tethered straight above vertical and another leash that was attached towards the front of the table so they’re contrasting tensions, pulling his neck, hyperextending his neck,” Ross said.

According to court paperwork, the Humane Animal Rescue investigation found that there was hyperextension of the neck and a lack of contact between Kobe’s paws and the grooming table. This is what they said led to Kobie’s airway being crushed and resulted in his death.

Julie Miller, Shaphan Stonge, Elizabeth Doty and Heather Rowe all face various animal cruelty and neglect charges for their alleged roles in the poodle’s death, which happened during a nail trim.

Rowe, 27, and Stonge, 37, are both charged with two counts of neglect of animals and a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals. Doty, 21, and Miller, 32, are both charged with two counts each of cruelty to animals and neglect of animals, along with two felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals for alleged torture and death of an animal.

PetSmart released the following statement about the situation:

“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 said that PetSmart offered to help her adopt a new dog, which she declined.