PetSmart Sued

July 9, 2020

What began as a routine trip to the groomers, ended with a dog having to be rushed to surgery to save her life.

Rubber bands were tied so tightly around the small dog’s ears, her circulation was cut off and she could have died without the surgery, according to a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court this week.

The pet owner of the Maltese-shiatsu dog, named Winter, is suing PetSmart after an employee allegedly injured her dog, nearly causing the animal’s death.

On July 23 of last year, pet owner Sherrilyn Miller took Winter to a PetSmart store in San Leandro to be bathed and groomed. Miller paid extra to have bows put on her then-2-year-old emotional support dog. She even complimented the employee on how sturdy the bows looked when she picked up her pet.

But the next morning, she noticed that Winter was lethargic and liquid seemed to have been coming from the dog’s ears. It was to her “shock and horror” that Miller then noticed that the employee had attached the bows by tightly wounding rubber bands around Winter’s ears. Miller had not noticed the day before, since Winter’s fur is long and fluffy, and her skin is close to the color of the bands, according to the complaint.

“Her ears looked like black coal, that’s the only way I can describe it,” Miller said in an interview Wednesday.

Bows are supposed to be attached to the fur itself, not around the actual skin.

“Even a child knows you don’t wrap a rubber band around like that,” Miller said.

Winter was rushed to emergency surgery to try to save her life — and her ears. The bands had stopped blood flow to her ears, and both ears were inflamed and had blood blisters. The veterinarian needed to make several punctures all over Winter’s ears with a large 18-gauge needle to allow the blisters to drain.

According to the vet, Winter would have been dead in 24 hours if Miller had not noticed the problem and rushed her to the office. In another four hours, she could have lost her ears, Miller said.

“Now I have an emotional support dog that needs more emotional support than I do,” Miller said.

Winter is traumatized, and won’t leave Miller’s side. She constantly needs attention and reassuring petting, and cries or howls if she is left alone. She’s now afraid of other people, unless she already knows them.

What Miller wants from the lawsuit is for PetSmart to change its policy and stop the use of the bows. She said it costs $3 extra to add the bows after a dog’s bath.

“Just stop doing them; it’s simple,” Miller said. “You can’t continuously hurt or kill our loved ones. … It’s not worth the $3. To me, this is so cut and dry.”

She said the groomers can use bandannas instead, and she won’t settle for anything less than their policy change.

A managing agent at PetSmart immediately admitted wrongdoing, saying that the employee was new and had undergone “expedited” training, according to the lawsuit. PetSmart paid for Winter’s medical expenses, and offered free grooming sessions.

Miller said when the PetSmart employee offered the free sessions, Winter was in surgery. She told them that that was not the time to think about more grooming sessions, and walked away.

In the lawsuit, attorney Alison Cordova of the Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy law firm, says that since 2009, PetSmart has been accused of several instances of serious pet injury or death while under the care of groomers. In 2016, the law firm also filed a lawsuit against PetSmart after a dog was taken in for a routine nail trimming at a San Mateo location. The dog, Henry, suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung during the trimming. Henry soon died.

PetSmart’s slogan is “Where pets are family,” but the lawsuit contends that it isn’t the case.

“PetSmart knows how important dogs and animals are to their owners. Yet we keep seeing animals get hurt and/or killed while in PetSmart’s care. And this groomer’s actions, in particular, were so far below the standard of care in the industry that it is shocking,” Cordova said in a statement.

“Imagine if a day care center sent your child home with rubber bands so tightly wound around their little ears that their ears had turned black and hard and were dripping liquid. That is what happened here, but with Sherrilyn’s dog.”

The lawsuit does not specify a certain amount for damages.

PetSmart issued a statement stating they do not comment on pending litigation.

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    October 9, 2020

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    October 9, 2020

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    October 9, 2020

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    October 9, 2020

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcomes New Canine

    October 9, 2020

    Young Kingston Police service dog Bask may look small, but his handler says his training and energy are proving that he’s up to fill the shoes of his predecessor. “I think he’s going to be a great little dog,” Const. Jeff Dickson said, looking down at his new partner. A partner that, wearing the right […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    October 9, 2020

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Helps Firefighters

    October 9, 2020

    Firefighters battling the Archie Creek and Thielsen fires have had some long, exhausting days. But for some, their troubles seemed to melt away once they got back to camp. Why? Meet Ralph Colombo. He hauls oversize loads. And joining Ralph is his service dog, Cowboy – the morale boosting, firefighting puppy. “He just keeps my […]

    Read more

    Pet Therapy Program

    October 9, 2020

    Saturday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which this year has a new sense of urgency for many. Covid-19 has taken a mental and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the U.S but there is a program boosting the spirits of doctors and nurses on the frontlines. At UC Irvine Medical Center in Southern […]

    Read more

    A Service Dogs Place

    October 9, 2020

    A new Pineville nonprofit that helps people with disabilities obtain service dogs has made its first match. The Saber Life Foundation was started in March by Danea Key and her husband Joel. They provide people with trained service dogs, paying 51 percent of the cost, with the client paying the other 49 percent. Service dogs […]

    Read more

    Dog Beating Cancer

    October 9, 2020

    A little over a year after a local dog was given only a few months to live after being diagnosed with bone cancer, she is still in remission and will be celebrated her twelfth birthday this month. Cocoa has been with her owner, Bucyrus resident Christie Auck, since she was nine-weeks-old. “On Aug. 18, 2019, […]

    Read more

    More Recent News