What Retailers Can Learn From the Investigation into Dog Deaths After PetSmart Grooming



As if it wasn’t enough to have more than $8 billion in debt, PetSmart is also sporting a black eye due to media reports of dog deaths and injuries at its grooming salons. The results of an investigation by NJ Advance Media were released just days ago and revealed that there have been 47 documented cases of dog deaths that occurred either during a PetSmart grooming or shortly after.


Some of the stories emerging from this investigation are chilling. In one instance, a service dog trained to aid a military veteran allegedly experienced severe distress at a PetSmart grooming salon and died as a result. PetSmart’s PetHotels have also faced criticism. One customer reported that she had to come early to pick up her dog after its eye was dislodged from its socket. According to the pet owner, the boarding facility could not provide a solid explanation for the blunt force trauma that caused this injury. The eye later had to be removed.


Some say that possible explanations for these deaths and injuries could lie in PetSmart’s training program. The big-box retailer currently does not require its groomers to be licensed or certified by a third-party, only that they’ve passed a PetSmart training program, which has a dubious reputation. By being licensed or certified, groomers could be better able to manage emergency situations and have greater experience with handling dogs.


PetSmart’s critics have also called for improved monitoring in both the PetHotels and grooming areas. The implementation of surveillance cameras would hold both PetSmart and its employees to greater accountability. Also, if an accident were to happen, pet parents would have definitive answers as to what caused it. [Editor’s Note: In response to the NJ Advance Media report, PetSmart has indicated that it will be placing cameras in all of its grooming facilities.]


These media reports, and the harm that they are doing to the retail giant’s reputation, provide an important lesson to independent retailers and grooming salons. While offering services such as grooming, boarding and daycare can be a great way to increase convenience for pet owners and drive customer traffic, you can end up severely damaging your business if you don’t handle them correctly. Having safe facilities and well-trained, competent staff—including licensed and/or certified professionals whenever possible—is essential. Otherwise, like PetSmart, you could find yourself facing a sharp decline in your status as a retailer that can be trusted.


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