Family says dog died after being left in drying cage at Petco

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POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. – A Powhatan family blames human error by a groomer at Petco for their young dog’s tragic death. Family members said Allison Marks dropped Colby, a two-year-old golden retriever, off at the Petco at Westchester Commons in Chesterfield County Friday. Relatives said Colby had no health problems and was scheduled for a routine grooming.

Melody Newman, whose mother’s dog died, said the family is still in “complete shock” over what happened.

“My sister had called and she told me what had happened and I was like, ‘Are you serious?’”  Newman said. “Colby was a very playful puppy. He just turned two in February. He was so playful.”


"It's empty. The house is empty," Allison Marks said as a photo of Colby and some of his bones and toys offer reminders of his short, but meaningful time he spent with his owner.

Losing Colby 

Marks called Friday the worst day of her life since her husband's death.

“He's been going there since he was a puppy,” Marks said during an interview from her backyard Sunday evening not far from her beloved pet’s doghouse.

That doghouse now sits empty, a lingering reminder of the loss of what she described as the “sweetest dog” who did not have “a mean bone in his body.”


WTVR CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George and Allison Marks.

According to Marks, when she had not heard back from Petco after a couple of hours after she dropped off her dog, she called the store. That's when she was told to meet the store’s assistant manager at an area animal hospital. When she arrived, she said Petco’s assistant manager told her Colby was accidentally left in a heated drying cage for too long.

“This is her exact words: your groomer had to go because she had a graduation to go to,” Marks said.

The veterinarian told her Colby likely died of heat stroke. In fact, she said she was told that more than an hour after Colby's death, the dog's internal temperature still registered more than 105 degrees.

Marks said Petco's corporate office reassured her that the drying cages cut off after 15 minutes.

“I said, Well, if they cut off after 15 minutes, how come his temperature is still so high?’” she said.

“You could clearly see he was dead. His eyes were glazed over and stuff. And I just said, ‘Is he dead?’ And they said, ‘Yes, he’s passed on.’ And… that was the worst day ever.”

Marks added that Petco's management team was very kind during the ordeal. In fact, she said the assistant manager was weeping along with her at the vet's office.

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Petco at Westchester Commons

Petco's Response 

Petco released the following statement Sunday afternoon:

"All of us at Petco are heartbroken by Colby’s passing. The health and safety of pets is always our top priority and we take full responsibility for all animals under our care. We are taking immediate action to investigate and understand the situation. Our thoughts are with Colby's family at this difficult time."

At the Petco location where this allegedly happened, customers were horrified.

Ruth Sangiuliano said after hearing the allegations she does not think she can bring her pup back to Petco.

“I don't think so, because I love him like a child and if anything happens to him I would be really sad,” Sangiuliano said.

Justice for Colby 

Now that the reality of the situation is sinking in, Marks said she wants to press charges.

“Oh yeah. I’m going to get justice for Colby,” Marks promised.

And while Chesterfield Animal Control is investigating the incident, she said her primary concern is sharing Colby's story so that no other pet owner has to cope with such a preventable tragedy.

"It’s not an accident," she said. "To me, it’s not an accident. You don’t just leave a dog... I mean, did you turn it over to somebody else?"

Marks said Colby's death has left an irreplaceable void and that her home feels empty without her baby.

“You can't replace a dog like that. He was the most lovable dog ever," she said. "It sickens me that they can let something like this happen. How could he not suffer? He was in a cage for God knows how long.”

Depend on and CBS 6 News for continuing coverage of this story.


Colby (SOURCE: Family)

Social Media 


Marks' first shared the sad news on her Facebook page Friday at 5:41 p.m.

"I will love you forever and always, My sweet sweet Colby Jack RIP," she wrote.

After her post, folks from all over Central Virginia -- and the nation -- began sharing the story.

Multiple viewers contacted WTVR CBS 6 Sunday about the story. One woman had seen the story posted in a Facebook group about yard sales.

"This story has been shared a bunch of times now. I figured Channel 6 can get to the bottom of it faster than anyone!" Tiffany McGuire wrote.

McGuire said after she read the story in the Facebook group she decided it was worth a share.

The post she shared was from a Wendy Sitko, whose status indicated she was heartbroken over what she said happened to her mother's dog. In posting the story, she said she hoped her friends and family members would "beware" about taking their pets to the groomers.




    This is so horrific!! I worked for petco a few years ago…and most of the groomers are nothing but animal abusers and money hungry… they just don’… they need to have cameras and timed dryers… I use to work in the grooming business for a good while… and I’ve seen it every place I’ve worked… I’ve gotten “laid off” a couple times because I’ve stood up for these poor defenceless creatures and been punished for it. . .. This ANIMAL ABUSE NEEDS TO STOP!! EVERYONE WILL ONE DAY BE JUDGED!!!

  • Jennifer

    It’s funny how when it’s petsmart, everybody is shame on petsmart, when it’s petco, shame on petco. Because they are the big box stores like walmart, they get all the publisity. This happens at small grooming shops too. You can feel empathy for the family because it’s a terrible thing to have happen, and the groomer will probably lose her job, and the other groomers will be reprimanded. Just an fyi though, not all groomers at the box stores are money hungry, and not all of them are irresponsible. Sometimes things happen that’s life. Its sad to see people are so money hungry. You can get justice without a monetary incentive. Its better to fight them to change policies. Just my 2cents.

  • MaryAnn EA

    Petsmart did the same thing and they continue to use dryers on dogs in cages. I asked one of the girls that works at Petsmart. My dog is individually groomed at Aussie Mobile. The groomers come to your house and groom your dog with no cages. These places have incompetent groomers. DON’T TAKE YOUR DOG TO THESE PLACES, HAVE THEM GROOMED INDIVIDUALLY. IT’S WORTH A LITTLE MORE MONEY.

  • Brit Hamon

    Why is the entire company being blamed for what could have been an accident or could have been negligence on that one person or persons involved. Petco has very strict policies on dog safety and as a company Petco top priority is the animals health and well being. I understand why Marks is upset and I don’t blame her for feeling the way she does, she just lost her baby. But don’t put the entire company to shame and everyone that works for the company.

    • Joe

      Because the idiot groomer left the dog in the cage and went off to a graduation and no attempt was made to ensure OTHER employees on duty knew the dog was there in a heated cage and to ensure it was checked, shut off and the dog removed when dry.
      Obviosuly there was no oversight or supervision, no checks and balances to ensure that all employees on duty know what animals are there and what is happening. A simple check system is all it would have taken to avoid this, the groomer telling another one on duty “I am leaving now, check the dog in cage 2”

    • Melody

      You wrote it yourself, Brit! “Petco has very strict policies on dog safety ‘and as a company’ Petco’s top priority is the animal’s health and well being.” Keywords: “Petco” and “company”. Gs! It doesn’t get any stricter than that when yet another poor ‘lil helpless animal like dear Colby is just MORE proof to the contrary! Obviously, your head is in the sand if you think this is the 1st tragic horror story Petco and chains like it have in its history . . . or perhaps you’ve some connection to Petco or its mindless employees who allowed this to happen. Pathetic! Perhaps you’ve learned something from Mark’s and Joe’s reply regarding “‘company liability” and “negligence”. So much for awareness and “top priorities’ on the job, safety, teamwork, and its responsibilities! Good Lord! = O ‘Tis a crying shame when another beloved pet has to fall victim to such carelessness and negligence and ultimately die in order to facilitate the changes in this industry that were long overdue. ; (

  • Bob Summers

    My condolences to the family that had the dog. Depending on how this plays out will impact my decision on whether or not to shop at Petco again. I hope this is just an isolated incident. I have shopped at Petco over the years and have been satisfied. May the dog RIP.

  • Joe also addresses unsafe wire dog kennels and how one made by PetMate has killed a number of dogs and the company still refuses to improve or discontinue this dog killer!

  • Douwlene van Zyl

    Completely and totally unacceptable! I would sue them for pain, loss and emotional traumatization! DISGUSTING!!!!

  • Arnold Margerie

    My cockapoo little girl, used to be groomed by this $%^&@!#! Petco at the store located at 76 street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they asked me to bring her in the morning, and I would pick her up in the afternoon . What I did not know was that she was locked up for so long that she heats a cage, and the groomer would cut her so short that she was almost naked. One day I got a call from the superWiser, she told me that the groomer was sick and that nobody could handle my dog. I then found a groomer , at “Gone to the dogs”, located at 68th and Lincoln in Milwaukee, my little girl loves her and she gets the correct haircut, That Petco Company should be condemned and closed for EVER, nor be REOPENED.

  • John Commons

    Dear Lord. I am not making this up. As I read this my dog is at Petco groomers. I may ask them about this when I pick him up.

  • Darlene Herrera

    I am so sorry to hear about this tragic situation!!!!!! It sickens me that such a beautiful dog had to suffer for someone’s negligence!!! Poor Colby!!!! My heart goes out to Allison, I am so sorry for your loss! I have three pets 2 dogs and 1 cat and they are my babies! I truly cried when I read this! All should learn from this tragic mistake.

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