CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- The PETCO employee believed to be responsible for the death of a dog during a routine grooming has been suspended, the company said Monday.
As CBS 6 reported, Allison Marks of Powhatan was told her two-year-old golden retriever named Colby was killed after being left in a dryer cage too long.
"Friday was probably the worst day since my husband died," Marks said.
Monday Petco issued a statement which said that while Colby was in a dryer cage, it was not a cage that was heated:
All of us at Petco remain deeply upset by Colby's passing. We have strict protocols in place to ensure the well-being of pets in our grooming salons, and we take it very seriously when those protocols are not followed. The groomers involved have been suspended while we complete a thorough investigation, and we are in contact with the pet parents and coordinating with local Animal Services to understand what happened in this terrible situation. It's important to know we do not use heated dryers in any Petco grooming salons, and we can confirm there was no heat used in the drying process during Colby's groom, but other details are still being investigated. Our thoughts continue to be with Colby's family at this difficult time.
The statement was released amid new accusations of dryer-related injuries to dogs have been reported.
Heather Bish says her dog five years ago was burned during a grooming at Petco and says her vet believes it could have been dryer-related.
"His back had been burned and it was, like, blistered -- she said he could have been left in the dryer too long," Bish said.
Animals groomers in the Richmond area said it's unclear what type of cage dryer Petco uses, but Steve Boschen, owner of The Barking Lot, said it is easy to make a mistake while using cage dryers. The dryers often have different levels that can easily be toggled if someone isn't paying attention, he said.
Boschen said, however, the biggest mistake would be leaving the room where the dog was.
"It had to be negligence, ignorance or both," Boschen said.
Boschen said groomers use cage dryers or fans. If they didn't, he said that dog appointments would last all day since towel-drying is time-consuming.
"It is an industry standard," Boschen said.
Boschen says concerned pet owners should ask for fans like the one he has at his Richmond location, which is one that blows room temperature air.
Rosemary Marchetto of New Jersey says her dog Bijou died several years ago while being groomed. She is working on passing a nationwide law that would ban heated dryers.
"My bill will include outlawing heated cages," Marchetto said.
Depend on WTVR.com and CBS 6 News for continuing coverage of this story.
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.”
“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.