LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) — A nine-month investigation into PetSmart is raising questions about the safety of dogs in the chain's care.
NJ Advance Media's probe found that 47 dogs have died shortly after routing grooming and sometimes just after a quick nail trimming.
In a lengthy response, the retail store insisted it has the "highest safety standards in the industry" but that they were rolling out improvements in training and oversight.
The investigation said there were 47 deaths in 14 states since 2008, with nine in Pennsylvania.
English bulldogs and similar breeds that are known to have breathing difficulties accounted for 20 of the deaths.
NJ.com set out to find how many dogs have died during or shortly after grooming following the death of Scruffles, an English bulldog groomed at a PetSmart in Flemington, New Jersey. The case generated wide interest on social media.
PetSmart said breeds with those conditions will now only be allowed to have "express" groomings that limit the amount of time a dog spends in the salon.
Of the deaths, 32 happened after 2015, the same year the chain was bought out by private equity firm BC Partners for $8.7 billion.
A former employee told reporters that the new owner put pressure on them to increase the volume of pets groomed.
"When the new owners bought it, they demanded six to eight dogs in eight hours," says the worker, who worked as a salon manager at two PetSmart locations in New Jersey before quitting after the takeover. "This is in addition to walk-in clients, the phones are ringing off the hook, you’re meeting with pet parents, doing paperwork. … There’s always pressure to do more dogs."
The exact total of dog deaths after PetSmart groomings isn’t known because the company refused to disclose the number it's documented since 2008 and did not admit to any wrongdoing.
NJ.com said it could not determine what, if any, connection there is between the groomings and the dog deaths. Nor could it determine whether the timing of any of the deaths was coincidence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.