View Full Version : Autopsy: couple's dog didn't die natural death at groomer

02-22-08, 10:59 AM
3 page article, here is big excerpt, read all at:


West Knoxville pet groomer

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A couple whose dog died in January at a West Knoxville pet groomer now has the autopsy results and many more questions.

"Bogey" was a 20-month old Lhasa Apso who belonged to Johnny and Gail King. He died at Happy Tails Pet Spa on Ebenezer Road. Pictures taken of his body show it had external lesions.

According to the autopsy, a definitive cause of death for Bogey may never be known. But pathologists say they don't believe he died due to an underlying medical condition.

Veterinarian Dr. Kristy Lively saw Bogey the night his owners brought him to her clinic in Farragut.

"Bogey was a very healthy, 20-month-old dog. He had no known underlying medical conditions and nothing significant as far as an underlying condition was found on his post mortem exam to have caused death," Dr. Lively says.

That means, Bogey didn't die of a natural cause.

The autopsy report doesn't reveal much but pathologists believe Bogey's external lesions could be consistent with overheating or lack of oxygen.

In addition to that report, several other members if the local veterinary community were consulted on what might've caused Bogey to die.

"I do have an opinion from another pathologist who says the most likely causes based on the external lesions are overheating or inadequate ventilation," Dr. Lively says.

In January, 6 News went to Happy Tails to ask co-owner Erik Webb if he knew why Bogey died at his facility.

Webb didn't want to speak on camera but said, "There was no foul play on our part whatsoever. Basically, I walked down there. The dog was laying on his side and I said, Oh my God."

Regardless of what happened, the Kings says their home will never be the same without Bogey.

Happy Tails owners Erik and Sarah Webb didn't want to go on camera for this report. But they released a statement to 6 News:

"We, at Happy Tails are of course devastated when an animal in our care is hurt. Unfortunately, in the animal business accidents can and do happen everywhere.

We strive daily to ensure the care and safety of all of the animals entrusted to us. We cannot offer an apology big enough to any client who has had their pets hurt in any way.

The Webb family has taken care of animals for over 40 years and would not do what we did without the love we have for them.


Pet owners have mixed reports about experiences at groomer

A pattern left on Lola's skin resembles what's called a groomer's grate.

"When I came to claim her body, they said, 'Well it's been disposed of.' I said, excuse me? 'Well, we couldn't keep a dog that big in my father's freezer,'" Rosemary Ministeri says.

Since the first 6 News report on Happy Tails aired in January, more pet owners have come forward whose animals also died there.

Family loses two dogs at same groomer

Debby Cash says on July 15, 2005, her husband took their four-year old Bichon Frise, "Lola," to Happy Tails for grooming.

And the couple claims when the owner handed Lola back to them, "Her eyes and her tongue had just been cooked and I mean her eyes...the corneas were completely dry. Her skin, the vet could take the fur and it would just come off."

The couple immediately took the dog to their vet, Dr. Lentz, and also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

"The vet said, 'Debby, we don't need to do an autopsy because it's very visible what happened to her. She died of heat stroke and heat exhaustion,'" Debby says.

In a letter, Dr. Lentz concluded Lola had severe external lesions, consistent with acute heat stroke. A pattern left on Lola's skin resembles what's called a groomer's grate.

The owners of Happy Tails tell 6 News they acknowledge what happened was a mistake. They say a timer on a cage dryer got stuck and continued to heat while Lola was in it. The manager on-duty wasn't around. They say he was later fired and Happy Tails no longer uses cage dryers.

But Lola wasn't the only one one of the Cash's dogs to die at Happy Tails. Ten months earlier, they say their other Bichon, "Sophie," also died there.

At the time, the couple thought Sophie died because of old age and they continued doing business at Happy Tails. The owners of Happy Tails deny having anything to do with her death.

Woman's dog dies, body disposed of

In January 2005, Rosemary Ministeri says she was told her two-year old American Staffordshire, "Brinnie," died at Happy Tails.

Rosemary recalls the conversation she says she had on the phone with Happy Tails co-owner Erik Webb while she was in Florida.

"I said, Erik, what's the problem? He said, 'Well Brinnie, is no longer with us.' And I said, excuse me? Brinnie is no longer with you? Where is she? 'Well, she's in my father's freezer.' I said, excuse me?"


How to check pets' treatment at groomer's

"When the dogs are being dryed off in the tub after the bath, we use a force dryer. Basically, all it is is air that comes out of a hose like this and just makes the water come off the dog easier and that's I how dry them," Tara Sharp explains.

It's not only the groomer's job to ensure the safety and well being of pets, it's also the owner's responsibility to do some homework.

Tara Sharp owns Pups and Pals, located at 1322 N. Broadway in North Knoxville. She's one of more than 50 groomers who belong to Pet Stylists of Tennessee.

"They have high standards. We are all expected to follow kind of the same guidelines and regulations, all striving to make the profession better," Sharp says.

While there are currently no regulations in place in Tennessee to hold groomers accountable and no requirements for licensing, the group upholds its own standards.

Pet Stylists holds monthly workshops and tries to educate members and the public on proper grooming practices.

"If people were held accountable, then more regulations to follow so obviously its going to be an across the board kind of thing. You can never learn enough in taking care of someone's pet," Sharp says.

Susan Porterfield, who's been grooming pets for 40 years, started Pet Stylists of Tennessee.

"Our hope is that people will understand that most grooming facilities are trained and trying to raise the standard for our career," Porterfield says.

And Druanne Martin has started the Tennessee Professional Groomers Association. They're also pushing for the licensing and certification of groomers.

"The reason there should be legislation is the fact is, anybody can put a plaque out and call themselves a groomer. They can buy, clippers, scissors and they are a groomer," Martin says.

When you take your pet to a groomer, there are things you can do to make sure it's in good hands.

Ask to tour the facility. See how the pets act and if they seem happy.
If the facility uses cage dryers, make sure an attendant stays in the room where the pet is being dried. The time for drying needs to be limited. And a door should remain open if a cage dryer is being used.
Make sure the groomer has all your contact numbers, as well as your veterinarian's number in case there's an emergency.

"Cage dryers are great when used the right way and when all equipments is functioning properly. You have to keep up with equipment, too," says Dr. Dr. Kristy Lively.

Tara Sharp is one of a number of groomers who don't use cage dryers. Instead, her dryers only emit air, no heat.

"When the dogs are being dryed off in the tub after the bath, we use a force dryer. Basically, all it is is air that comes out of a hose like this and just makes the water come off the dog easier and that's I how dry them," Sharp explains.

02-22-08, 06:11 PM
My heart goes out for Bogey's family. This should never happen. You can buy dryers now that don't have heating elements. Well worth the cost to replace older dryers to ensure the pet's wellfare. To see that poor dog's tummy just made me cry.

02-23-08, 06:31 AM
You don't even NEED cage dryers; fans work quite well and are 100% safe. Unless your facility is kept really cold, you're NEVER going to cause any pet hypothermia even with the most powerful fan. In general, IF I cage-dried any dogs (cats are another story, as most don't tolerate the HV), they were blow-dried most of the way; there might have been a bit of dampness on the feet and/or tips of the ears. So by the time I finished bathing/drying the next dog (about 15 minutes), the previous dog would be dry.