Report: Dog Dies at PetSmart, Company Tries to Buy His Family’s Silence

Written by Michelle Kretzer | May 1, 2018

The Soto family wanted to have their little dog, Fabio, groomed—so they took him to the local PetSmart in Tampa, Florida. Just over an hour later, he was dead.

Marcos and Michelle Soto had never used PetSmart’s grooming services before they took their family’s beloved 6-year-old pup there last week for what they expected to be a routine bath and cut. Marcos said that “Fabio was healthy, [was] up to date on his shots and showed no signs of being ill.” But as the family reported to, shortly after they dropped him off, they got a call from PetSmart telling them that their dog was unresponsive and they needed to come back to the store immediately.

Michelle got there first, and when Marcos walked in, he saw his wife cradling the dog. “She was calling his name but he wasn’t responding,” he said. “His eyes were closed, his mouth was open and his tongue was hanging out.”

PetSmart brought over the veterinarian from the on-site Banfield Pet Hospital, but Fabio went into cardiac arrest and the vet wasn’t able to save him.

PetSmart and the family sent Fabio’s body for a necropsy at the University of Miami, but when the company called the Sotos to discuss it, Marcos couldn’t believe what he heard. “They said they had preliminary results of the necropsy that showed Fabio had a bad case of heart worm,” he said. “Since then, they’ve been silent. They’ve completely stopped communication with me.”

He says there is no way that Fabio could have had heartworms. The family relocated to the United States last fall after hurricanes Irma and Maria hit their home in the Virgin Islands. The dog had to get veterinary clearance to join his family. Since then, he had received a veterinary checkup and shots, and he was current on his heartworm preventive.

Police tape surrounds the PetSmart on Sawyer Brown Road in Nashville as authorities raid the store after PETA turned over the findings of our eyewitness investigation.

Marcos says that he has Fabio’s vet records proving that the dog was healthy. He asked PetSmart for a copy of the necropsy results but hasn’t received one. He also said that before the company stopped communicating with him, it offered to buy the family a new dog—but with a caveat: The Sotos would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting them from discussing their experience with media outlets. Marcos said that he was considering signing it until he got the strange phone call from the company alleging that his dog had died of heartworms.

“My interest has never been to get any money out of PetSmart,” he said. “No dollar amount can make up for the pain of losing a family member. We just want to know what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen to another family. The hardest part is not having any clear answers.”

As numerous PETA investigations have shown, at PetSmart, corporate greed takes precedence over animal welfare every time. Please, don’t take your animals to be groomed there—and buy your animal companion’s supplies elsewhere, too. Tell the company that you won’t be a customer until it stops buying small animals from abusive dealers and holding them in deplorable conditions to make a quick buck.