(PET CARE/DOG GROOMING) Thousands of pets are brought to groomers for baths, nail clippings, and fur trims. But unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned.

For instance, one English Bulldog puppy named Rita died after allegedly being strangled during a grooming session at PetSmart years ago.

Read on for Rita’s unfortunate case, and the importance of choosing your groomer wisely. — Global Animal

Before selecting a pet groomer, first make sure to tour the facility to ensure animal cages are the appropriate size, dogs and cats are kept in separate areas, pets are monitored regularly, etc. Photo Credit: petbusinessinsurance.co.uk

HLN, Craig Johnson

A California couple is suing PetSmart, claiming their puppy was strangled during a grooming session at the store, according to HLN affiliate KTLA.

Veronica Espinoza and John Benitez say they brought Rita, an “energetic, happy and high-spirited” English Bulldog to the PetSmart in Downey last May, KTLA reports, citing court documents.

About two hours later, Benitez allegedly got a call from PetSmart saying that the dog was vomiting blood and needed medical attention. When Benitez arrived at the store he saw the groomer cleaning Rita’s ears, according to the lawsuit. “She was gasping for air and she was throwing up blood,” Benitez told KTLA.

Rita died that morning.

In a statement obtained by HLN on Tuesday, PetSmart apologized for the puppy’s death.

Dogs have been hurt or worse by being mishandled at the groomer. It’s important to find a qualified and safe grooming salon for your beloved pet(s). Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

“The death of Rita, an English Bulldog puppy, is a tragic loss. Many of us at PetSmart are pet parents, and no words can express our deep sorrow for this family’s loss.”

The company said it disputes the events surrounding Rita’s death as the lawyer describes them.

“We take very seriously the trust placed in us by pet parents who each day leave their pets in our care. Nothing is more important than looking after the safety and well-being of pets as if they were our own,” according to the company.

The lawsuit describes a harrowing morning in which Benitez rushed Rita’s body back and forth across the city searching for answers. A veterinarian told him “something had happened. He just didn’t know what,” KTLA quoted him as saying. Then Benitez hurried back to PetSmart, where employees took the dog to a pet hospital.

According to Benitez, PetSmart handled the results of the necropsy, which said Rita died of natural causes. But that’s not what the couple found out after they obtained the report, their attorney Jill Ryther told KTLA.

“An independent vet looks at (the report) and says, (Rita) was strangled,” Ryther told the TV station. The vet also said Rita had lacerations on her neck, Ryther said.

“The facts as represented … by an attorney are not what we believe to be true relative to this unfortunate situation. As a practice, however, PetSmart does not comment on pending litigation,” PetSmart said in the statement to HLN.

More HLN: http://www.hlntv.com/article/2012/04/10/lawsuit-petsmart-strangled-my-puppy?hpt=hp_t3