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Families of dead and injured dogs sue Healthy Spot channel

Tamara Margolis learned of the fate of her beloved Maltipoo through a telephone message.

The groomer’s voice was full of tears.

“The vet said they had been doing CPR for about 20 minutes,” the groomer said. “But he didn’t answer.”

Hours after Charlie arrived at the Healthy Spot pet store in West Los Angeles for a routine bath and haircut, he was dead.

The 4-year-old had been strangled by a noose used to restrain dogs during grooming. Twenty-six minutes near the end of the fluffy white dog’s life were captured on video the California chain reportedly used to ensure its employees were working fast enough.

Margolis is a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday alleging that the Culver City-based chain – a “natural pet store inspiring healthy lifestyles for pets” – has an “approach conveyor belt style to dog grooming ”which results in“ serious injury and death to innocent and vulnerable dogs, devastating their owners ”.

Tamara Margolis stands next to a leafy sidewalk, one of her favorite places to walk her dog Charlie in Los Angeles.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Healthy Spot has 20 stores in the state, most of them in LA County. The lawsuit alleges the 13-year-old chain encourages employees “to put profits before the safety of the dogs they groom.”

The industry ranges from giant retailers like Petco and PetSmart to mom-and-pop storefronts. Healthy Spot is only a small part. Critics allege the industry has serious safety concerns, with dangers posed by nozzles, hairdryers and poor handling by groomers.

“The noose is a significant danger,” said Daphna Nachminovich, senior vice president of cruelty investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “The handling must be humane … We have seen animals perish from heat prostration in cages because someone forgets to turn off the dryer … [Injuries] are so much more common than you might think.

The grooming industry is unregulated in California and most other states, and there are no statistics on the safety of grooming. But Teri DiMarino, president of the California Professional Pet Groomers Assn. Inc., defends the nation’s groomers and vouches for their safety records.

“Anytime a groomer hears about an incident like this, we all cringe,” DiMarino said. “We are all in pain. We know we will receive questions from customers. But a bad haircut doesn’t make a bad hairdresser … When there are thousands and thousands of pets that are safely groomed every day, that has to be taken into account as well.

Andrew Kim, chief executive of the company, said in a written statement that “our Healthy Spot family has been heartbroken by the death of Charlie and the injury suffered by Noel in our care.

“Our number one priority is the safety of the thousands of animals we care for each year – and we always take full responsibility for the extremely rare cases where accidents do occur,” he said. “We did it in both of these cases. This lawsuit totally distorts who we are and how we operate – and we are confident that it will be quickly dismissed. “

The Healthy Spot video showing Charlie’s April date starts off pretty normal. Plaintiffs’ attorney Gary Praglin said he first saw the video with Kim in May at the company’s headquarters. This is now part of the trial.

A groomer wearing a green t-shirt with the company logo on the back – “Mind Body Bowl” – places Charlie on an elevated grooming platform.

The dog is wet, freshly washed and wrapped in a towel. There’s a green leash wrapped around Charlie’s neck. The groomer hooks it to a metal arm that curves on the platform. DiMarino said such a system for restraining dogs is common in the industry and is “the equivalent of your seat belt.”

For 26 minutes, as the groomer dries the dog and combs his ears, Charlie becomes fluffier and much more restless. He squirms and tightens himself against the noose. The groomer tightens the device so that the leash is short and tight and the dog cannot lie down. He pulls Charlie’s tail up to lift the dog’s hindquarters off the table. The dog gets dirty.

The video is silent. Charlie’s mouth opens and closes again and again as if he is barking or panting.

Two employees rushed Charlie to a nearby veterinary hospital. He had no pulse. Veterinary staff performed CPR and intubated him. For a moment, a weak pulse returned and then stopped. Charlie was dead.

When Margolis, who is an intensive care nurse, arrived at the hospital, she was escorted to a quiet room. Charlie’s body was still warm.

“I sat there for hours hugging him,” she said. “I knew this was the last time for me to be physically with the dog.”

Healthy Spot CEO Kim “contacted me two days later,” said Margolis, who lives in Culver City. “He expressed his condolences, that he felt really bad.” And he offered to pay for the autopsy she ordered.

“Thousands of people have had their pets groomed at Healthy Spot,” said Praglin. “We don’t know how many of their dogs were injured. This lawsuit aims to get them to change their grooming policies so that they no longer harm dogs.

The complaint filed Monday alleges that Healthy Spot violates California law by distorting the qualifications of its employees and using false and misleading advertising, among other charges. He is asking the court to order the company to obey the law and secure its grooming practices.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all of Healthy Spot’s customers whose dogs were injured by grooming at one of the company’s sites between July 2018 and July 2021. The plaintiffs also want the company to cover them. grooming fees, vet bills, attorney fees and legal fees. costs, as well as punitive damages.

Aimee Tully of Newport Beach is the second plaintiff named in the class action. In January, she brought Noel, her 10-year-old rescue Pomeranian, to the Costa Mesa Healthy Spot for a swim. A few hours later the manager called.

Families of dead and injured dogs sue Healthy Spot channel

Aimee Tully of Newport Beach holds Noel, her Pomeranian who went to the groomer and returned with a crushed tail on July 9, 2021, to Newport Beach. Noel must have had his tail amputated.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

She told Tully that “there was an incident,” Tully said. Noel “has a little cut on the tail … It looks very minor, but it’s bleeding a lot.” We want you to meet us at our vet.

The “little cut” was a deep laceration. The little dog’s cream and red tail bones had been crushed. Noel had emergency surgery. Almost five inches were amputated, leaving a small stump and a case of lasting anxiety.

Tully watched video of the incident injuring Noel, a redhead puffball with very short legs. It shows a groomer holding Noel by the chest with his legs on the platform. The groomer used a detangling brush to “aggressively” brush the dog’s tail.

In early July, the little dog looked rowdy and happy as she played with Tully’s fellow Pomeranians, an 11-year-old rescue named Myshka and a 10-year-old foster family named Ace. The fur grew back on the Christmas tail stump; he had to be shaved for the surgery.

But Tully said Noel “isn’t there 100%. She’s terrified when I take her to the vet. I wash it at home. It is horrible and heartbreaking to watch.

In a video posted to the Healthy Spot website, Kim and co-founder Mark Boonnark accepted responsibility for the incident, noting that they were covering Noel’s vet bills and would continue to do so.

But they accused Tully’s daughter, Riley Tully, of waging a “smear campaign” against them and of trying to extort money from them on social media.

Praglin said his company did not represent the Tullys at the time.

Healthy Spot spokesperson Nathan Miller said in an email that the company records grooming sessions “to ensure all staff follow our rigorous safety protocols.”

The trial footage was “selectively edited” and “stolen” from company security cameras, in violation of employee privacy, he said.

“We are deeply concerned about the methods and motives of the lawyer who filed” Monday’s lawsuit, he said, adding that Praglin was in negotiations with the company before breaking off contact.

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