SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) — A Sarasota family is fighting for answers in their beloved bulldog’s death after a trip to the groomers turned into a tragedy.

It was back in January 2021 when Tracy Hall brought her 3-year-old English Bulldog, Max, to a grooming appointment at the Petco location off US 41 Bypass in Venice. After doing research, Hall told 8 On Your Side she chose the national company because it advertises that it is the “grooming destination that puts your pet’s health first.”

When Hall dropped Max off, she expressed concerns about the harness they put around the bulldog’s neck.

“He’s got a big neck and you could barely see the choker. I said this looks too tight. She is like ‘no, this is protocol. We use this on all the breeds. It is safe,'” explained Hall.

Within half an hour of leaving the Petco, Hall got a call that her four-legged family member was being rushed to an animal hospital.

“I asked her what happened and she said ‘unfortunately I can’t tell you’. Now, as a pet owner, you drop off a healthy dog and they call you and tell you they can’t tell you,” Hall said with tears in her eyes. “We just want answers and they haven’t given us closure. They just gave us bits and pieces on what they wanted to give us,” she continued.

“The more they sought the truth, the less they were getting from Petco,” said attorney Don Cahall. Cahall took on Hall’s case this spring.

“There was no autopsy performed on the dog. My clients didn’t receive any answers to any of the questions they had as to why their healthy, young dog could have died at such a procedure that should be so innocuous,” Cahall said.

Through a year of litigation, Cahall tried to find answers for the family.

“They retained me to get involved to demand surveillance video, to demand answers as to what happened to this dog who they love. We have been able to get information, and what the information has shown us is that Petco appears to have acted not only negligently in the death of this dog, but grossly negligent,” claimed Cahall.

The complaint document alleges the groomer ‘witnessed Max collapse on the grooming table multiple times. Instead of calling off the grooming and/or releasing Max’s neck from the noose’, the groomer called in additional employees to constrain Max. The complaint goes on to allege the groomer “and other employees wrestled Max for over five minutes during which time he fell and was moved around while his neck remained in a fixed position.”

Petco has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the “complaint fails to state how Petco breached its duty of the reasonable standard of care. Plaintiffs make conclusory allegations that the Groomer’s Helper apparatus used by the Petco employee and the employee’s attempts to control Max on the grooming table by “wrestling” him cause Max’s death. While it is tragic and horrible that Max died, there are no factual allegations that Petco breached any duty during the grooming session….” And there is nothing other than speculation about Max’s cause of death and the motivations of Petco employees while communicating with the Plaintiffs.”

8 On Your Side reached out to Petco’s corporate office for comment. We did not receive a response before the end of the day Friday. Petco’s attorney on this case told 8 On Your Side she would forward our information to the company.

The motion to dismiss is still pending. A proposed trial date is scheduled for August 2022.