A controversial Shelby Township canine-centered business is halting its grooming services after a family pet’s death last week, officials announced Monday.
Meanwhile, the dog’s owners are exploring legal action and working to spread the word about alleged practices there.
“You don’t want to see it happen to anyone else,” said Dennis St. Clair of Sterling Heights.
St. Clair’s pet Max, a 7-year-old poodle/cocker spaniel mix, went to Shaggy Dog Puppies & Supplies early Thursday for a routine grooming. The rescued pooch had been stopping in there once a month since the family found him through the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society this spring.
According to its website, Shaggy Dog offers puppies, puppy supplies, grooming and training classes. Staffers usually phoned the owners when Max is ready, but when they hadn’t done so by 1 p.m., St. Clair returned to the site on Van Dyke. Once there, he said, “I see the groomer ... come running out of the back door, with a dog wrapped in blankets, soaking wet. I just thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. I hope it’s not our dog.’ And it was.”
Telling St. Clair “we have a problem,” the groomer said his 20-pound pet, by then appearing to show burns and foaming at the mouth, had “got into some chemicals in the shop,” he said. So, they rushed him to nearby Macomb Veterinary Associates.
The groomer eventually said Max had been removed from the grooming area “because he was barking,” St. Clair recalls. At the store, he found a small enclosed space where the dog had reportedly been stashed; inside were large green-tinged towels on the floor and a near-empty five-gallon bottle, St. Clair said.
Staffers couldn’t immediately identify what chemicals Max might have encountered. By the time St. Clair returned to the veterinarians who treated him, the pup had already died.
A vet noted the dog’s burns and how his dark fur “would roll right off” with a touch, St. Clair said. “She said he had such a faint heartbeat when he came in, that they couldn’t do anything.”
The devastated owners soon filed a police report and hired a lawyer.
Reached for comment Monday, Donna Corbett, who initially declined to give her name but when contacted at a number listed in state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs records acknowledged she was the owner, called the incident “a horrible accident.” She said an attorney advised her not to say more.
Corbett said following “the slander and the threats that we have received,” since news of Max’s death broke, the grooming service is now ending.
“After ... years of dedicated service, Shaggy Dog grooming will be closing its doors to future business,” read a statement Monday. “We apologize for the inconvenience to all of our loyal clients who have been bringing their dogs here for decades.”
Meanwhile, the St. Clairs await word on whether the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office will bring charges. Shaggy Dog has also been notified about the pet owners’ plans to pursue a lawsuit, said the couple’s attorney, Charles Shaw.
Corbett said “police have investigated and found nothing criminal happened.” However, Max’s owners want “everyone taking a look at this location and making sure if they shouldn’t be in business, they’re not,” Shaw said.
St. Clair said he and his wife, Maureen, were offered money and a free puppy after their ordeal. But nothing replaces the “very-people friendly” pooch who loved following them around, he said. “We’re still upset about it. … This dog was just perfect.”
In 2007, The Detroit News reported that a Boston terrier escaped from the business while its family was on vacation.
“If we would’ve known this, I never would have taken my dog there,” St. Clair said. “It’s just a shame.”
Complaints about alleged misdeeds at the facility prompted more than a dozen residents and animal advocates to protest outside the site Monday afternoon.
“We’ll do everything in our power to get them shut down,” protester Sharon Senter said.