On February 28, a dog being trained in our Levittown NY, Sophia Belle, suffered what the veterinarians who have reviewed the case believe to be a fatal cardiac abnormality. It was a tragic incident that has created some concern and misinformation online, and I wanted to take a moment to provide some details about how Petco handles situations like this one in the rare instances they occur, and how we responded in this case.
After a thorough investigation, including review of the training class and conversations with all parties involved, we are confident our trainer and associates acted appropriately, responded quickly and in a caring manner focused on the health and best interest of Sophia Belle.
Every Petco store has a relationship with a designated veterinarian partner, and our policy requires that any animal in need be transported as quickly as possible to the closest veterinarian available for immediate care. In this case, Sophia Belle received extremely prompt veterinary treatment, but sadly, died from what all evidence indicates was a cardiac abnormality.
We understand Sophia Belle’s owners believe the death was related to the trainer pulling on her collar when she attempted to go to her owner during the training session. We investigated this claim seriously and found that all evidence in this case showed no signs of undue force or any injury related to the trainer’s actions. The trainer involved in this case is a highly qualified, experienced and caring young woman who has been raising and training dogs since she was a young girl, and she too has been devastated by this incident.
All of Petco’s certified dog trainers are taught a positive training technique with curriculum created and frequently reviewed by Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists. Our dog training classes are designed to support healthy pet and pet parent interactions, and are focused on rewarding good behavior and redirecting unwanted behaviors. As a company, we do not train with or endorse force techniques. Our Dog Trainers are also updated quarterly on the newest safety and positive training guidelines.
It is heartbreaking any time a pet is lost unexpectedly and we are tremendously saddened by Sophia Belle’s passing, but we are confident it was not related to the actions of our store team. We understand there is no way to make up for their loss, but in an effort to help, Petco has paid for all veterinary expenses and offered to assist with finding a new family member when/if the pet parents are ready. If you have further questions, you can email me at Marcie.Whichard@petco.com