A Carlstadt woman says she and her three dogs are still haunted by a trip to the groomer's at Pet Valu more than a year ago.
All three dogs were returned traumatized -- with more than 20 bruises and cuts combined -- after a routine visit to the Lyndhurst store's grooming department, Andrea Maloney said.
It was both sickening as well as shocking the amount of abuse and pain this person put my dogs through.
A Pet Val official told Daily Voice that the groomer was an independent contractor and has since been let go from the Lyndhurst Pet Valu location.
That's no comfort to Maloney, whose dogs haven't been the same. She wonders if they ever will be.
"I can still see the effects this experience has taken on them," Maloney said, noting how the once easy-going and relaxed pups now hide under tables, pace in circles and scratch at her bedroom door at night.
"The change in their personalities is so stressful and heartbreaking," she said. "And the grooming process for all of us now causes much anxiety. I think it always will."
There may be some good news.
In the wake of reports that three dogs have died in the care of New Jersey groomers, state lawmakers in Trenton are reconsidering a stalled 2014 bill requiring licenses for pet groomers.
Meanwhile, Maloney is still working through her own situation.
She and her daughter, Adriana, took the three dogs to the Lyndhurst Pet Valu's grooming department for a routine appointment in February 2017.
They were told they'd be ready in roughly four hours.
When the pair returned that evening, 20 minutes before closing, the groomer told them to wait in the parking lot because none of the dogs were done yet, Maloney said.
They watched as employees locked up the store, wondering when their dogs would be done.
At 9:30 p.m., the Maloneys walked up and were handed two of the dogs -- Jack and Zero, both Morkies -- through the store's front doors. The groomer pointed out a small cut on 5-year-old Jack and then told the Maloneys to go back to the car to wait until Mercedes, a Maltese, was finished.
At 10 p.m., Maloney knocked on the locked door of the store to demand the third dog back -- whether or not the groomer was done with her.
"A few minutes later, the groomer came out holding my dog -- which was neither in her harness or leash -- unlocked the door, cracked open the door of the store just wide enough to shove my dog out at me and literally dropped her in my hands," she said.
The dogs were shaking and acting agitated and fearful on the ride home, and at some points crying, Maloney said.
"When we got home I took a closer look at this 'cut' on Jack, which [the groomer] stated was nothing," she said. "I also noticed at that point that I had blood on my shirt. As we started to look Jack over, besides the obvious active bleeding of all his nails and pad area as well as all the nails and pad areas on the other two dogs, we started finding more cuts and bruises."
Then they checked Zero and Mercedes.
"To my disgust and horror, I found all three of my dogs badly cut over several parts of their bodies -- as well as a severe bruise (black and blues) under Jack's skin," said Maloney, "like someone had squeezed him with extraordinary force reminding me of a mark you would get after being hit with a lot of force or choked."
"It was both sickening as well as shocking the amount of abuse and pain this person put my dogs through."
Maloney took photos and filed a police report against Pet Valu that night. The next morning, she dropped the three dogs off at her vet for a full examination.
"The reports clearly indicate that the dogs certainly do appear to be treated with neglect and abuse," Maloney told Daily Voice.
"And the black and blue bruise around Jack's neck was very concerning, as well as a deep cut on the leg of Mercedes that the groomer very obviously tried to glue together, besides all the other cuts and injuries. There were also more black and blue bruises found on Jack," she said.
Although physically healed, her dogs continue to show signs of anxiety and fear, Maloney said.
"That's something I deal with every day now," she told Daily Voice.
Because pets are considered property under New Jersey law, courts ordinarily award market value damages. Maloney said she can't afford a court case for what would be a minimal refund.
She has no choice, she says, but to move on. And to her that's not fair.
"Dogs' feelings and pain are very real, and they are not considered," she said. "Until the law considers my dogs living breathing beings, it seems very doubtful I will ever be fully compensated for what the groomer put my dogs and my family through.
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