Dog’s death prompts investigation

A Fairfield Twp. dog-grooming business is being investigated by a Butler County humane officer after a woman’s 5-year-old poodle died soon after an appointment there.

Leslie Preston, of Fairfield Twp., said despite her heartbreak, she doesn’t have a vendetta against Ruff 2 Fluff, 4901 Hamilton-Middletown Road, where she took her dog, Everete, for a haircut late last year. But she does want people to know what happened to her pet.

Preston said she had used the groomer once before for her other dog, Kodi, without any problems. But shortly after picking Everete up from a recent appointment at Ruff 2 Fluff, the dog died from injuries consistent with being “hung or choked,” Preston said.

Karen Eikens, one of the owners of Ruff 2 Fluff, released a statement saying they were saddened to hear what happened, but “there were no signs of any problems” when Everete left the business, which has been open just less than a year.

“We don’t know what may have happened to Everete after he left our care,” Eikens said in the statement.

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Julie Flanagan, the county’s humane officer, confirmed an investigation is ongoing but could not comment on it. Flanagan said she has the authority to investigate abuse allegations, which can result in criminal charges.

Preston said her hope is that people hear her story and “check twice before they take their dog to any groomer.”

Preston said after dropping Everete off, she got a call from an employee at Ruff 2 Fluff saying that her dog was being “skittish” and wouldn’t let anyone pick him up. Preston said she offered to come get Everete, but the groomer suggested maybe the dog would calm down. Eventually, Everete did better after the groomer put a muzzle on him.

“He’s never been like that,” she said. “I’ve taken him to different groomers, and he’s never acted like that, never had a problem with them.”

When Preston went to retrieve Everete, she said “he was happy to see his mom.

“They told me that he might have struggled because they had a hard day at the grooming salon, and another dog had broken one of their tables,” she said.

But as soon as Everete got in the car for the ride home, his demeanor changed, Preston said.

“He curled up into a ball in my lap and just laid down. Normally, he’s looking out the window, he’s jumping to the other side to look out the window. I thought it odd when he just curled up and was very lethargic,” she said.

The next day, the Prestons took the dog to a veterinarian. An X-ray revealed Everete’s larynx had collapsed and was out of position. Veterinarians at an emergency care center in Blue Ash tried to perform a tracheotomy, but Everete suffered cardiac arrest and died.

A necropsy, or an animal autopsy, done at the Ohio State University found that the dog had suffered a “sub-acute” internal injury that was “more than likely the result of either being hung or choked,” Preston said.

Dog grooming schools can be licensed by the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and schools, a spokeswoman for that agency said, but not businesses that do actual dog grooming.

Dog groomers use tables that have a harness that can be placed around the dog’s neck. Dave Bennett, who has owned the Pampered Pet Boutique in Fairfield for 36 years, has heard his customers talk about the case. He is not licensed, but he said the state does not require him to be. He also believes Ruff 2 Fluff should not be vilified.

“There are three sides to every story — my side, your side, and the truth,” he said. “I know accidents happen, and I feel sorry for (the business).”

But Preston does not aim to be punitive, she said.

“I’m not so much worried about criminal charges. I’m not worried about getting my money back with the vet bills. I don’t care about any of that. What I’m worried about is just getting his story out so that no other dog dies, and no other family goes through this,” she said, tearfully.

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