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Trouble at PetSmart...mysterious death of beloved dog at pet store chain

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Secaucus, NJ: When Josh Mahtaban of Passaic, New Jersey dropped off his two dogs at PetSmart PetsHotel for a Memorial Day weekend trip, death of his beloved dog was the last thing on his mind.

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At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25 of this year, Josh and his girlfriend dropped off Trouble and Sugar, his rescued companions and beloved pets. According to Josh, 'They jumped out of the truck and we walked into Petsmart. My girlfriend held them on their leashes in the waiting room while they were playing with each other, tugging on the leash."

Both dogs were in great spirits and 'very energetic and happy.' Josh completed the paperwork and "at approx 12:45 pm they were escorted into their pens by one of the Petsmart staff. They seemed happy and excited to walk with the staff member and explore the new environment."

It was off to Atlantic City for a fun filled weekend. Josh felt secure that Trouble and Sugar would be having the time of their lives at PetSmart playing with other dogs.

At around an hour and a half into the trip Josh got a worried call "stating that Trouble had thrown up and they also asked if he had problems with his back legs. They said that his back legs were shaking. I've have not seen him ever shake or have weakness in the legs. We both attributed this to nervousness of the new environment."

"They said they would watch him and let us know what happened. I received another call about an hour later that he was chewing on the bars of the cage and that they thought he had vomited blood. They stated upon further inspection it was determined that he did not vomit blood but in fact just cut his gums on the cage."

Josh began to worry at this point. "They again said that they would keep an eye on him and that he was not doing well with the boarding but did not think that the issue was serious. We arrived at our hotel at approx 3:30 pm. I received a phone call again, this time stating that they thought he had a stroke or slipped disk in his back. They said that his rear legs were ice cold and numb and that he was disorientated. They stated that they had to get him to an emergency care facility in Paramus (Oradell Animal Hospital)."

Josh and his girlfriend rushed to be near Trouble's side at Oradell Animal Hospital. "We finally arrived at Oradell at approx 7 p.m. We were escorted into and office were we spoke with the vet. She explained that Trouble was in hypothermic shock. His body temp was dangerously low at 93*F. He was in the ICU under a heated blanket with oxygen and IV. She stated that his heartbeat was faint and that his lungs were filled with blood. He was having a very hard time oxygenating his blood. She stated that there are only four ways that this condition can occur."

"Seizure is the only natural cause, but he had never had any signs or symptoms of any seizure activity. The other possible causes according to the vet were strangulation, electrocution, and poisoning. When we saw Trouble he was very weak, sedated and unresponsive."

"We spoke to him and were petting him. He fought and struggled but lifted his head and made eye contact with us. He let out a faint whimper and continued to rest. We were escorted back to the office and then the doctor came running in to let us know that they were doing CPR due to his heart stopping. They brought him back but his heart beat was faint. He crashed one more time shortly after and then passed away."

Josh and his girlfriend were devastated. Their beloved pet, a healthy happy dog had been entrusted only hours before to PetSmart and now he was gone.

Josh wanted to know why his healthy dog had suddenly died. "The following day I called Petsmart looking for answers. Petsmart corporate was "sorry for my experience and would get back to me in 3-5 days". I spoke to the Pet's Hotel manager at the Secaucus location. He was apologetic but really didn't know how Trouble went from happy and healthy to deceased in a few short hours."

"When told what the vet from Oradell Animal Hospital told us he stated that no one strangled, poisoned or electrocuted Trouble. He also stated that they have video footage but could not share it due to corporate policy."

Many questions have risen surrounding Trouble's death. Josh and the vet staff at Oradell decided against a necropsy as it would be inconclusive at best. Josh was able to finally see a small portion of a video, but it, like any further support was virtually useless.

Josh cannot let this go. He loved his pet. Trouble was that one special dog, his soul mate.

Josh has added some critical facts about Trouble.

  1. Trouble was a 6-7 years old, pit bull mix.
  2. He was at the vet a week prior for his shots and exam and was given a clean bill of health at Rutherford Animal Hospital.
  3. He had never exhibited any signs of seizure activity
  4. He went from healthy and strong to nearly dead in the only 2-3 hour period that he was not in our care. The chances of this happening are very suspicious to say the least.
  5. I received a sympathy card from the vet at Oradell Animal Hospital. At the bottom of the card it states: "p.s. I am enclosing Trouble's official radiology report for your records. Are there any cameras on the Petshotel premises? (Look for evidence of seizure activity, electrocution, etc.)
  6. The Oradell Vet stated the x-rays indicated that Trouble's heart was healthy.

Apart from a sympathy card, business as usual carries on at the Secaucus PetSmart. American Pit Bull Examiner held on the phone twice for a total of 30 minutes to offer PetSmart an opportunity to comment. Both calls were never answered which raised concerns regarding how people are to check on their pets at this facility.

On a dismal side note, Josh was told by a local shelter at least one other pet had died mysteriously at this same PetSmart of the same unusual symptoms.

Josh is creating a Facebook page for Trouble's memory and considering a petition to seek answers for what happened to his beautiful dog, Trouble.

Update: Josh has created a Facebook page to remember his dog, Trouble. Please stop by and 'like' Trouble's page:

A petition has been created demanding an investigation and justice for Trouble and his family. Please share and sign.

PetSmart is welcome to offer a comment regarding Trouble's death which will be added to this article.

The American Pit Bull Examiner hears terrible stories and meets too few wonderful pet guardians like Josh. Trouble was blessed in his too short life to have been loved by Josh. Rest in peace, Trouble.

Cindy Marabito of Reunion Rescue writes the American Pit Bull Examiner stories to save lives. Every click on a story donates to the animals.


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