Cockapoo put down after going in 'drying cage' at groomers

A puppy had to be put to sleep shortly after he collapsed at a groomers where he was put into a ‘drying cage’.

Heartbroken owner Lisa O’Neill, 37, is calling for more regulation of the industry as she believes Harry’s death could be related to his treatment there.

Eight-month-old Cockapoo Harry suffered a collapsed intestine shortly after he was put into the cage, which is designed to dry dogs’ coats in a similar way to a hair dryer.

Mum-of-one Lisa bought her pet for £2,350 in October 2020, and had taken him to the same award-winning grooming salon once before, in February 2021.

She said the first time he came back smelling lovely but ‘desperate for a drink’, which she thought was natural after he had been dried.

On May 6, she took him to the Scottish salon, which she has declined to name, again.

He was washed and put into the cage to dry off, but police officer Lisa, from Kilmarnock, says he collapsed before she could pick him up.

She took him to her local vets in Ayrshire, and the next day he was taken on to Vets Now Hospital, in Glasgow.

Sadly, he was too unwell to be saved and he was put to sleep on May 8.

A postmortem examination found that Harry did not have heatstroke and was not clinically attributable to the groomers.

However, the Scottish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) have backed Lisa’s calls for more regulation of the dog grooming industry.

Groomers do not have to be qualified, and there is no legal obligation to inform customers if their pets will be put into a drying cage. They are subject to general laws around negligence, but none specifically relating to their industry.

The RSPCA says that owners should think carefully about where they take their pets as ‘dogs have suffered severe burns or even fatalities in grooming establishments when equipment has been faulty or where animals have been left unsupervised whilst being dried’.

Lisa said: ‘I did do a bit of research and the groomer I took him to had 30 years of experience, had won awards, so I had absolutely no qualms about taking him there.’

She said she received a phone call in May saying that Harry had collapsed while being dried.

‘At this point, I still had no idea about a drying cage,’ she said.

‘It wasn’t until she told the vet what had happened they came back to me saying he had heatstroke and that these drying boxes are death traps.

‘It turns out, he had been put in a heated drying box and the timer was set for 30 minutes.

‘Being an excitable puppy, he didn’t like being locked in anywhere so being locked in a drying box he would have jumped about the whole time.’

She claimed that Harry died due to a complication from stress and overheating which stopped his blood from clotting properly.

‘This was two days after it happened and we were going to get an operation to save him but it couldn’t go ahead because his blood wasn’t clotting due to how severe his heatstroke was,’ she said.

‘He had suffered horrendously before he was put to sleep.

‘He had intussusception due to the stress and trauma of being locked in the box.

‘The specialist said everything he’d suffered from, the heatstroke and the stress had caused an intussusception – where intestines go into themselves.

‘I can discuss it now without breaking down but it’s taken a while for that to happen.

‘A dog is a member of the family.

‘He didn’t want to be locked in, so to be locked in a heated box for that length of time, he would have been going crazy.’

She added: ‘The box was in working order, apparently it’s one of the best in the business, it cost £2,000, it wasn’t faulty, so there was nothing the SSPCA could do.’

She has now launched a petition to get the Scottish Government to act on regulating dog groomers which has gained nearly 3,000 signatures.

In the past, there have been deaths of other dogs linked to time they spent in a drying cage.

In 2015, the Daily Mail reports that a groomer was fined for leaving a golden retriever unattended in a drying cage in Liverpool, causing him to die of heatstroke.

Six-year-old Charlie, who was owned by former Premier League footballer Daniel Agger, started to paw at the cage but was not let out until it was too late.

Scottish SPCA chief inspector Laura McIntyre said regarding the death of Harry: ‘We arranged for a post-mortem to take place, by an external organisation, in order to fully investigate the circumstances.

‘This post-mortem found the dog had not died from heatstroke. A follow-up check was also undertaken by a Scottish SPCA vet.

‘Given the clinical view from veterinary experts was that the cause of death was not heatstroke or any other issue attributable to the treatment in the groomers, the investigation was closed.’

They said they backed greater regulation of the industry in general and added that dogs should be ‘under constant supervision’ while at a groomers. They urged people to check reviews before leaving their pets.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to ensuring high standards of animal welfare for pets in Scotland.

‘It is an offence for people in charge of animals to cause them unnecessary suffering and we recently increased the maximum available penalties to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

‘We have introduced a new framework for the licensing of some activities involving animals, and will be consulting on whether to extend this to additional activities, including potentially to dog grooming businesses.

‘We plan to bring forward consultations in this area after allowing a period of familiarisation with the recent licensing changes, so that the practical experiences of local authorities in implementing these can be considered in any future proposals.’

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