Tampa family's dog dies during PetSmart grooming appointment

- A Tampa family says they dropped off their dog for a grooming appointment at PetSmart. An hour later, their dog was dead, and so far, they have no explanation for what happened.

It happened at the store on North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The dog's owner, Marcos Soto, tells us his Yorkshire Terrier Fabio was healthy, happy, up-to-date on shots, and showed no sign of illness when they brought him in Monday morning.

"My kids loved him," Soto said. "He was not considered a dog. He was considered part of us. He was my son."

It was supposed to be a four-hour grooming appointment. But, a short time after Fabio was dropped off, they got a call from the store: Fabio was unresponsive and they needed to come back immediately.

Soto's wife got there first.

"They gave him to her, she had him in her arms and he was not responding," Soto said. "She was calling, he was not responding, his mouth was open, his tongue was out, his eyes were closed."

Soto said the dog then went into cardiac arrest. Despite a vet's efforts to revive him with CPR, it wasn't enough to save him.

"At that point, well, he passed," Soto said. "His words were, 'We don't know what happened.'"

PetSmart sent us a statement that read:

"We immediately rushed Fabio to the vet when he exhibited signs of illness, and we are very saddened that he passed away. The loss of a pet is extremely difficult, and we have shared our deep sympathy with the pet parents. We are conducting an internal investigation and hope to receive the results of the necropsy report, which should help us understand the overall circumstances leading to Fabio’s unfortunate passing"

The store also sent flowers and a note of condolences to the family on Tuesday. But Soto says there are no words, gifts, or money that can fill the hole in their hearts.

"To know now that he's not going to be there," Soto said in tears, "I know many people are not going to understand how hard it is but when you have a pet that's part of your family, trust me, it's hard. It's like losing a child."

While he waits for answers, Soto feels compelled to share his story.

"If it's something that's being done wrong, if it's something they need to correct, voices need to be heard," Soto said. "I would hate to see another family go through what my family is going through today."

The dog's remains are being sent to the University of Miami for a necropsy. Soto said they're waiting to find out whether their dog died from a pre-existing condition, or if there was some wrongdoing on the part of PetSmart.

He said whatever those results show will determine his next move.

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