I-Team: Dog owner blames pet's death on local groomer

CINCINNATI - Leslie Preston had taken her dogs to get groomed countless times before. There were never any problems, and it wasn't supposed to be a big deal.

"I want everybody to know what happened to my dog. I want nobody else to have this happen to their dog," Preston said. "I want no one else to take their dog to this groomer."

Preston and her husband owned two dogs, named Cody and Everete. In November, Preston took Everete, a 5-year-old poodle, to a new groomer in Fairfield Township. The business, Ruff 2 Fluff on Hamilton-Middletown Road, opened its doors last year.


She left Everete at Ruff 2 Fluff for about two and a half hours.

"When I picked him up when we were driving home, he just curled into a ball in my lap," Preston said. "He wouldn't move. He wouldn't get up."

Everete's condition worsened throughout the night. The dog's breathing was raspy and he wouldn't eat, drink or bark. The next day, she took Everete to Care Center, a 24-hour vet clinic on East Kemper Road.  

"We dropped him off and came home, and got a call at about 11 p.m. that there was an emergency and they couldn't do the tracheostomy because there was so much swelling in his neck and his throat," Preston said. "He went into cardiac arrest and they couldn't save his life."

An animal pathologist from Ohio State University performed a necropsy and determined Everete died from "the application of physical force to the ventral neck region." Dr. Paul Stromberg told I-Team reporter Jason Law. Everete died from an "unusual, spontaneous injury" and Stromberg was "suspicious it's human-caused."

Pet groomers routinely use a harness to secure an animal in place on the grooming table. The harness is fastened around a dog's neck to help keep them from moving or jumping off the table.

Typical groomer's dog harness

"My guess would be that he probably fell off the table and hung himself," said Sarah Tiltman, a Care Center spokeswoman.

Ruff 2 Fluff is owned by Karen Eikens, according to documents from the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The I-Team spoke briefly with an unidentified worker who said he was Everete's groomer.

"You'd have to talk to the owner about that [case]. I know when [Everete] left here [Everete] was fine," he said.

And according to Everete's medical records, prior to his visit at Ruff 2 Fluff, he had no previous reported trauma to the neck.

Preston wants justice for her dog.

"I mean, it could have been an accident when it happened, but it's not an accident when you don't tell me. If it was an accident and you came to me and said, 'I'm so sorry. I stepped away for two seconds and your dog fell of the table,' then I can somewhat understand that," Preston said.

The I-Team uncovered that the Butler County Dog Warden is investigating the incident. They would not talk about an open investigation.

The owners of Ruff 2 Fluff issued the following statement Monday:

We are saddened to hear of any illness or injury of a family dog. When Everete left our facility, with his owner, he was healthy.  He ran to his owner and was excited to see her, wagging his tail; like all dogs do when they see their owner. No signs of any problems. We don't know what may have happened to Everete after he left our care.

Licenses for pet grooming are not mandatory and certification is voluntary.

"Just like you screen doctors before you go, you screen a vet before you go -- screen a groomer before you go," Sarah Tiltman of Care Center Vets said.

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