A couple were left devastated when their prized pooch keeled over after a trip to the dog groomers – and DIED three hours later of heatstroke.
Stephen, 44, and Laura Bell, 36, had taken three-year-old Dolly, better known by her nickname Fatty, to a grooming salon at a Pets at Home store as a treat.
Fatty had just delivered a litter of pups and the grooming session was a treat for the doted-on-dog, but she was struggling to breathe when Laura went to pick her up.
Laura rushed Fatty to the vets, but it was too late to save her and she died shortly afterwards.
Pets at Home has denied any liability for Fatty’s death and said the store in Falmouth, Cornwall, was air-conditioned and that dogs are supervised at all times.
They claim Fatty may have had a pre-existing condition but, as a good will gesture, offered Stephen and Laura £2,000 and a £500 donation to a charity of their choice.
The couple rejected the offer when the store asked them not to speak about the death to anyone or go on social media.
Fatty was a local celebrity in Penzance, Cornwall, and spend most of the day sitting in the window of Laura’s beauty salon, named in her honour, Fatty’s Barbers’ Shop.
Laura, of Helston, Cornwall, told how disaster struck after she took Fatty and two other dogs to the Pets at Home Groom Room on at 1.30pm on June 24.
She said: “At 4:30pm, I returned to collect them. Upon my return and my dogs being brought out to me, I immediately noticed that my English Bulldog, Fatty, was obviously struggling to breathe. She was gasping for breath and it was clear something was very wrong.
“I am unsure of how long she had been in this state. To get as bad as she was when I arrived, she had to have been like that for a long time. I began to panic and a veterinary nurse was called.”
“Fatty was taken from me in to the vets and died three hours of heatstroke.
“We as a family are left in complete shock, devastated and have a huge hole left in our lives.
“The whole experience was absolutely horrific and something that we will never forget. Fatty was only three.
“She was the most incredible dog we have ever had and was an absolute delight. She had been part of our family since eight weeks old. She was my husband’s best friend.”
Stephen added: “I just think it’s appalling. I don’t want any money.
“My business is named after her, the attention she brought to the business was unreal.
“People would come in and take photos, want to paint pictures of her, she was good with the old and the disabled.
“We’d have 50 to 100 people come into the store every day to say hello to her.
“She was a larger than life character, It’s awful.
“I’ve only been able to talk about it recently, when customers have come in to see her I’d say she was at home and fine because I couldn’t talk about it, I would go upset.
“But now people have been coming in to pay their condolences. ”
Pets at Home said: “We were all upset to hear of Fatty’s untimely death.
“When Fatty’s owners contacted us in July we initiated a thorough investigation and provided Mr and Mrs Bell with a detailed report of Fatty’s time in the Groom Room and of the vet’s assessment of her underlying health issues.
“We can confirm that at no point were the dogs left unattended in the Groom Room, which is air-conditioned.
“Colleagues in our Groom Room salons are all highly trained and able to recognise signs of distress when they occur.
“Whilst we must respect client confidentiality and cannot disclose specific details, it was the opinion of vets that Fatty’s health may have been compromised by underlying health conditions which can be exacerbated in her breed type, and that the care we provided in the groom room would not, in itself, be responsible for her death.”
He said that without a post mortem the cause of Fatty’s death cannot be definitively stated.
The spokesman added: “We advised Fatty’s owners throughout our discussions that we cannot accept any liability in these circumstances.
“Our investigation indicated that our colleagues in the Groom Room acted responsibly and professionally throughout.
“Despite that, being pet lovers ourselves, we do recognise the distress that the Bell family would have experienced which is why we made this goodwill gesture in July.
“We advised Fatty’s owners to seek independent legal advice and having done so they recently indicated that they wished to accept this offer, only changing their position upon receipt of the final settlement letter.
“We didn’t repeat the details of our investigation or the veterinary opinion in our final letter to avoid further distress.
“We are obviously disappointed that Fatty’s owners have chosen to portray our correspondence in the manner they have, and intimate that this is the only correspondence between us.”