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Former Petco worker shocked she was charged in dog grooming death

Posted at 9:31 AM, Aug 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-07 16:33:44-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Two women were charged with misdemeanor animal neglect following the May death of a two-year-old golden retriever named Colby at the Petco on Westchester Commons in Chesterfield County. Suzanne C. Jensen, 31, and Rebecca L. Witherspoon, 28, both worked at Petco at the time of Colby's death, Chesterfield Police said.

"​On May 31, it was reported that a two-year-old golden retriever had died at the business on May 29. The dog, which was dropped off at the business by its owner to be groomed, was found dead in a drying cage," a Chesterfield Police spokesperson said. "​After consultation with the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Animal Services officers obtained summonses for animal neglect."

The charge is a Class 4 misdemeanor.

When reached by phone, Suzanne Jensen said she was completely shocked by the criminal charge. The self-professed animal lover said she planned on fighting the charge. She added she was not the employee in charge of Colby during his time at Petco and she said a broken air conditioning unit at the store contributed to the dog's death.

California-based Petco issued a statement in response to the charges Friday afternoon. The chain earlier took full responsibility following the dog's death and said Colby’s death was the result of the store’s animal care protocols not being followed.

“We take full responsibility for what happened in Midlothian, and remain heartbroken over Colby’s untimely passing,” Petco said. “After a thorough investigation, it was clear our animal care protocols were not followed when it came to Colby. As a result, the individuals directly involved are no longer part of our company.”

“It’s empty. The house is empty,” Allison Marks said as a photo of Colby and some of his bones and toys offer reminders of his short, but meaningful time he spent with his owner.

“It’s empty. The house is empty,” Allison Marks said as a photo of Colby and some of his bones and toys offer reminders of his short, but meaningful time he spent with his owner.

Colby's owner, Allison Marks, said she was pleased with the outcome of the police investigation.

"I am glad to see there will be justice for Colby's death," Marks said in a statement. "I am still extremely thankful for all the continuous support and prayers during this difficult time!"

Petco said it planned to retrain all groomers nationwide.