Three pet owners say their animals have been abused at a Wilton Manors grooming salon called Happy Pawz.
The Wilton Manors Police Department is investigating the shop after receiving complaints from customers that the owner, Mark Goldstein, mistreated animals.
Police confirmed receiving two complaints against Goldstein, but would not elaborate because of the ongoing investigation.
Happy Pawz was operating until the end of October, but a new shop called Grooming Greg's has since opened at the same address, 2225 Wilton Drive.
Brian Butler says he brought his 16-year-old poodle Spike to the shop last month for a haircut, and the next day his dog was dead from broken ribs and internal bruising.
"This is inexcusable, unforgivable," said Butler, a Wilton Manors resident who said he has filed a police report. "I brought my dog there for a nice bubble bath and haircut ... Spike didn't deserve to die like that."
Goldstein declined to comment, but his attorney, James Benjamin, said he was aware of only one complaint, concerning Spike.
"To my understanding, there was a 15-year-old dog that left my client's place of business and passed away after that," Benjamin said. "This dog could've died from brittle bones."
Butler said he took Spike to Happy Pawz about 10:30 a.m. Oct. 15 for a haircut. Goldstein was the only groomer in the shop, he said. About six hours later, Butler said he returned to pick up his dog and saw blood trickling from Spike's mouth.
Butler said he asked Goldstein why his dog was bleeding and was told Spike had bitten his own tongue. When he brought Spike home, the dog appeared sluggish and disoriented, he said.
Butler said he and his partner, Skip Geel, took Spike to Family Pet Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale about 5 p.m., where the dog was put on oxygen and given morphine. Spike died the following afternoon.
According to the dog's autopsy report, the gray-haired miniature poodle died from "lesions consistent with very forceful blunt trauma ... causing rib fractures" and that his third right tooth was "displaced sideways toward the lips."
Butler said he was so distraught after Spike's death that he crawled into his dog's cage so he wouldn't forget the way his pet smelled.
"Spike was a member of this house for 16 years; it's like my 16-year-old child has been beaten to death," Butler said.
Other pet owners say their animals have either died or been mistreated in Goldstein's care.
Fort Lauderdale resident Carol Semus said that when she went to the salon in September to pick up her cat, Panda Bear, a black-and-white Persian, she found her feline howling in pain. Semus said she later took her 2-year-old cat to an animal hospital, where Panda Bear was diagnosed with a broken front right leg.
"She has a permanent limp now," said Semus, 40, who said she has filed a complaint with police. "And she's still afraid to have people touch her. She's definitely not the same cat that she was before."
Chester Therrien, of Fort Lauderdale, says he recently walked into Happy Pawz and saw Snowball, his $1,000 Himalayan cat, lying dead on the table.
Therrien said when he and his daughter, Michelle Longway, asked Goldstein for an explanation, they were told Snowball, 2, had died of a heart attack.
"I was like, `Excuse me?' said Longway, who said she saw her father cry for the first time. "I couldn't believe my eyes. The cat looked like it had drowned. His mouth was all purple."
They too said they filed a police report.
Pam Lauritzen, executive director of the Texas-based International Society of Canine Cosmetologists, a nationwide grooming association, is unaware of the accusations made against Goldstein. But she said animal mistreatment at pet salons is widespread because the industry is unregulated.
"Anyone can open a shop," Lauritzen said. "We've heard many instances of animals getting injured severely."
Lauritzen said the most common types of injuries that animals suffer from at pet salons are broken limbs, nicks and abrasions.
Three organizations, including her own, certify groomers, but it's not required to do that job. But by verifying a groomer has certification, owners can have more assurance their pet is in good hands, Lauritzen said.
Can you believe this? People like this make me sick. No wonder I don't want to take my cats to the vet and leave them there.