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Carolyn Rubido’s cat Flash, shown here in peaceful but completely contented calm, died in November 2020 after a flea bath administered by a mobile dog groomer.
Photo courtesy Carolyn Rubido
Editor’s note: One of the photos embedded in the story below shows Flash postmortem with visible wounds on the face.
After a 2017 car accident left a stray kitten with a broken jaw and missing eye, Carolyn Rubido adopted the cat and named it Flash. She spent thousands of dollars on veterinary bills and nursed him back to health, bottle feeding him until he was strong enough to eat. But after three years as a happy and healthy indoor cat, Flash died suddenly last November – not from the aftermath of the accident, but from a bath.
In a lawsuit filed in January, Rubido alleges that Miami’s Pet Grooming, Inc., a mobile grooming company, injured Flash so badly that he bled from his mouth and paws until he died in front of her on the floor of the grooming cart in November 1, 2020.
Rubido says she hired Miami’s Pet Grooming to wash Flash and her dog, Mia, and to treat both animals for fleas. A nurse from the company drove to her in Kendall and looked after Mia without incident in a mobile care cart. But when it was Flash’s turn, Rubido said, she was worried about how long the bath would last.
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“I realized the guy was taking a long time to look after him, so I got worried and went to the truck. I knocked on the door and he said, ‘Just a sec.’ When he opened the door, all I heard was Flash screaming at the top of my neck, “Rubido told the New Times.
Rubido recalls seeing Flash in a cage that had been placed in a tub with a fan pointed at him and blowing at full speed. She saw what looked like scorch marks on his face. He was drooling heavily and bleeding from his mouth and eye socket. And he lacked claws on every paw.
She says the groomer, identified as “George” in the lawsuit but not named as a defendant, laid Flash on the floor of the van in front of Rubido, where he stumbled, cramped, and then died.
Rubido says the dog groomer told her he wouldn’t charge her for the session and it would pay off to replace the cat if she wanted.
“It was really insensitive,” says Rubido. “And then they didn’t even call me after it happened. I never heard from them again.”
Rubido says she is so traumatized by Flash’s death that she can no longer walk around her house without thinking about him. Now she is suing the care company in the Small Claims Court in Miami-Dade. Her lawsuit accuses the company of professional negligence, breach of contract and willful infliction of emotional stress.
“The failed attempt by [the Miami’s Pet Grooming] Groomer was so ruthless, strict, and willful that Flash died a horrific, excruciating death, ”the complaint states.
The negotiation date is September 10th.
Miami-based Pet Grooming owner Lester Sanchez tells the New Times that it was not his company’s intent to harm Rubido’s cat. Flash was the first cat to ever die in the company’s care, says Sanchez, adding that the incident deeply affected the dog groomer, who has two decades of experience working with cats.
“He called and said he should cancel all of his appointments. He was traumatized,” says Sanchez. “It’s not something he did to kill the cat. Nobody wants an animal to die on their hands.”
Sanchez says Flash was infested with fleas, a condition that can make a cat weak and prone to disease. He says the fleas could have caused the red spots on Flash’s face. He says Miami’s Pet Grooming intends to go to court, arguing that Flash must have had preconditions.
Rubido disagrees. She says Flash had fleas but was not infested, adding that a veterinarian gave him a clean health certificate shortly before the grooming incident.
A pet death certificate issued by Miami-Dade County does not list any cause of death for Flash. But the stains on the cat’s face could be an indication of what happened to her, according to Carrie Hyde, a former veterinary technician who owns a pet care and wellness business in California. Rubido’s attorney, animal rights attorney Lauren Turner, will call on Hyde as an expert witness in court.
Note that the two-part image embedded below shows Flash as a healthy cat and also postmortem with visible wounds on the face.
A photo of Flash’s face after grooming shows three separate spots on his face where his fur has disappeared. One of the spots near his nose is bright red, which Hyde says resembles a chemical burn.
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Lightning in its prime (left) and post-mortem.
Photos courtesy of Carolyn Rubido
The presence of burns on Flash’s face would point to a shampoo as a possible culprit, says Hyde, noting that the shampoo instructions for cats are to apply to the head rather than the torso as is the case with dogs. She says that chemical burns can sometimes be caused by the use of flea shampoos or anti-flea chemicals that are not intended for cats.
“We are seeing chemical burns in cats from people using products that cannot be used on cats. People think cats and dogs are the same as long as they weigh the same, but cats are much more sensitive to chemicals, ”says Hyde.
In some cases, Hyde adds, dog grooming products can be toxic to cats, burning them, and causing them to drool and cramp.
Sanchez tells the New Times that his company uses a flea shampoo for both dogs and cats, adding that no other cats had problems after being washed with the shampoo. He also says this is the first time he or his company has been sued by a customer.
He doesn’t know what else his company could have done for Rubido other than offering to replace the cat and not charge for the session.
“She’s trying to sue us, but for what? What are we going to do to fix the situation? We could give her another cat, but she just wants trouble. We did our best, ”he says.
Rubido says she wants to hold Miami’s pet grooming accountable and alert other cat owners.
“I don’t want other people to hire a groomer just to be tricked into saying they have experience with cats,” she says.
Turner, Rubido’s attorney, hopes the case will highlight the relative lack of regulation of pet hairdressers in Florida.
Although Miami-Dade County requires care company operators to operate a license for their business, no licenses or certification are required from individual caregivers.
“Beauticians also have to attend a beauty school, but that is not the case with animal keepers. In the end there are untrained people who are not licensed. And that does not mean that they do not know how, but it” means that there is no supervision ” Turner told the New Times, “If the state could do just a little bit of oversight, we wouldn’t have the really sad tragedies you see like this one.”
Similar concerns about pet grooming regulations have arisen in other states, usually after pets are injured during routine grooming sessions.
Sanchez emphasizes that the person who handled Flash did not need a license, adding that the man has a certificate in professional grooming and has 20 years of experience in the industry.