Barking dogs & the law

A New Jersey woman is finding out the hard way that your words can come back to haunt you – and your wallet, too.

Sadly, what prompted all of this was the death of Danielle DiNapoli’s English bulldog, Scruffles. DiNapoli had taken Scruffles to her local PetSmart for a grooming session one morning. Fewer than two hours after the grooming had begun, Scruffles was transported to an animal hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Heartbroken and angry, DiNapoli did what many people do these days – took to Facebook to post her feelings, which included accusing PetSmart of killing her dog. She created the group “Justice for Scruffles” to hear from others who had lost their beloved pets in a similar way.

DiNapoli says that she dropped off Scruffles at the PetSmart to be groomed, and the next thing she knew, the Flemington Animal Hospital was on the phone to let her know that Scruffles was in their care. But by the time she arrived, the dog had died.

She says that no one from PetSmart was at the veterinarian’s office when she arrived, and she had not received a written report from the company explaining what had happened.

In one of the first posts to her Facebook group, she stated: 

“PetSmart refuses to answer any questions regarding her passing, and only states it’s under investigation. We have asked to speak to the groomer and a report of what happened during her last hours on earth. They refuse to give us information.”

PetSmart has denied any wrongdoing, and says that Scruffles’ death was caused by pre-existing medical conditions. They filed a counterclaim against DiNapoli for defamation.

The court sided with PetSmart, and DiNapoli was ordered to post a public apology, and to pay the company $30,000 in court costs.

If this were your dog, would you have done the same thing? And do you think the court was fair, in this case?

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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