Years in the making, settlement arrives over swapped black Labs

December 6, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

In December 2009, Issaquah’s Anne Galasso went to the PetSmart PetsHotel of Issaquah to pick up her black Lab.

Contributed Anne Galasso’s black lab LaiLa’s health deteriorated after a mixup sent her home with the wrong family in 2009.

Anne Galasso’s black lab LaiLa’s health deteriorated after a mixup sent her home with the wrong family in 2009. Contributed

On the same day, Stacey and Rob Peterson, of Maple Valley, went to the same business to retrieve their dog. The company admits the dog owners both went home with the wrong dog, according to PetSmart spokeswoman Michelle Friedman. The mix up eventually was caught by the dog owners and rectified. But Galasso alleged the damage to her dog LaiLa already was done.

Upon her return to her rightful owner, Galasso claimed LaiLa among other problems, had kennel cough and was limping. Galasso said the dog also developed severe stomach ulcers. But Galasso contended as LaiLa’s health got worse, so did any cooperation or assistance on the part of PetSmart.

Friedman said the company always was willing to work with Galasso. Only recently a PetSmart associate had contacted Galasso looking for documentation of LaiLa’s problems, but received no response, Friedman said. Galasso disputed any recent contact with PetSmart’s corporate offices, but Friedman said Galasso’s case had been closed because of her lack of response.

While both sides declined to give details, there apparently was some further back and forth shortly after The Issaquah Press contacted the company about LaiLa’s story. On Nov. 21, Galasso stated the company offered her a $2,000 settlement, which she refused, claiming treatments needed by LaiLa would cost more than that amount.

Still, just a few days later, Galasso said the two sides had come to an accord. A signed confidentiality agreement prevented her from discussing any details.

“I’m satisfied with the arrangements that have been made for LaiLa,” Galasso said.

Friedman also declined to discuss any settlement.

“Overall, really, our biggest priority is helping pets and their parents,” she said.

Speaking prior to signing the confidentiality agreement, Galasso contended that after the initial mix-up was discovered, PetSmart had seemed ready to accept responsibility for any problems with LaiLa. Friedman said PetSmart paid for vet visits for both LaiLa and the Petersons’ dog. She said both animals received a clean bill of health except for an ear infection suffered by LaiLa. Galasso insisted the ear infection was only the start of her dog’s problems. The allegedly injured leg was perhaps the biggest worry.

According to Galasso, LaiLa was suffering from a hip problem and needed some costly X-rays and possibly surgery. But Galasso again alleged PetSmart began to back away from offering any help to LaiLa.

“They quit all communication,” Galasso said, claiming that phone calls to company headquarters were ignored. Local PetSmart officials simply said the problem wasn’t theirs, according to Galasso. She also said that in the meantime LaiLa was getting worse, limping along with one leg in the air 90 percent of the time. Galasso further claimed a veterinarian told her LaiLa’s leg had deteriorated to the point amputation might prove necessary.

According to Galasso, the problem with LaiLa’s leg may have begun or been intensified immediately after the dogs were switched. Galasso said LaiLa was boarded in a Canadian facility by Stacey Peterson’s parents. The Petersons were apparently on vacation.

Galasso said she believes LaiLa may have been mistreated while in the Canadian facility, perhaps run too hard. Galasso said PetSmart reimbursed the Petersons for the cost of the time spent in the Canadian kennel by the dog they thought was theirs. Galasso argued that meant PetSmart was taking responsibility for what allegedly happened to LaiLa while in Canada. Galasso further argued LaiLa would never have been boarded in Canada if PetSmart hadn’t mixed up the dogs in the first place.

Just prior to signing the confidentiality agreement with PetSmart, Galasso said she was taking LaiLa in for needed X-rays and possible surgery.

“I just want what is right for my dog,” said Galasso, who works with developmentally disabled adults. She said the women in her care have become very attached to LaiLa.

“That dog is part of their lives,” she said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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