Stephen Ellison

Dog Owners Accuse Groomer of Animal Cruelty; Sheriff's Office Investigates

A Mountain View couple is accusing a mobile dog groomer of brutalizing their dog, taping its mouth shut while performing grooming services.

Now Santa Clara County sheriff's investigators are trying to figure out whether the groomer's actions constitute animal cruelty or merely protection against a dog bite.

Pepper, a 5-pound male Chihuahua rescue, was left with bloody toes and was traumatized, according to his owners, Eric Stanton and Gabriela Toro. They said Alpha Mobile Grooming Service of Burlingame was hired to trim Pepper's toenails and instead cut them off all the way to the skin.

"I was completely disgusted," Stanton said.

They also accuse Alpha of taping the dog's mouth shut. The groomer told Stanton Pepper bit him, but Stanton believes Pepper reacted to being hurt.

"I finally got the tape off his mouth when I realized he was bleeding all over my counter, my kitchen counter," Stanton said. "If you look, the tape extends past his nostrils, so I can only imagine he was not only struggling and anxious and in pain, but also struggling to breathe."

Toro said she thought pepper might suffocate.

"We trusted them," she said. "We hired them because they come to your door. And you can see what they’re doing."

Alpha owner Carlos Chaves said the groomer took necessary safety precautions and had to be treated for the bite. He said he reported Pepper to Animal Control and may take legal action against the owners.

The sheriff’s office says it’s the dog’s injuries that elevate the case.

"Dog bites are generally referred to Animal Control," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Richard Glennon said. "This is a criminal matter potentially of animal cruelty, so it’s something we’re looking into."

Animal Control ordered Pepper be quarantined at home for 10 days as officials check into potential health concerns and possible criminal charges.

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