It’s a heartbreaking tale of a doggie death.

And Doggie Style Pets, which provided the grooming, landed the first nip on its customers.

Doggie Style Pets and three Philadelphia customers are currently waging a legal dogfight over the death of a 12-year-old Maltese named Teddy and the alleged strangulation of his littermate, Oliver.

Doggie Style owner Howard Nelson filed the initial lawsuit — naming former customers Arielle Roemer, her husband, Aaron Kaplowitz, and her father, Steven Roemer. Nelson claimed defamation and a drop in business, alleging the Roemers were bad-mouthing Doggie Style pet grooming and retail chain after the death of one of their pups.

The Roemers in turn countersued, alleging that Doggie Style’s beefy, 300-pound amateur wrestler working as a groomer tied a loop too tightly around their dogs’ necks. The grooming loop typically serves as a leash to keep the dogs in one place.

Teddy died later that day, and the Roemers claim their veterinarian confirmed it was due to his neck injuries.

Both sides agree on only these facts: on June 4, 2019, Steven Roemer brought in his daughter and son-in-law’s two elderly Maltese dogs to Doggie Style Pets in Narberth for grooming.

After the appointment, Steven Roemer picked up the dogs from the Narberth store, and video shows him leaving with both dogs in his arms.

However, there’s no video of the dogs in the grooming station, the Roemers’ suit says.

So what really happened?

Accidents and deaths at pet groomers seem to be an ongoing problem at Petco, PetSmart, and other chains as Americans spend big bucks on their furry friends.

Pet-care spending was estimated at over $75 billion in 2019, up from $72.6 billion in 2018 and $69.5 billion in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association. That trade association figure includes pet spending for food, supplies/over-the-counter medications, veterinary care, live animal purchases, and services such as grooming.

More than ever, pet owners view pets as members of the family, and that’s led to wild growth. Pet grooming is a $9 billion in annual revenues industry and was estimated to grow annually at 6.2% between 2014 and 2019, according to IBIS World data.

Doggie deadly

Doggie Style operates nine locations in Philadelphia, and one each in Narberth and San Diego, according to its website.

Nelson claimed a “malicious scheme and plot” to “destroy the plaintiffs’ personal and business reputations” in his lawsuit, alleging the Roemers, who live in Rittenhouse Square, complained to friends and other customers about Teddy’s death, hurting business at the Doggie Style Rittenhouse location at 17th and Spruce Streets.

Teddy sustained severe bruising, hemorrhaging, and trauma around the neck and died within hours of his grooming, while Oliver also suffered bruising but is recovering, according to the Roemers’ countersuit.

The Roemer family accused Doggie Style of conducting a “sham investigation” into Teddy’s death, arguing the noose used as a “groomer’s helper” strangled both Maltese dogs.

Teddy, a 12-year-old Maltese, died after a grooming appointment at Doggie Style in Narberth. The Roemer family claim their dog Teddy died from a groomer's noose, while Doggie Style owners claim the dog died due to injuries inflicted by the owner.
Roemer lawsuit
Teddy, a 12-year-old Maltese, died after a grooming appointment at Doggie Style in Narberth. The Roemer family claim their dog Teddy died from a groomer's noose, while Doggie Style owners claim the dog died due to injuries inflicted by the owner.

Instead of the regular groomer at the Narberth location, the Roemers were assigned Tom Bente, whose “passion was not dog grooming, but professional wrestling,” the Roemer lawsuit said.

Weighing about 300 pounds, he “is a devoted student at the Chikara Wrestle Factory,” the suit said.

“The dogs could not stand or walk” after the grooming, the suit added, and vets concluded later that the injuries caused Teddy’s death from pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.

“After the Roemer family saw their beloved dog Teddy die a terrible death-by-choking due to neck trauma during his grooming, Doggie Style, with full knowledge of its culpability, began an unconscionable campaign to publicly blame the Roemer family for Teddy’s death to protect its sales and profitability,” said Paul Rosen, chairman at Spector Gadon Rosen Vinci, who is representing the Roemer family.

Doggie Style owner Nelson wasn’t made available for an interview through his attorneys at the Beasley Law Firm. He is the former head of the SPCA in both Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Steven Roemer is the founder of Lear Financial Corp. Bente did not respond to a request for comment.

Both suits are available here and here.