MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The Martin County Sheriff's Office is investigating Pawsitively Paradise, a dog training, grooming and pet-sitting company in Palm City.
The investigation comes after a Palm City couple, Dan and Adelle Csontos, told NewsChannel 5 that one of their flat-coated retrievers died while in the company's care.
"There's no explanation for that healthy dog to have died," Adelle Csontos said.
The couple said they left 2 1/2-year-old Mako and Marlin, 7, with the owner of Pawsitively Paradise for two days over the Thanksgiving holiday after receiving a recommendation from a friend and receiving a tour of the facility.
"I certainly didn't see anything that gave me pause," Adelle Csontos said.
The couple also said the owner communicated with them constantly over text during the two days they were gone, assuring them the two dogs were fine, at times even sending pictures or videos. The only indication something was wrong was a text from the owner soon before Dan Csantos picked the dogs up.
"We don't know what happened in those 48 hours but something happened," Adelle Csontos said.
The Csontos' showed NewsChannel 5 text message exchanges that show the owner telling them Mako, the younger dog, was "having a hard time adjusting," and looked "depressed," but added she thought doggie daycare at the facility would be a good idea for Mako in the future to help the dog adjust.
However, when Dan Csontos went to pick the dogs up, he found Mako unresponsive, with yellow fluid coming from his mouth.
"I said, 'What did you do to my dog?'" Dan Csontos told NewsChannel 5.
The couple rushed the dogs to Pet Emergency where both dogs were admitted for evaluation. The Csantos' said a veterinarian gave Marlin fluids for severe dehydration and antibiotics for a bacterial infection on his paws.
"He had cuts on his paws and on his behind," Adelle Csontos said.
That wasn't the worst news: the couple said the veterinarian also told them Mako didn't make it.
"I didn't want to believe it," Adelle Csantos said. "He was a happy, healthy dog."
She said the veterinarian's preliminary cause of death was attributed to excessive heat.
"They're doing an autopsy, so we don't know conclusively," Adelle Csontos said.
The couple contacted the Martin County Sheriff's Office.
Chief Deputy, John Budensiek told NewsChannel 5 that the agency is now launching an investigation into the business, adding animal control followed up with the investigation by going out to the facility and attempting to contact the owner.
"We have multiple times tried to meet her face to face, but that hasn't happened yet, our animal control did interview employees that were on scene," Budensiek said. "They did issue citations for other animals that were kept in crates that didn't have any water there."
However, Budensiek also said other employees told deputies the animals were allowed out several times a day and did have access to water. Budensiek said the investigation is still pending, awaiting the results of both the owner's interview and the dog's necropsy.
"So far we can't take any criminal action at this point because we don't know what actually caused the dog to pass," Budensiek said.
While the investigation is ongoing, Adelle and Dan Csontos are hoping for answers.
"I can't tell you how much I love that dog and ... how responsible I feel that he may have at all suffered," Adelle Csontos said with tears in her eyes. "That's probably the thing that haunts me the most."
Adelle Csontos said the only thing that eases those haunting thoughts is the love of Marlin, still alive and healthy, and the hope that what happened to Mako won't happen again.
"The only light in this is making sure it doesn't happen to another family," Adelle Csontos said.
NewsChannel 5 also contacted the company's owner multiple times via Facebook and by phone but we have not received an answer.
WPTV will be following up on the results of the autopsy once it's complete.