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When Whitney Dolman and her husband Wylie Sampson went on trip to Vancouver, B.C. last weekend they boarded their Shih Tzu dog Marta with their regular veterinarian in Tacoma.

On their way home Sunday Dolman received a phone call. Marta was dead.

Apparently the tags on her collar got wedged in the boarding kennel and she choked to death.

“It was really sad, one of those freak accidents,” said Dolman’s vet Dr. Tim Gintz at VCA Animal Hospital. “I’ve boarded dogs for 28 years and I’ve never had it happen.”

Still, Gintz has already sent e-mails to other veterinary hospitals warning them of the dangers of boarding animals with collars.

Dolman wants to go a step further, a change in state law requiring everyone who boards a dog to remove its collar.

“We have no kids. She’s our family,” said Dolman, who has had Marta since 2004. “We trusted them to take care of her. When I dropped her off a staff member said she’ll be safe there.”

Gintz said Marta, 7, apparently jumped on top of the boarding kennel and the tags on her collar went between the bars of the case and wedged there, locking her collar to the front of the cages. The dog panicked and the collar tightened around her neck and the dog died.

“I want to get the word out. Collars and tags should be removed when in a kennel,” Gintz said. He said workers at the animal hospital walk through the kennels every 10 minutes, but Marta died so quickly it wasn’t possible to save her. “It’s very disturbing,” he said. “We all feel terrible.”

Meanwhile, Dolman said she is talking to an attorney about compensation for Marta, who weighed 8 pounds.

Photos courtesy of Whitney Dolman