"We love to see healthy, happy pets," is PetSmart's motto – but apparently the policy doesn't apply to those belonging to employees.

Eric Favetta, a 31-year-old PetSmart employee, was fired for "theft of services" after bringing his dog to work during an overnight shift he'd picked up as a favor to his manager, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. (The Secaucus, New Jersey, store added an overnight shift in order to prep the store for a visit by officials from Martha Stewart's company, who wanted to discuss selling products at PetSmart.)

The story raises interesting questions about how employers manage conflicts, when they arise, between the broadly-imagined aspirations of a company's corporate culture and much narrower policies that govern employment decisions.

Favetta – a former military dog handler who'd worked at PetSmart for 18 months – didn't want his 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, Gizmo, to be home alone all day and night. So he put Gizmo in the Secaucus, New Jersey store's doggie day care facility. The store was empty, and Favetta checked in on his pet every 15 minutes.

Two weeks later, store and district managers requested a written report of his overnight shift. He complied – and promptly was fired for "theft of service."

'I was shocked,' Favetta told the Star Ledger. 'It makes me sick that because I brought my dog to work with me when the store was closed to do the company a favor, I was called a thief and terminated.' "Theft of service" was just a convenient excuse to axe him because he didn't get along with his manager, he argues, noting that he opened the store and handled money without incident.

PetSmart spokeswoman Jessica White defended the company's decision, saying that service was a huge part of PetSmart's business. Offering such as access to the store's doggie daycare facility are "viewed as sale items the same way items on the shelf are," she told the paper. "To use the facilities and not pay for it – it falls under the same lines."

Thanks partly to questions raised by the Star-Ledger's consumer affairs reporter, PetSmart eventually offered Favetta his job back and a transfer to another store. He accepted – but in the meantime, he was offered a job for which he had applied while he was unemployed. The position was at a company that uses animals to search for hazards, and Favetta took it. No word yet on whether that business will allow Favetta to bring Gizmo to work.

Published on: Jan 26, 2010