Dog Strangled In Fatal Elevator Accident Teaches Us All An Important Safety Lesson

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 7, 2015

As much as you wish you could help your best friend through anything, things sometimes just spiral beyond your control. Such was the case with Bella, a Labrador and Collie mix, in her apartment building with parents Riley and Carrie-Ann Bigras.

Bella had dashed into an open elevator with Riley rushing in close behind, but the end of her leash still lay across the threshold when the doors finally closed. As the elevator moved up to the second floor, the leash caught and tugged Bella to the ground. The emergency stop button would not work as Riley tried frantically to save her. Tragically, Bella was strangled by her own collar and passed in her owner’s arms.


It was a freak accident, occurring so quickly that there was not much time to do anything at all. Worse still, this isn’t the first time this type of incident has happened.

A 110-pound Rottweiler named Vado experienced something similar when he entered an elevator with his owner and a friend’s dog—this time the elevator traveled down and pulled Vado quickly to the ceiling (his leash also caught in the door). Owner Tamara Seibert can be seen in the heart attack-inducing security footage trying desperately to free her dog of his collar. She said:

He’s 110 pounds and he was just picked clean off the ground. I just panicked and was going to do whatever I could to get him down. We just kept going down until his nylon leash ended up snapping.

Thankfully, Vado dropped to the floor unfazed. Seibert destroyed her hands and broke two fingers in the process.

Warning: the video below may be disturbing to some viewers.

In another similar incident, a small Pug and his owner walked together into an elevator, but right before the doors shut the Pug dashed back out, leaving his leash inside with his human. The elevator moved up and pulled the Pug with it, but not before a bystander quickly unclipped the leash and saved his life.

pug elevator

Each of these accidents share the same lesson: we must be extremely cautious with our pets around elevators, escalators, and other such machinery which can easily grab leashes and even dogs’ long fur. Tamara Seibert said about her experience with Vado:

I just want people to be careful — I’ve heard so many horror stories from different people. It could be a child’s scarf, a leash or a long dress.

There are a few extremely important preventative measures you can take to ensure this never happens to your dog. For one, always keep the slack in your dog’s leash folded in your hand—don’t let anything hang loose that could possibly be snagged on or inside something.

Similarly, always keep your dog’s leash at an appropriate length depending on your environment. In buildings with elevators, keep your dog close to your side to avoid them pulling away from you or getting out of control in tight quarters.


And lastly (and I cannot stress this enough), do your dog a favor and use a break-away collar. Like this KeepSafe® Safety Collar from PetSafe, the buckle will release when pressure is applied and it will fall easily off the dog. If you’re in love with your current collar, at least have a break-away alternative on-hand for use near elevators, escalators, at the dog park, or at doggie daycare. And for dog’s sake, throw away that awful retractable leash.


Collars snag on things all the time, whether they be bush branches, fences, or other dogs’ collars, and it pays to be safe no matter the circumstances.

Bella the Lab mix died in her owner’s arms because of a simple mistake that just so happened to cost her her life. She would have turned ten-years-old on Halloween. So please, for both you and your dog, take the necessary measures to keep them safe and happy for many years to come.

Toronto Sun, Featured Image via Now. Hear. This.

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 7, 2015

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.