The last few weeks there have been several stories in the press about dogs who were injured or killed at grooming shops and I want people to be aware that these stories, as horrible as they are, are NOT THE NORM!
Pet groomers in this country exist in several different “forms”.
· We have corporate groomers who work for big and small chains.
· There are Veterinary based groomers.
· Then we have mobile groomers who have vans or trailers and come to your home.
· In-home groomers who groom your pet in your home.
· Home Based shops who groom from their homes.
· Private shops who operate one facility.
We are all different in how we operate but there are some things we do that are universal in our daily work. We bathe, dry, cut hair and clip toenails. We put on bows and bandanas. We love your pet while they are in our care. We cry when they are hurt or sick, and we develop deep lasting relationships with you and your pets.
There are also things that hold true nationwide for groomers. There is no state that requires groomers be licensed. Some states have facility licenses but not one state licenses groomers. Unlike hairdressers there is no education requirement either. Certification is voluntary. This does not mean certified groomers are better than non-certified groomers, nor that they are safer, but it’s something you need to be aware of.
The most important thing to each and every one of us groomers is the safety and comfort of your pets! We strive every day to make your pets beautiful and to keep them safe. We do this by using the best equipment we can afford. We create shops with safety features, like double doors, fencing, and proper restraints. Many of us take classes online and in person at trade shows. There are videos available for us to improve our skills, and many of us do our best to grow and learn daily so that your pet can get the best treatment in the world because we know, as well as you, that they deserve it.
We use the safest equipment available, like tables that are stable and won’t tip over, tubs that have non slip surfaces, dryers that work efficiently without the dangers that heated dryers can bring and we do our best to send each pet home safe, beautiful and happy.
Unfortunately, however, accidents happen. They happen very rarely. But they do happen. That is no consolation when it is your pet that is injured, but believe me. It isn’t something that is widespread or intentional.
Probably the most common injury in a grooming shop is clipper irritation. Many people call it razor burn. It is not, however, a burn. It is generally speaking the equivalent of dry shaving your legs or rug burn on your knees. It happens most often in pets that have matted hair in sensitive parts of their bodies, like bellies, and on poodle faces and feet. It happens usually due to sensitivity to the clippers and in dogs that are not used to be groomed. It can also be an allergy to the metal in the clipper blades! If your pet has ever had any clipper irritation it is imperative that you tell your groomer about it when it happens so that they can note your pets file and make some changes to how they groom your pet.
The next most common injury in the grooming world is nicks and cuts. Let’s face it. We are working with sharp shears and blades and using them on moving objects. The pets that normally end up cut or nicked are ones that are overdue for grooming and are matted. Many are not used to the process and are not on their best behavior. You can assist your groomer in preventing nicks and cuts by starting your puppy early, as soon as they possibly can be groomed, and keeping your pet on a good schedule. This encourages better behavior and no matted coats to deal with.
It is also important to choose a groomer and stay with that groomer, and not do what we groomers call “shop hopping”. You would never think about switching babysitters or daycare providers for your young children would you? Dogs, like children, need consistency. Since every groomer has a different personality and runs their shops differently than other shops it is important to keep your pet in a place where they are comfortable. Once they become friends with the groomer and their staff they will be happier and safer.
After the minor injuries that happen, there are some more serious injuries that can occur.
· Broken bones
· Heat stroke
· Dog Attacks
· Escape from the facility
By doing an interview and tour of the facility you can tell if you feel comfortable there or not. You can see the safety features the shop offers.
Cage free shops have a higher incidence of dog attacks and escapes. Not that they are not safe, but let’s face it. A shop with crates is less likely to have dog fights (the dogs are separated) or escapes (the crates keep them confined).
Heatstroke is caused by hot rooms and heated dryers. ASK YOUR GROOMER if they use heated dryers. If they use heated cage dryers do they have thermometers in the cages? Timers? Is someone in the room with the pet at all times? After you get answers to those questions you can make an educated decision as to whether or not this is the shop for you. If you ever go into a shop and its hot in there, then heatstroke can be a serious possibility. I would ask why it’s hot in the shop and then make a decision on whether or not I wanted to leave my pet there or not. It is possible that the Air Conditioner is simply not working correctly and a repairman is on the way. Other shops do not use AC at all. You need to decide if you feel comfortable leaving your pet in their care based on their answers.
Death happens extremely rarely in shops. I read a statistic once that said for every 10 dogs groomed per day, a death will occur once every ten years. If a groomer grooms long enough they will have a pet die while in their care. Usually deaths happen due to underlying health concerns, both known and not known, not groomer negligence but unfortunately groomers have accidents as well. I want to stress AGAIN that this happens infrequently. In this day and age of the internet and on demand news sources, you will hear about deaths more often than we used to.
The number of pet deaths has increased, but so has the number of pets being groomed, so it’s a natural progression. If the math is done however, I believe you will find that the rate of pet accidents and deaths have actually decreased in comparison with the number of pets groomed. The reason for the decrease in the incidents versus the total is simple. We have better equipment and training. We are better educated as an industry and the internet is the reason for that as well. Blogs, Facebook groups, Pet groomer forums and online magazines have made safety concerns talked about more and as a result we have been able to share our knowledge and encourage safety. The corporations, like PetSmart and Petco have super strict safety rules as well. The groomers trained at those stores have strict safety guidelines to follow and as a result, the industry has made huge strides in safety enforcement.
If your pet has any type of medical concerns, you can minimize the risk of injury and death by making sure your groomer knows about them. Medical concerns, such as seizures, allergies, heart murmurs, arthritis or collapsing tracheas are imperative to share with the person grooming your dog. Luxating patellas, blood clotting disorders, and spinal injuries…every single thing that can affect your pet’s health needs to be reported to your groomer to protect their health. If you do not tell your groomer then they cannot possibly know what safety measures need to be taken to protect your pet.
Trust me when I say groomers want to protect your pet from injury as much as you do. When it happens, take a deep breath. Pick up the phone and talk to the groomer, not the press. Bring any and all veterinary records to the groomer so that they can see what has been said. Give permission to the vet to talk to the groomer. Again, take a breath.
I promise you we don’t get into this field to hurt your pet. We are not getting rich. We got into this field because we love making your pet look beautiful. We train, clean, cut hair, love, cry and grieve. We are human. We make mistakes.
If you add up all the grooming facilities in the USA there are approximately 15,000 (and I bet that is low) and if you take into account that many have at least 3 groomers or more per facility, and each groomer does a MINIMUM of 7 grooms per day, that is a staggering number of dogs groomed per day. 315,000 per day in the USA alone. Out of that number, there are very few injuries per day. My shop had one vet bill last year and we average 20-25 dogs per day, 5 days a week.
As you can see the chance of injury to your pet is extremely low.
So, even though the press is trying to make it sound like your groomer is a death trap, it is not. Please, relax. Breathe. And choose a groomer the way you would a daycare provider and make sure the groomer has all the information needed to ensure your pets safety.
I cannot guarantee your pet will not be injured if you follow all of these steps but I GUARANTEE the chances are greatly reduced from the already miniscule chances your pet will be injured if you do your due diligence.
In my next blog post I will discuss how to interview a groomer for your pet and choose the one that fits your life best.