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Wall St. Journal on Grooming Summer 2006

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  • Wall St. Journal on Grooming Summer 2006

    Deadly incidents prompt concern about pet salons

    One morning in March, Nicole Stackpole dropped off her nine-year-old Pekingese, Toby, at Lick Your Chops grooming salon in Branford, Conn., for a bath and a haircut.

    Later, she and her husband, Brian, received a call from the groomer, who told the couple to go to a veterinarian's office. When they arrived, they found Toby dead. According to local animal-protection authorities, Toby had been strangled by a restraint device after being left unattended for at least 15 minutes.

    "It was like a punch in the gut," said Stackpole.

    The incident was investigated at the Stackpoles' behest. The death was found to be an accident, according to the city's animal-protection officer, and the case is now closed. The salon's manager, Jeremy Antunes, declined to comment on the incident.

    The Stackpoles' experience is one of a number of pet deaths that have occurred at groomers around the country in the past year, garnering local headlines and stirring concern among some pet owners. The macabre cases - including reports of dogs overheating under dryers and the recent mauling of a poodle mix by larger dogs at a pet salon in West Virginia - have caught the attention of lawmakers, spurring legislators in a number of states to consider laws that would more tightly regulate the pet grooming industry. While the number of pet deaths and injuries is small, there is some evidence that it is an increasing problem. According to the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Va., there were 340 complaints against pet groomers in 2005, up 50 percent from 2000.

    Americans are spending unprecedented amounts on services for their pets - about $2.5 billion on grooming and boarding services in 2005, up 8.7 percent from 2004, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, a trade group based in Greenwich, Conn. Some pet advocates say increasing demand for pet services has resulted in more inexperienced groomers entering the market. And with increased competition, some grooming facilities are under pressure to get the animals in and out faster - which could result in accidents. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says that 69 million households owned pets in 2005, up 8.8 percent from 2000.

    Grooming services have traditionally been loosely regulated. But bills proposed in New York and Pennsylvania within the past year would require groomers to be trained and licensed and would impose fines for violations. Grooming bills were also proposed in California and New Hampshire recently but ultimately weren't passed. In California, the bill couldn't be fine-tuned because the industry couldn't agree on a feasible approach; in New Hampshire, there were vote-scheduling problems and concerns that enforcement would be too burdensome.

    There are laws on the books that apply to cruelty to animals, but they are generally invoked only in extreme cases. Overburdened prosecutors often refuse to take animal cases, believing them to be civil rather than criminal matters.

    Many in the industry do support new rules regulating groomers, believing they would help steer consumers to well-trained professionals. "Our association will always be an advocate for licenses, if done properly," says Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the National Dog Groomers Association of America, based in Clark, Pa.

    Serious accidents or deaths at grooming salons aren't common. "The majority of groomers are good, responsible people," says Maureen Hill-Hauch, vice president of the American Dog Owners Association, a national advocacy group. A spokesman for the national chain Petco Animal Supplies Inc., which groomed two million animals last year, said just 0.1 percent of jobs involved some sort of injury to the animal or the groomer. And in some cases, it is unclear if animals' deaths or injuries are the result of grooming treatments or a pre-existing condition.

    Grooming concerns are particularly focused on cage dryers. These dryers attach to cages and can reach temperatures of around 135 degrees. Frequently, pets are washed and left in a cage to dry. But pet advocates say animals can be left for too long, and heat that is appropriate for larger animals may prove fatal to smaller dogs. After two dogs were suspected to have died under dryers in West Hollywood, Calif., the city last year tightened its rules for grooming facilities and now mandates that dryers be monitored at all times, according to a city spokesman. The New York state bill would ban their use outright.

    Overheating in a drying cage may have been what happened to Phoebe, a Shih Tzu owned by Tina Del Toro and her 8-year-old daughter, Zoe. The dog was dropped off in June at the Brooklyn Zoo and Aquarium in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a haircut. The pet shop called later to say the dog had died, and returned it to the owners in a cardboard box.

    "The box was hot" says Del Toro. "I was horrified. All I was thinking was, 'They cooked my dog.' "

    The store's owner, Peter Eppolito, confirmed that the dog was dried in a cage but said other factors could have contributed to the death, including an underlying medical condition or stress. He also pointed out that he grooms more than 100 dogs a week the same way without a problem. Eppolito said he was investigated by state authorities after the incident but no violations were found.

    Dryers aren't the only concern: Retiree Karen Wolfe says that when she went to pick up her 4-year-old poodle and cocker-spaniel mix in June from a groomer in Morgantown, W.Va., the owner told her the dog was dead and handed over the body in a crate. The dog had apparently been mauled by two bigger dogs after he was left unattended.

    "We couldn't really look at him, to be honest," Wolfe says.

    The salon's owner said that she was devastated by the dog's death and that the two bigger dogs had always played well with others.

    In many cases, mishaps aren't fatal. A Shih Tzu belonging to Carol North, a technical writer from Savannah, Ga., had to have part of its tail amputated after it was broken at a groomer's recently. In June, a 10-month-old Schnoodle, Binky, was gouged during a haircut at a Petco in Long Island, N.Y., requiring nearly $600 of veterinary treatment, says owner Susan Melnik. "It looked like someone had taken a potato peeler to her skin, which was just hanging from her leg," Ms. Melnik says.

    A Petco spokesman said that Binky jumped during the haircut, and that the store has agreed to reimburse Melnik for the veterinary costs.

    Some pet owners take the groomer to court, but awards are generally limited. Pets are property, and people traditionally have received little more than the animal's market value, according to Joyce Tischler, founding director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy group based in Cotati, Calif.

    The recent incidents are causing some owners to be more cautious when they are at the groomers. In order to avoid an accident like Toby's, the Stackpoles now take their surviving dog to a groomer that allows clients to observe procedures.

    "We don't want this to happen again," Stackpole says. "I have nightmares about it every night."

  • #2
    Oh my!

    Oh my, what horrible experiences! I wonder why there seems to be so many of these horrible grooming experiences in the news?

    This seems like an attempt to make pet grooming salons seem dangerous, as an attempt to garner more support for licensing of groomers.

    The BBB in Arlington, Va reported a 50% rise in complaints against groomers in 2005 over the year 2000. That is five years later. They do not include statistics for the % of increase in amount of dogs groomed or % of increase in the amount of groomers in the city, etc.

    It's unfortunate that the news has to use these negative scare tactics which make groomers appear neglegent in order to garner support for regulating the grooming industry. This story even states that "Serious accidents or deaths at grooming salons aren't common".

    I guess that no one would want to read an uplifting, undramatic, positive story about how grooming industry regulations and licensing groomers could improve the industry?


    • #3
      With everything else you are doing why don't you send them a positve article on how great some groomers are. So far there is over 250 of us here that would be happy to comment
      "Whoever Said That Money Can't Buy Happiness Forgot About Puppies"


      • #4
        At least this article had the vice president of the Dog Owner's Associatation saying that is wasn't common and the majority of us are good an responsible. But then the next paragraph goes on to tell how an 8 year old's dog was "cooked" in a dryer. I agree, there needs to be some positive out there to balance out all the bad the media seems to be jumping on lately.



        • #5
          I really haven't seen where there are alot of incidents on the media. It seems like every story uses the same cases, over and over again...rehashing the same incident to deliver the story a different way. Its very disheartening. I would say that most of us full time groomers easily do over 1000 groomings every year and that the injury rate is very low. They make it seem like we're a bunch of ignorant, uneducated individuals who just decide to pick up scissors and cut away.
          don't find yourself up a creek without a poodle.


          • #6
            This is the ISCC response to this article:
            To one & all,

            The following is my response to the Wall Street Journal article of 8/2/2006 to express our perspective as professional PetStylists.

            Dear Ms Munoz,

            Please consider the inclusion of the attached letter in future stories pertaining to the injuries &/or loss of life of a pet within the environs of a pet salon so as to inform the public that competent petstylists/dog groomers are available to serve the beloved pets entrusted to their care.


            Chuck Lauritzen

            Deaths in Pet Salons Perspective of a Professional PetStylist

            The incidence of serious injury or death of any pet within the environment of a petstyling/grooming facility is a very tragic & regrettable event that demands to be in the spotlight of public & professional scrutiny. Let there be no doubt that it is a conscious decision to leave a pet unattended, or to subject a pet to the confines of a cage/crate that is heated by a dryer, or to intermingle pets into groups without constant & rigorous supervision to cope with their unpredictable reactions to one another. There may be explanations for accidental occurrences, but the reputations of professional petstylists/groomers are deteriorating into that of an industry that is replete with incompetence & negligence for which there can be neither excuses nor any acceptable vernacular to dismiss their culpability for the absence of common sense & judicious decisions.
            The best safeguard against incompetence & negligence is the due diligence of prudent, conscientious, educated & properly trained petstylists/groomers who adhere to the unwavering protocol that a pet may be unattended for not more than a few minutes & only then if that pet is comfortably & safely secured within a cage/crate, that the use of tools, equipment & techniques will never be excessive, that neither abuse nor neglect nor harsh methods & practices will be tolerated, & the condition of the pet will be continuously evaluated to assure its well being. Pet owners should expect that reputable petstyling/grooming professionals will be forthright with information pertaining to their qualifications & credentials of training, their experience & their efforts to improve their educational & technical skills as well as their attitude & philosophy regarding their love of animals.
            Should a petstylist/groomer be reluctant or unwilling to provide pet owners with straightforward answers to their inquiries, then it is incumbent upon the owners to seek another pet salon for the humane care & treatment of their pets who cannot speak for themselves. Owners & their pets deserve protection & redress from any unscrupulous, incompetent & negligent members of the petstylist/grooming industry who pose a threat that may end badly with the sudden loss of a beloved pet & companion.
            Petstylists/groomers must be imbued with the character & integrity to be accountable for their actions & the consequences thereof, while also recognizing that their methods & practices demand a critical evaluation of the parameters that will strictly define their continued usage. This prescription is a very subjective interpretation, but it behooves the petstylists/groomers to endorse & adopt the ethical standards that will govern their conduct & behavior to eradicate the preventable injuries & loss of life that have become a blight upon the reputation & public image of the entire petstyling/grooming profession. Should the petstylists/groomers be unable to invoke the uncompromising guidelines by which safe, effective & humane methods & practices become the minimal standard of care, then the intrusion of government regulations & the judiciary system into the daily activities of our businesses & our lives is inevitable.
            Petstyling/grooming must be measured not only by the aesthetic, cosmetic & styled appearance of a pet, but also more significantly by the intangible dedication of its practitioners to the humane treatment of their pet clients. While it is presumed that the licensure of petstylists/groomers would improve the level of expertise & the quality of care provided by a totally unregulated profession, it is no more of a panacea against the injury or death of a pet than the licensure of a physician is against malpractice. The repetitive failure of groomers licensure legislation that has been introduced in many states is attributable to the punitive rhetoric & oppressive content that was designed to penalize an entire profession for the transgressions of a minority of offenders who have brought the negative publicity & notoriety upon the innocent majority of petstylists/groomers.
            Since there are no mandated prerequisites or any governing authorities to impose sanctions upon professional misconduct within the petstyling/grooming industry, the unsuspecting owners & their pets venture into harm’s way if the owner’s choice of a pet salon happens to be that of someone who has neither the education nor the experience to compare to the qualified petstylists/groomers who have devoted their careers to improving & maintaining the health, well being & appearance of their pet clients.
            Petstyling/grooming professionals have been striving to oversee & elevate the performance & standard of care of their industry through their membership, support & active participation within several organizations whose mission & purpose it is to advance the educational & technical acumen of professional petstylists/groomers via advanced continuing education courses, seminars & voluntary testing/certification of their academic, artistic & practical skills that will directly benefit the pet clientele they have chosen to serve. The most notable among these are The International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC), based in Garland, TX; The National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA), based in Clark, PA; & International Pet Groomers (IPG), based in Elk Grove, IL. While these organizations dictate differing degrees of compliance & achievement, The International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC) has unquestionably the most stringent & comprehensive criterion to attain their multi-faceted certifications that culminate in the status of Master Pet Stylist, Meritus.
            The petstyling/grooming industry bears an intrinsic responsibility to the memory of Murphy & Binky & Phoebe & Toby & to all of the innocent pets entrusted to our care to ensure that our impeccable professional conduct is so beyond reproach as to leave no uncertainty that our pet clients will be returned safely to their owner’s embrace.

            Chuck Lauritzen
            Assistant Director, ISCC


            • #7
              Originally posted by furrybestjob View Post
              I really haven't seen where there are alot of incidents on the media. It seems like every story uses the same cases, over and over again...rehashing the same incident to deliver the story a different way. Its very disheartening. I would say that most of us full time groomers easily do over 1000 groomings every year and that the injury rate is very low. They make it seem like we're a bunch of ignorant, uneducated individuals who just decide to pick up scissors and cut away.

              the repeated use of the same incidents over and over to 'prove' the incompetence of groomers is identical to the tactics of certain Animal Rights organizations to "prove" that all circuses, rodeos, zoos, dog shows, horse shows, horse races, dog races, dog and cat BREEDERS... are evil and must be stopped. In fact, most of the articles have quotes from "experts" (term used very liberally in the case of Animal Rights loons) associated with either HSUS or PETA. Now, most of us in the animal industry know that PETA and HSUS are mostly full of doo-doo, but the public still thinks they are good legitimate organizations out to help animals. My suspicion is that their hand in attacking our profession (based on a FEW isolated incompetent individuals--or more likely competent people who made serious mistakes) is part of their campaign against the "exploitation" of animals and returning them to their "natural" state.... Somehow, though, I can't picture packs of Bichon Frises in the wild.... Go figure....


              • #8
                Where do you complain about bad groomers???

                I live in the Los Angeles area and I have been shocked (and horrified) about the number of people I have encountered that have had HORROR stories about their dogs and groomers.
                Can anyone suggest what type of advice I should give people who have had bad experiences what to do to notify the public to stop these bad groomers from operating other than the usual filing a complaint with the BBB? I have recommended to people to post reviews (both good & bad) on the various internet review sites such as Yahoo, Insider Pages, etc.
                I would especially appreciate anyone in the L.A. area with information.