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Legislation aims to certify pet groomers
Local shops say law will help
“You bring me a sick dog, you better tell me about it.” That was the first thought that popped into the mind of Debbie Davenport, owner of Debbie’s K-9 Grooming, when she heard about the death of Meatloaf, an English Bulldog.
When Joanna Jacobs heard the news, her first thought was that Meatloaf died because of negligence.
The reality is that Meatloaf’s death was an accident, unlike other dogs. But even so, the occurrences of injuries and deaths amongst dogs has prompted state Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego to fight, for years, to pass legislation that would create a licensing program for groomers.
The legislation he first proposed was done simply to try to prevent tragedies like the story Jacobs was told: Meatloaf was left in a hot room, and even though he was panting, he was ignored by staff.
Jacobs lives a few doors down from Meatloaf’s owners, who she considers friends. She was used to seeing their dog, as he would walk over to her house to “visit.”
“One day we didn’t see him,” Jacobs said, and so she visited Meatloaf’s owners to ask what happened. She was told by them that he had died after being taken to Debbie’s for a flea dip.
According to Jacobs, she decided to speak out about the death to help alert the public to be more mindful when it comes to taking their pets to groomers.
According to Davenport, this story simply isn’t true. Davenport talked to the owner and has learned that Meatloaf had been diagnosed as having a collapsing trachea. Meatloaf’s owners had been told by their veterinarian not to take him to a groomer because of this condition and that the reason why Meatloaf was panting so much wasn’t because the room was hot (Davenport has three air conditioning units to keep her shop climate controlled), it was because he had “worked himself into a frenzy.”
“Basically, the dog had a panic attack,” Davenport said. Davenport says it’s not uncommon for dogs who haven’t been to a groomers before to be anxious about the experience at first, but that this anxiety wears off the more familiar the dog becomes with the shop.
When Davenport realized Meatloaf was doing poorly, she called his owner, who picked
Meatloaf up and rushed him to the vet. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late.
“The man who owned the dog is a sweet heart,” Davenport said. “Him and I both cried. It’s just sad.”
Davenport said it takes a special kind of person to handle dogs and that even if she found herself hiring a person who was abusive or neglectful, she would “fire them in a heartbeat” just as soon as she saw evidence of these behaviors.
Davenport understands why a person might think such a death was negligent, as, she said, it’s relatively easy to become a groomer in California. All one needs is a certificate that a person can obtain online.
Jacobs was shocked when, after researching the subject, she found that this was all that a person needed.
“They don’t have to have hours,” Jacobs said. “The Health Department doesn’t check on them.”
Then Jacobs came across a Los Angeles Times story on SB 969 and was encouraged by what she read. The story told of how this piece of legislation would create a voluntary certificate program, which would see groomers having to go through schooling and putting in hours of hands-on training before being certified.
Passed by the Senate in May, SB 969 moved on to the Assembly’s Appropriations committee which failed to pass it on Aug. 8. The committee did agree to give it another hearing at a later date.
The voluntary certification program would make it an “unfair business practice” for anyone to advertise themselves as a licensed or certified pet groomer if they have not gone through the process to be approved by a non-profit organization, the California Pet Grooming Council, created to oversee the certification process.
There is currently no law in place to protect animals being groomed, and even if SB 969 is passed, it will not create any laws to protect animals. Instead, it would provide for a distinction to be made between certified and uncertified pet groomers, without creating a penalty for non-compliance worse than revoking the certificate.
Davenport, who saw the original version of the law, agreed with everything it stipulated, mostly because she’d already run her own shop that way.
“That new law is a good deal. I think they want it to be more climate controlled.”
The original bill that was introduced required groomers to ensure sufficient lighting in their business, an adequate water supply for animals to drink, that indoor facilities should maintain a healthy temperature and outdoor facilities would be banned from use during inclement weather. The law also would have required groomers to ensure that the facility was held to a high level of sanitation, that pets would never be left unattended while on the premises, and that drying cages were prohibited. The groomer would need to keep records, for a period of two years, of the services provided to the pet, as well as its name, the owner’s name, the pet's veterinarian’s name, and any allergies or special needs the pet had.
Groomers would also be required to check the pet’s vaccination recorders to ensure that all proper shots were received.
The first draft of the bill also included training requirements, in the form of school and apprenticeship hours, and that anyone with a record of animal abuse, or who was known to be neglectful, could not be licensed.
In its current form, however, SB 969 has been reduced down to these last few requirements: Groomers and bathers would have to take classes, do hours, and would not be able to keep their certificate if found to be abusive or neglectful.
According to Davenport, even in its current state, it might alleviate a particular problem she has seen.
“What it’s going to do is it’s going to stop back yard groomers,” she said. She’s seen a number of “groomers” working out of buildings that were little more than shackes by the side of the road. These fly-by-night shops, she said, are of the greatest concern for pet owners.
However, she’s concerned as to what this certificate would mean to her and other groomers who have been in business for decades.
“What are they going to do with me? Are they going to grandfather me in?” she asked rhetorically.
Davenport holds her shop up as an example of the way a grooming shop should look. She has taken the money made from her business and put it back into her building at 91 W. Laurel Ave. Composed of three sections, the back serves as the washing area, with a stainless steel tub for small dogs and a walk in shower for larger dogs. Any towels used in the grooming process are cleaned and sterilized often.
Davenport says that the dogs are always hand dried with a blow-dryer on low, not cage dried, and that after being washed, they are placed in a kennel in the front room, the “quiet space” as she calls it, to wait for cuts or to be picked up. Each of her kennels has blankets and water for the dogs’ comfort. In other words, Davenport says, her complies with the ideal groomer’s shop, as originally outlined in SB 969 when it was created in January of this year.
Competitor Tina Kauffman of Tina’s Tangled Tails, agrees that certifying groomers is a good idea, to reduce the amount of untrained groomers.
“Right now anybody can open a shop, so that will end that,” Kauffman said.
However, Kauffman doubts the certification program will actually protect pets.
“They are not going to stop these groomers from hitting the dogs,” Kauffman said. “A lot of groomers are old school. People have got to be aware of where they go.”
Jacobs agreed. She has taken her dogs to a couple of groomers in town, and now personally prefers Kathy’s Groomers.
“She won’t hire anyone for fear they will not treat the dogs right,” Jacobs.
“People need to be aware,” Jacobs said. “Check out the place. Don’t just drop them off.”
As far as Meatloaf is concerned, Davenport has spoken to the owners and still has a good relationship with them. Waving the grooming fees and paying the veterinarian were only the tip of the iceberg for her. She’s been keeping her eyes peeled in the hopes that a rescue dog might come her way which she can then pair with Meatloaf’s owners
“To me it wasn’t nothing,” Davenport said of the veterinary bill. “We wanted to make sure the dog was OK. But it wasn’t something that was done stupidly.”