In April 2016, Tracy Weinzettel took her sweet pug and companion, Milo, in for a routine appointment at an area dog grooming business.
But that day took a tragic turn. Milo suddenly died while getting his nails clipped, according to Weinzettel and the groomer.
Locally and nationally, deaths at groomers are rare. But unlike human hair salons and similar services, there are no standards and regulations for dog groomers. Across the nation, professionals in the pet grooming industry are working on creating standards of care to ensure safety.
“As rare as [deaths and injuries] are, we want to do everything we can to reduce that number to as close to zero as possible,” President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council Mike Bober said. The council was part of the group of industry representatives who came up with the standards.
Rules and regulations
No licenses or certifications are required for a dog groomer to operate. Zoning ordinances put pet groomers under the category of “permitted use,” which means they don’t have special requirements in order to do business, said Bryan Tucker, planning division manager for the city of Savage. Other businesses that do have special requirements include auto repair shops, day care facilities and fast food drive-throughs, he said.
State and federal officials have not created laws or regulations for dog groomers and the Minnesota Department of Commerce only enforces laws governing financial-related companies, spokesman Ross Corson said. And the state’s Board of Animal Health regulates kennels and breeders, but not dog groomers, said Michael Crusan, communications director for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The Attorney General’s office is another place consumers can go with complaints, though it is often focused on law enforcement.
Minnesota lawmakers did, however, create a law to protect animals from cruelty which local officials could use if something does happen.
The lack of rules and regulations for dog groomers is an issue nationwide as dogs have died or suffered injuries from negligent groomers, hot dryers or a variety of other issues.
“We definitely support any stronger regulations of the grooming industry,” said Sarah Preston, associate director of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department.
Executive Director of the Scott-Carver Humane Society Mandi Wyman said perhaps more important than industry regulations is a groomer’s reputation, which consumers can learn by talking to trusted friends or searching online reviews.
“A lot of groomers build their business based on reputation and word of mouth,” she said. “I think that’s huge.”
In fall 2015, the Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Alliance developed professional standards of care, safety and sanitation in response to deaths at dog groomers, Bober said.
In addition to new standards, some schools have been established to try to provide professional standards and credibility.
“Thank God it doesn’t happen very often,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the National Dog Groomers Association.
What consumers can do
Here’s what consumers can do if they experience any problems at a pet groomer: File claims with the Better Business Bureau, leave reviews on Yelp, Google or Facebook or file a police report.
Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer said people need to report issues of neglect, abuse or injury.
“Owners need to realize that pets are like family members,” he said.
If they receive a complaint call, Seurer said, they will investigate as they do with any case.
“It’s not clear cut,” he said.
He emphasized that people need to follow the “if you see something, say something” rule, as with other issues throughout the city.
“Animal owners are our eyes and ears,” he said.
The details surrounding Milo’s death remain a mystery. But Weinzettel is haunted by what happened to her dog and would like to see stronger regulations in the industry.
“[Dog groomers] have to be held accountable,” she said.