Pet Salons: Are Dogs in Danger? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/3/06

Pet Salons: Are Dogs in Danger?

When Kimberly Clark's two Yorkshire terriers, Daisy and Trooper, were dropped off for a shampoo and blow-dry at the local dog salon in Clinton, Conn., Clark never thought they'd be at risk.

But hours later, Daisy was dead, and Clark found herself frantically racing to the vet's office where Trooper had been taken for emergency treatment.

"I could smell his skin burning when I got there," she recalls. The dog's pupils were dilating, and his kidneys had failed, she said. The vet put him to sleep the next day.

Clark still doesn't know exactly what happened, but she suspects a malfunctioning dryer cage.

"I can't let go of this," she says, adding that her dogs were like children to her.

While the number of pet owners for whom routine grooming visits end in tragedy is relatively low, anecdotal evidence suggests that complaints - ranging from cuts and burns to more serious cases like Clark's - are on the rise.

In some ways, it's hardly surprising, since Americans are lavishing more and more services on their pets. Among baby boomers confronting empty nests, or young professionals who have delayed having children, there seems to be no limit to what they'll spend on Fido. Sixty-three percent of all U.S. households today include a pet, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) - and last year, Americans spent $2.5 billion on grooming and boarding services alone. This year, the group projects that number will rise to $2.7 billion.

But the corresponding boom in pet salon businesses rising to meet that demand has led to new questions about an industry that experts say is poorly regulated, if at all.

"There are no standards," says Bob Vetere, APPMA president. For the most part, he says, groomers are "reputable, well-meaning people," and most can be trusted. Two big national chains - Petco and Petsmart - have recently added salons to their stores. But there's nothing to prevent any individual who thinks they have a talent for sprucing up dogs from going into business.

A handful of state legislatures are considering cracking down, requiring groomers to be licensed, for example, or imposing tough penalties for safety violations - though critics question whether the laws would be enforceable.

But many professional groomers say they'd welcome tougher standards to help weed out less skilled or less careful groomers who could give the entire industry a bad name.

"A lot of people think this is a quick buck," says Toni Coppola, who runs a pet grooming and boarding salon in Hubbardston, Mass., and is president of a group called New England Pet Grooming Professionals. "This is hard work."

Coppola has been in the business since 1968, and she marvels at how much it's grown and become glamorized. The price of groomimg scissors has gone from $10 to $1,000; where there was once a single brand of pet shampoo on the market, now there is a range of choices rivaling the selection for humans.

But Coppola worries that some of those opening new salons aren't willing to put in the time and effort for serious training. It takes about a year, she says, to learn how to groom a dog properly. For pet owners wondering about the safety of a particular salon, she recommends not only checking for some form of certification, but asking local veterinarians for an evaluation.

One of the most frequent complaints cropping up has to do with dryers. Dogs can take up to an hour to dry, and so it's common for salons to use some form of blow-dryer, either heated and non-heated. Inexperienced groomers may wind up putting the dryer too close to the animal's skin. And since cage dryers often come with timers, groomers may be tempted to leave the pet unsupervised.

"You never walk away," cautions Coppola.

Certainly, experts agree most injuries tend to be the result of negligence, rather than anything more malicious. In rare cases of death, pet owners have filed successful civil cases, but criminal suits remain relatively rare.

In Clark's case, she's still hoping the county prosecutor will take action against the salon where she took Daisy and Trooper.

"They died a miserable, horrible death," she says. "I really don't want any other pet owner to go through this."

Source: ABC News

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