I worked in a grooming shop last summer and was shocked, and horrified at the general treatment of cats and dogs left in grooming shops for a full day or half day of beauty.
Most customers met with the shop owner or another significant staff member (manager) and felt they could trust these people with their beloved pets, their babies.
It was purely accidental that I landed this job in the first place. I had taken my chihuahua (my baby) to a shop to have his nails clipped. It was Christmas Eve and the rush was on. When I entered the shop, a woman with a cigarette hanging from her lower lip "greeted" me. I told her I just needed nails clipped. She attempted to jerk Boomer out of my arms but I knew from experience that he needed to be held. She was very hesitant about letting me enter the grooming area. After being in there I knew why.
She was gathering the necessary tools and I noticed she had jeans on that were so dirty they were slick and shiny. She had dried blood on her jeans and on her arm. There were 2 very large, unrestrained dogs in the grooming area. The floor was filthy as were the work stations. She grabbed Boom's paw and began snipping. He has never liked having this done so he was squirming a bit but she was able to continue. She nipped a quick and he pulled his paw back, she then hit him on his head with the clippers and left a knot on this tiny little apple head. I proceeded to leave the facility and she demanded payment and then had nerve to request a tip "since it is Christmas". She got nothing but the image of my back leaving her establishment! We made it through Christmas with lots of attention poured on Boomer and frequent ice packs to his little nogen. The vet said he was OK. I was ridden with guilt.
After I had gotten my nerve up, I called the vet and asked for a recommendation of another groomer who might be more animal friendly. He gave the name of one shop and nothing but high praises for the shop and the owner. So I fought my hesitancy and ventured into the shop. I explained what had happened the last time and she told me of other horror stories she had been told by other clients. Out of the blue she asked if I would be interested in learning the grooming trade since I was so passionate about animals. I told her I had to think about it. So 3 months later, I am soaking wet, got bubbles up to my elbows and being covered with dog kisses everyday. I loved it!!!
The image, however, began to loose its sparkle. I witnessed dogs being cursed at, threatened verbally with physical injury, and physical abuse of tugging, pulling, jerking, and pushing while on the grooming table. I am fully aware that discipline is needed in getting some dogs to cooperate. I witnessed animal abuse everyday. I was a bather. I got the wet part of the job and as i said earlier, I loved it. We had the hand held blow dryers that produce a strong flow of air and are very noisy. This frightened many dogs. If one of "my dogs" indicated any fear, I would towel dry them as much as possible and place them in a drying cage with a dryer placed on the door. This was quieter, less forceful but took much longer for the coats to dry thoroughly. But on many occasions, I have seen a dog held by his ears or testicles to perform the hand held blow dry. After all "time is money".
During the summer months we were really busy. We bathed dogs from 7:30 am to 2 or 3 pm. Another part of our job was to walk and toilet the dogs. Many days this was not possible due to the number of baths and grooms needed. Many of the dogs refused to use the cage so they just had to suffer.
Some of the dogs had been dropped off as early as 7 am and if the owner didn't get there until 5 or 6 pm they were really suffering. If the animal peed or pooped on the grooming table it was yelled at, smacked with a cloth, jerked off the table and then taken back to the cage for a bather to clean. We tried very hard to work it out so one of us could walk the dogs before lunch and the others take on extra baths but the shop owner did not approve of the schedule changes.
The poor kitties were no better. They were spared the agony of the hand held dryer but were placed in a small 2x3 cage with 2 cage dryers on them after their bath. NONE of them were given a litter box. The drying room held 35 cages and we had an exhaust fan that was graded for a residential bathroom. The heat in the drying room was intolerable at times.
We (the bathers) strived to keep fresh water in the cages for the dogs and cats due to stress and heat. Many times during the day, an animal would be removed from the drying room by a groomer and taken to the grooming table then returned to a different cage with no water. We had many dogs that would come in with skin conditions. Some contagious, some not. Again a groomer would remove the dog from the cage for grooming and return it to another cage. If the bather didn't get in to change the towel in the original cage, the groomer would place another dog on a towel that had been bedding for a dog with a skin condition. The risk of contaminating or spreading infection was very high.
This particular shop also had a kennel. The kennel was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everyday and then any waste or puddles were spot cleaned later in the day. No consistent monitoring for animals that did not pee or poo in the kennel was provided. If the pet owner did not pay for play periods outside or for outdoor potty breaks, the animal had to suffer if no one noted whether he had peed or pooped.
I am asking all pet owners, PLEASE, make spot checks on your groomers. If possible stay with your animal, at tub side, at grooming table, wherever, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!! Take a tour of the facility before making an appointment. ASK QUESTIONS about potty breaks, water, etc. If you feel comfortable with the shop, don't stop watching for signs. As soon as you leave the shop does your animal pee for an extended period of time. Does she poop immediately. Does he have diarrhea for the rest of the evening. Did he drink a great deal of water when he got to his dish. We are trusting our animals with these people and are paying them good money to take care of babies for a few hours or even a full day. Take your own towel or blankets for cage bedding to prevent contracting skin or other infectious conditions that could cause your pet unnecessary suffering. If your animal eats during the day, bring him a baggie of food to munch on, otherwise he will get none. Watch your animal for reluctance that worsens over time on going to the shop. Watch for mood or behavioral changes. Check your animal for sore areas, tender areas, whelts under their coats.
What can we do to cut down on this? Talk to your community leaders, state law makers and request them to look into state regulations regarding the ethical treatment of animals by groomers and vets and any other pet service providers. If you have witnessed abuse or even suspect abuse, contact your local SPCA and report it to the Better Business Bureau in your area. Also alert your vet and have him check your pet for suspected injuries.
I am sure this is happening all over America. We cry at the stories of idiots who will pull a dog from a vehicle and toss him into oncoming traffic so he can be killed in front of the owner. We need to cry for our own babies if you do not know what transpires during the course of a day in a grooming shop, a pet sitting service, a kennel or any other pet service
I close with one final question, would you allow your child to be treated in this manner? To some of us, our pets are our children and we need everyone's voice to help protect them.
Sincerely, (name withheld)