Choose pet groomer with safety in mind

WASHINGTON — The stories are rare, but heartbreaking — animals who go for a pet grooming to get spiffy, but end up injured, or worse.

“People certainly put a lot of trust into their groomers,” says veterinarian Katy Nelson, known as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP.

Nelson says in the same way a new parent chooses a pediatrician, a pet owner should pay attention and do some research into the individual or business where their dog or cat will get a wash, styling, and nail care.

“You want to make sure your pet is in a safe and healthy environment while they’re at the groomer — it’s not just about a good haircut,” says Nelson.

The calmer the pet, the more likely the grooming session will go well, she says.

“This needs to be something that’s not a terribly scary process for them every time you bring them in, says Nelson.

Pet owners should tell groomers if they feel their pet will be nervous. One potential risk to safety is a device designed to keep animals in place during grooming.

“A lot of grooming facilities use these tables that have a pole that goes up and has a little slip leash on there to hold the pet in place,” says Nelson. “This works great for the majority of animals — most of the dogs and cats that are used to it, they know they need to sit still.”

For a really nervous animal, “with these leashes going over their necks, sometimes they can pull and jerk, and they can get too tight,” says Nelson. “It’s the groomer’s responsibility to make sure the pet is being safely handled.”

When a pet is too anxious to sit quietly, Nelson says it may be necessary to have another person hold the animal during the grooming.

“It is their responsibility to hold the pet appropriately, that the pet is not choking himself or herself, and that may actually require a second set of hands,” she says.

Choosing a safe groomer

“There’s no actual requirement for anyone to call themselves ‘a groomer,'” says Nelson.

Yet, there are licensing and certifications that might provide guidance to a pet owner in search of a groomer.

Licensing for a pet groomer is regulated by states. Most licensing requirements apply to facilities, including room size, grooming and drying equipment, and exercise areas.

“There is a National Dog Groomers Association of America,” says Nelson,  which offers a Registered or Certified Groomer locator, to find professionals near you.

“You may want to pick out someone who actually has gone through some training and has a certification, so that you know who you’re going with is not only going to give your dog a good groom, but also they’ve put some time and effort into getting certified,” says Nelson.

In chain stores, while the facility is licensed, each company is responsible for its own in-house training programs for groomers.

At the Petsmart Academy, groomers get 400 hours of training in a 12-week course.

A Petco, groomers go through an apprentice program to become a Professional Pet Stylist.

Nelson says good groomers are interested in the overall health of a pet.

If a groomer doesn’t ask for proof of your pet’s vaccinations, “you may want to move on and find a place that is paying attention,” says Nelson.

“You want your pet to be in the safest, healthiest environment possible.”

In the event a pet is injured, experts suggest reporting the incident to the local animal control agency, which is usually aligned with law enforcement. When incidents don’t involve animal injury, the pet owner might want to contact the Better Business Bureau.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up