In a few days, it will be ten months since Harley abruptly left us, the victim of a groomer’s carelessness. How could I have known April 28, 2018 at 8 am would be the last time I would see her alive, the last time I would hold her warm little body close to my heart, the last time I would bury my face in her fur and feel her tiny, rough tongue gently lick my cheek, the last time I would look into her big brown eyes and see unconditional love and acceptance, fully trusting me to care for her. And, truthfully, that hurts the worst, the fact that I could not protect her, the fact that I wasn’t there when she drew her last breath.
Our grief has changed from the acute, almost unbearable stab to the heart over and over again, to the silent acceptance she is with us in spirit and we will be reunited again one day. Those who have loved animals and made them a part of the family will understand the depth of the grief we feel; others will not, believing animals to be, well, animals and lower than the human animal. Fairly often these days I question who is actually lower, however.
The grooming industry is not regulated or licensed. Anyone can buy a pair of scissors and clippers, put up a sign and call themselves a groomer. Did you know that? Most everyone who has heard our story had no idea. Somehow the fact we need a license to fish, a permit to put up a shed in our backyards, and all manner of certifications and licenses to do just about everything except take money from trusting people who believe the groomer will care for their animal. Are the animals intentionally mistreated? Some are, but most injuries or deaths are results of negligence. Licensing and regulatory oversight would eliminate some of the needless and senseless injuries and deaths.
Accurate statistics are hard to find because the industry is not regulated therefore nothing is tracked. There is no recourse for pet owners who lose their animals due to groomer negligence. Most states only recognize family pets as personal property; no different than a microwave or toaster. In our state, a law was recently passed giving people the right to break into a hot car if a child or animal is inside and the owner cannot be promptly located. So, I can break into someone’s car to rescue a dog at risk for heat illness or death, but I can’t sue for negligence because my dog died at a grooming salon when I pay for their services? Ludicrous at best. The fact that I can break into a car to rescue another person’s animal implies value, except the value of the animal, is not recognized in the hands of a groomer.
I have been in contact with a woman in New Jersey who has gotten a bill passed through their Assembly to regulate groomers. Her name is Rosemary Marchetto and the bill is named “Bijou’s Bill” after her beloved dog died at the hands of a groomer. Her bill even includes a cell phone app so that pet owners can check on their pets in real time video, similar to cell phone home monitors for checking on pets during the day. She has been working on establishing some oversight for a few years now but has been met with roadblocks from the PetSmart lobby who has very deep pockets and access to thousands of dollars. She has made great strides, certainly more than I have in our state. Of course, the large box store groomers don’t want regulatory oversight because they would need to pay their groomers more, ensure appropriate licensing, and be subject to inspections and fines should the salon be found lacking. It’s easier to pull people off the street, stick a clipper in their hand, and call them a groomer, yet their stores seem so animal-friendly on the surface. She has garnered support from the AKC, 7+ million members strong and New Jersey legislators are listening, so eventually, I expect some regulatory oversight will be put in place. But, how many more animals will need to be injured or die before that happens?
Since Harley died at the hands of a groomer on April 28, 2018, I have written to our state legislators several times, two governors, and contacted all 3 media outlets and have received few responses. I have the ear of the state representative for the Humane Society of America, but they too, are fighting for animals on several fronts. So, what to do?
I have decided to ask every reader to share this story, and more importantly to contact your state representatives and tell them about Bijou’s Bill and call for similar legislation in your state on February 28, 2019, or soon thereafter. How cool would it be if several thousand calls or emails went out advocating for regulation and licensing of the grooming industry? One more thing. I haven’t been back to PetSmart since finding out their lobby is preventing state legislation from regulating and licensing groomers. Let’s not support their lobby, instead make a statement advocating for the safety of our pets by boycotting their stores across the nation.
Our pets add to our lives. Let’s step up as pet owners and make our voices heard. After all, our hard-earned dollars are going into the pockets of unlicensed groomers. Together we can call for the regulation and licensing of the grooming industry in memory of Harley and Bijou, and all the other animals who have been injured or died at the hands of a groomer.