After a D.C. family says their dog died in the care of an Adams Morgan groomer, FOX 5 is digging deeper into regulations on the industry in the DMV.
Research shows pet grooming is completely unregulated and at this time and no state has any licensing requirements.
The owner of Happy Grooming in Arlington says she doesn't think pet groomers need a license to run a successful business.
"I don’t think they need one because it’s just a piece of paper," she says. "From my experience, there are people who did not go to school but have so much experience, 10 to 20 years…who don’t have the license."
She continued to tell Fox 5 their employees are skilled professionals and went to school for training.
"When we hire someone to work here, we actually let them be here a day so I actually see how [they] groom the dog – not just show me experience on the paper," she said. "You have to be able to see how they do it, how they handle it, how are they dealing with the dogs?"
Her family’s passion for animals is what motivated them to get into this as a career.
"My sister who loves dogs and cats – love all the animals. She actually loves it so much she went to school to learn how to groom and then one day she just said, ‘Let’s try to have a grooming shop to help all the dogs and cats to be nice and clean,’ just like her dogs."
Customers FOX 5 has spoken with give great reviews of Happy Grooming and the owner says they have never had any pet injuries or deaths as a result of their grooming.
In Virginia, there are no formal requirements for dog groomers. Holding a license or certification is not required in Maryland either, however, some counties do regulate.
For example, Montgomery County tells FOX 5 groomers are required to have a commercial kennel license unless they are a mobile groomer traveling to people's homes. This is an annual license and the facility must allow inspection by an animal services officer every year for renewal.
In D.C., there are no mandatory regulations in place for groomers.
Some pet owners FOX 5 spoke with said they had no idea and that it's concerning to hear.
"Scary thought. I’d love to be honest – I didn’t do the research either to figure out if they did. I assumed they did. It’s good to know they don’t require it" says Happy Groomer customer Marietta Bradberry. "However, I am really happy here. Happy Grooming has been quite diligent in what they promote that they do to take care of the doggies and groom them nicely."
PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says they get complaints of grooming abuse, accidents and malfunctions weekly.
"Certainly the grooming industry needs better oversight and there should be licensure that’s required and education," said PETA's Emergency Response Team Division Manager Kristin Rickman. "If folks are concerned about that, they should certainly reach out to their lawmakers and ask for legislation to be introduced that would hold groomers accountable."
Before taking your pet anywhere, PETA recommends you do the following to ensure your pet's safety:
- Find out if the groomer is a graduate of a school or training program and how many years of experience they have
- Get a reference from other clients
- Make sure your pet is hand or air-dried so they don't get stuck in a machine with lots of heat
- Ask if any animals have been injured or have died in the salon's care
"If you can learn to groom your dog yourself, that’s the very best way to make sure your dog isn’t harmed by someone else," Rickman says. "If that’s not an option, the next best possibility would be to have a mobile grooming service that will come do house calls and you can have your animal groomed in your house – in front of you. It’s very important to always stay with your animal while they’re being groomed or having any service performed."