Dog groomer frustrated profession not deemed essential

In this provided photo, Chantel Hunt (front, center) with her staff at deTails Dog Grooming in Mallorytown, Ont. Hunt is frustrated her profession, which ran curbside service during the first wave of the pandemic, has been shut down during this latest lockdown. (Chantel Hunt via Newswatch Group)

MALLORYTOWN – From skin conditions to overgrowing hair, an Eastern Ontario dog groomer is frustrated and upset their profession has not been deemed an essential service during this second lockdown.

In an interview with Brockville Newswatch, Chantel Hunt says her business functioned well since April 2020 with curbside service during the last lockdown and it was addressed as an essential service in the province’s colour-coded system – until the latest lockdown which doesn’t allow it.

deTails Dog Grooming in Mallorytown sees about 18 dogs a day, five days a week.

“We were just shocked and angry and again writing and asking questions all over again. Kind of like reinventing the wheel. We thought we had gone over this hurdle already. Everything we worked on all spring and summer was revoked in seconds,” Hunt said.

She says a lot of people don’t understand that dog grooming is not simply cosmetic.

“For pet grooming, mostly what we’re doing is maintaining pets for people. There are several breeds of dogs that their hair continually grows and those are the ones you see in trouble – Shih Tzus, Poodles. Those are the dogs we need to see on a regular basis every six to eight weeks to take care of that, so they don’t get super matted and I do have several clients that have to have specialty baths every couple of weeks or they end up at the vet,” Hunt explained.

“It’s very concerning to me that my clients can’t get these services right now.”

Hunt says she is in debt from the first shutdown and now had to lay off her three staff – two groomers and one salon manager – after Christmas. At least one is considering a career change given the uncertainty of work while the pandemic drags on while another has put house buying plans on hold, she said.

“The impact on their finances and health has been very hard and for me as well, I feel terrible. I feel responsibility to them and I feel responsibility to the dogs we’ve had to turn away. It’s been hard on all of us,” Hunt said.

She says a group of groomers have been lobbying the government to have them deemed an essential service.

Some municipalities like Mississauga are not enforcing the rules on dog walkers and dog groomers, allowing them to open, but that’s not the case in Eastern Ontario.

In an email to Newswatch, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott says “businesses that provide pet grooming services are not permitted to be open. These are not retail establishments under O. Reg. 82/20.” Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paula Stewart echoed that position.

Decision on dog grooming up to Ontario’s chief medical officer, Clark says

In an interview with Newswatch Friday, local MPP Steve Clark says the decision on dog grooming was made by Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.

“Dog groomers have been probably the most active group outside of retail that have communicated regularly with MPP’s offices,” Clark said.

Clark says officials are “actively considering” the points made about resuming dog grooming.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that as we move closer to Feb. 10 that there will be some signal that we will be moving back into the colour coded system which should address most of the calls from dog groomers prior to that,” Clark said. Based on the latest metrics, Clark says Leeds-Grenville would be in the green category.

“There might be a possibility that the chief medical officer might lift some of the restrictions prior to that but that’s going to be based on data.”

Clark was asked whether Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams misunderstood the profession as a cosmetic service. “Yeah, I think dog groomers have done a good job since Boxing Day in indicating which services they have that are based on the animal’s health versus the services they provide that are more cosmetic. That’s the information that’s being presented.”

Clark later clarified that he didn’t “know what information was in front of him in November. I know what information is in front of him now.”

“My message to dog groomers is, I’m going to continue to ensure that those factual components of what your business does gets put in front of the chief medical officer of health.”

After this lockdown is over, Clark suggested there “might be a few changes, minor changes just based on what we’ve learned” to make sure dog groomers aren’t left in the lurch in future restrictions. That will be up to Williams and the Ontario Ministry of Health.