Deem Pet Grooming an Essential Service in Ontario
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This is an open letter to the provincial government regarding the state of lockdown measures and their damage to the animals of the province of Ontario.
At this time, no information is provided about pet grooming. Pet groomers are left wondering how to proceed and turning away worried pet owners in confusion. As was mentioned in the first lockdown by a great many workers in this industry and their clients, all pet services can be done in a contactless manner. Dogs are not spreaders of COVID-19, and basic sanitizer spray can be used to sanitize their leashes and collars.
In regard to grooming, in particular, many animals can develop major health issues from lack of maintenance to their coat and nails. For dogs and cats, nail trimming needs to be done every 2-4 weeks to maintain a healthy length that does not impede their joints or gait. If left for longer than 2-4 weeks, nails can become ingrown or can shatter, leading to bleeding and infected paws. This creates an added pressure on the veterinary practices that are only providing essential emergency care. We have known animals to be turned away by vets for such ‘non-emergent care’, with vets stating that their college does not allow them to help pets with these ‘minor health issues’.
What you also may not realize, is that many dogs require a 6-10 week grooming maintenance to avoid painful matting and skin irritation. While pet groomers regularly educate their clients on how to care for their pets’ fur, a large portion of pet owners are seniors (who lack the strength and dexterity); young families focused on keeping their children on track in online schooling (who lack time); and/or front line workers (who also lack time). There are also senior pets and chronically ill pets that require advanced skill to groom, something licensed pet groomers in particular excel at.
Most pet owners are not equipped to provide this basic grooming care for their own animals and risk injury to themselves (getting bitten or scratched), or to their animals (due to misuse of equipment and animals moving quickly at the last second). But these pet owners all share a common knowledge: they love their pet and want to keep it safe and cared for by providing regular grooming with a trained professional.
Although pet groomers strived to get many animals in for nail trims and pet grooming before the provincial lockdown began, many of their schedules placed pets well into January and February appointments, which groomers are assuming we cannot fulfil at this time. As time marches forward, even pets who were seen in December are coming due for more grooming care.
This has lead to a long wait list of desperate, worried pet owners and sore, matted pets that are urgently awaiting essential care that affects their quality of life. While our healthcare system is not able to clear backlog of essential surgeries and care, our animal industry is standing by: committed to safely observing social distancing guidelines outlined by the provincial government and providing essential care to the pets of Ontario.
Please allow us to point out the safety of pet grooming during a global pandemic:
· All nail trims could be completed through curb side drop off: animals would be placed in provided sanitized cages or leashes by pet owners outside grooming facilities while supervised by grooming staff. Grooming staff could then sanitize the dog/cat with an animal-safe sanitizing spray (widely available to groomers from their regular suppliers). Pets could then be taken in for their nail trim while owners wait outside. Payment would be taken virtually or over the phone. Upon completion of nail trim, pets would be once again sanitized safely, and then returned to their owners via sanitized cage or leash.
· All grooming would be completed through curb side drop off: animals would be placed in provided sanitized cages or leashes by pet owners outside grooming facilities while supervised by grooming staff. Grooming staff would then sanitize the pet with an animal-safe sanitizing spray (widely available to groomers from their regular suppliers). Owners would then return home while pets are groomed (a 2-6 hour process, depending on size of animal, temperament and state of fur)
· Grooming would be completed while wearing PPE, including goggles and masks, which has been done for decades and well since before the global pandemic began. Dogs would be bathed, conditioned, brushed, dried, brushed again, trimmed or shaved, nails trimmed and ears cleaned. They would then be once again sanitized before being placed in a sanitized cage for pick up.
· Pet owners would pay for grooming through contactless means before pets are placed in outdoor sanitized cages or leashes for waiting owners to take home.
· At no point would humans be within six feet of each other. At no point would staff or pet owners be without a mask. At no point would a pet owner be allowed in the premises of store/grooming area.
The process of providing essential grooming care to animals does not change very much with the introduction of a global pandemic. The main difference is that drop off and pick up would occur contactless instead of in store. Groomers were already following PPE practices to protect themselves from dirt, fur, and other debris from animals with a mind of their own in the bathtubs and/or on the grooming tables. Grooming services are more essential than ever with the large quantity of pet adoptions taking place in the Ontario right now.
Conditions are desperate around our country right now. Everyone needs to do their part to stay home, keep themselves safe and keep their human loved ones safe. We do not underestimate the importance of this right now. But we also recognize the huge crisis waiting to happen of our animal loved ones being accidentally hurt or harmed by pet owners who lack access to trained professionals to help them to care for their pets safely.
There is also reasonable concern about the large number of animals that face chronic health problems, long-term medication/treatment regimes, or in extreme cases, euthanasia, due to untreated health problems. Just as dentists can catch certain types of cancers at regular dental check ups, so do pet groomers recognize health problems that owners often do not. Groomers are trained to recognize everything from ear infections and skin conditions, to ticks and weight/muscle mass changes, to unusual lumps or masses that require further investigation by a medial professional.
Per the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act of January 1, 2020, basic standards of care that apply to all animals under the act should be observed at all times, including requirements for “adequate and appropriate food, water, medical attention and care”. Section 13.1 of the PAWS Act states that “every person who owns or has custody or care of an animal shall comply with the standards of care and the administrative requirements with respect to every animal that the person owns or has custody or care of.”
The Province of Ontario, onto each and every owner, has put the onus of safely caring for animals. This does not mean owners themselves must give the care; after all, not every owner is a licensed veterinarian, physically abled to exercise their pet, or a trained groomer. Nor should they have to be in order to own, love and care for an animal. But it means that owners have the right to ensure their pet receives that medical care, exercise, and preventative grooming maintenance.
We ask that you, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, look candidly at all animal services as an essential service during times of lockdown. Our animals do so much to care for and love us during a stressful and depressing time. It is in our best interest to provide essential care where essential care can safely be provided. This in turn gives support to our seniors, to families, to front line workers, and to those struggling with mental health during a lockdown that rely on their pets to keep them going. We can help support our community by being allowed to care for the furry members of the community.
To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario;
Whereas the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act of January 1, 2020, insists basic standards of care that apply to all animals under the act should be observed at all times, including requirements for “adequate and appropriate food, water, medical attention and care”;
Whereas Section 13.1 of the PAWS Act states that “every person who owns or has custody or care of an animal shall comply with the standards of care and the administrative requirements with respect to every animal that the person owns or has custody or care of”;
Whereas Douglas R. Ford and his government legislate that pet grooming is not essential during either provincial lockdown, the latest commencing December 26th 2020, but veterinarian services are deemed so, as long as they are provided in a curbside/contactless manner;
Whereas no proven COVID-19 transmission risks are posed to human beings from animals or from curbside/contactless pet grooming services provided by a licensed and trained pet groomer;
Whereas pet groomers, prior to COVID-19, regularly used PPE to protect themselves from dirt, bacteria and fur; and are fully committed to observe curbside/contactless protocol to safely take in, sanitize, groom, sanitize and return animals to pet owners to protect all parties involved;
We the undersigned petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to deem forthwith all pet grooming services as an essential service during all provincial lockdowns in the province of Ontario, and allow curbside/contactless pet grooming for the safety, wellbeing, and care of animals per the PAWS Act of January 1, 2020.
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