Animals are in pain, name groomers as an essential service in Ontario during COVID-19

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Dear Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton:

Animal groomers across Ontario work hard to protect the health and welfare of beloved pets, but the Emergency Orders that you have enacted under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act are inadvertently undermining the animal healthcare system in this province.

Schedule 2, Section 11 states the following are exempt from targeted closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

"Veterinary services (urgent care only) and other businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals, including farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums and research facilities."

Groomers are an integral part of animal healthcare in this province yet we are not explicitly named in Schedule 2, Section 11. Groomers provide critical services like nail/hoof trimming, hair/fur de-matting, medicated baths for animals with crippling skin conditions, ear infection treatment, flea and tick removal, and a multitude of other services that are essential for the health and welfare of animals. 

This vague language has caused some authorities to mistakenly close groomers leaving thousands of animals and their owners in distress. Veterinarians are being inundated with requests for services traditionally offered by groomers but lack the facilities or the capacity to respond. Pets who are not properly groomed on a regular basis can develop a number of serious and painful conditions. Examples include: nails growing back into animals paws, painful flea and tick issues, and dangerous hair matting leading to severe skin irritation. As many groomers have been improperly closed, pet owners have turned to their vet to manage this type of care but in vain. 

Groomers work hand in hand with the other members of the animal health and welfare sector and without us, pets and working animals are suffering unnecessarily. Our industry, like other essential services, have taken steps to ensure the safety of employees and customers during these challenging times. However, the confusion created by the vague language of the Act is hindering our ability to continue our critical work.

We are asking you to explicitly include groomers on the Schedule 2 list of exempted services. This will allow groomers who have been forcibly or mistakenly closed to resume service and relieve the current stress on the animal healthcare system. 

Thank you,