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Florida shutters pet grooming businesses, but allows it in ’essential’ big box retailers’ salons

Editor’s Note

Alachua County released the following statement yesterday about dog grooming businesses:

“Dog grooming has been deemed a non-essential business. Whether in conjunction with other services or not, it is not allowed.

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To report dog groomers operating in violation of the Governor’s and Alachua County’s executive orders, please contact 311.

We are receiving calls that dog grooming is continuing in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order. Essential dog and cat care include veterinarian appointments and the purchase of food and medications. It does not include grooming, which is viewed as a non-essential service.

The Center Square – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ April 1 safer-at-home order defines “pet care” as essential and, therefore, retailers who sell pet supplies and food can remain open.

Under the governor’s broad emergency order, however, pet grooming is not defined as essential unless for veterinary needs.

Therefore, businesses that exclusively offer pet grooming must shut their doors, as many learned in early April amid varied interpretations by some local governments, which initially allowed pet grooming as a component of “essential” pet care.

Under Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s emergency order, for instance, grooming was permitted. On April 6, however, Hillsborough County Attorney Christine Beck informed the city the governor’s order preempted its rules.

Grace Adriani, owner of Miami Beach Pet Spa, maintains the way some local governments have interpreted the order has created a “loophole” that gives corporations an unfair advantage over small businesses, consumes personal protection equipment (PPE) better allocated elsewhere and perpetuates a health risk.

“Mom-and-pop groomers are furious because they have to close, whereas outfits like PetSmart, PetCo and Woof Gang Bakery here in Florida use the loophole that they sell pet supplies to keep their grooming salons open,” she said. “A lot of groomers are extremely upset because it is not fair.”

Adriani said retailers should shut down their grooming salons, if not by government order, then by concern for their communities because much of the same PPE needed for health care workers also are necessary to safely groom pets.

“During the pandemic, we should not be taking up PPE for dog grooming when it’s needed by health workers,” she said.

PetSmart and PetCo shut down their in-store dog grooming services nationwide in late March but, by early April, reopened them.

“On March 21, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close our grooming salons out of concern for the safety and well-being of both our associates and customers,” PetSmart said in a statement.

The company, the nation’s largest pet supply retailer with 1,600 stores nationwide, said after redesigning “how we operate our salons” and “because regular grooming is vital to the health of so many dogs and cats,” reopened “salons in select locations” on April 6 in places where they were permitted to do so.

PetCo’s in-store grooming salons also are open in “select locations” where permitted, the company said.

While it is illegal, Adriani said, mobile dog groomers still are visiting homes and, in some areas, openly doing business in parking lots and other ad hoc locations.

“My salon in Miami Beach has been closed for two weeks,” Adriani said. “Imagine how I felt when I drove by the other day and saw a mobile grooming van from Hialeah parked right at my door. I wanted to grab a rock and throw it through the window.”

In addition, she said, because pet grooming is not a regulated occupation in Florida, under the order, the only people who now cannot legally offer the service are those who do it professionally under a business license and have a physical storefront.

“Basically anyone can grab a pair of scissors and call themselves a groomer,” she said, noting pet grooming requires a “standard of education, proficiency, care or sanitation” to do properly.

“In a situation like this, some groomers know about sanitation and would be able to implement protocols to protect themselves and their clients, others would have no clue,” said Adriani, among those working to create the Florida Professional Pet Groomers Association.

Many fear if they are shut down while retailers are permitted to groom pets, clients won’t return once they are allowed to operate, she said.

“If you want to help groomers,” Adriani said, “wait for them.”

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