ABCs, 123s: Reviewing Your Pet Safety Program

Grooming Business Basics

By Khris Berry

Pet Grooming Safety has become a much discussed topic in the past year. As I speak with groomers all over the globe, one common theme resonates—groomers care about the safety and welfare of the pets we service. Public awareness about our industry has brought a lack of oversight and organization into the spotlight.

However, there is a common misconception, that because we are an industry which has been lacking in legislative oversight, we must be unsafe. And that is the great divide which causes many pet groomers distress; just because we have not been organized as an industry, does not mean that we are operating with unsafe practices. I meet many groomers who are shining examples of pet safety basics and put the health and welfare of their clients’ pets at the top of their very long list of concerns.

Since there is an increased awareness of groomers and practitioners in our industry, each groomer should regularly review their safety basics, policies and practices regarding Groomer Safety. Think of giving yourself a regular checkup—more pleasant than a visit to the dentist, but just as necessary for the ongoing health and safety of your clients.

Social climates are changing, and the social value placed on pets is climbing. This may have created a need to update your safety guidelines and your clients will recognize your constant attention to this aspect of your business.

Below are general safety questions to ask yourself which will help you develop or review your Safety Plan:

General Facility Safety:

  1. Are your animal holding areas, cages, dryers and all equipment in good working order and designed for the pets you use them on?
  2. Are you able to comfortably provide services for the pets you take in every day without crowding, rushing or improvising?
  3. Do you have cleaning/sanitizing protocol in place to diminish the risk of contagious or infectious diseases from passing between dogs and humans?
  4. Do you have plans in place for emergency events (fire, escape, medical emergency, etc.) and is your staff trained to follow them?

General Safe Handling:

  1. Do you have Animal Advocacy or Animal Welfare plans in place for the pets in your care?
  2. Do you have Safe Animal Handling Guidelines and do you require your staff to practice them?
  3. Do you dialog with your clients openly about any concerns with their pets’ health, temperament or condition?
  4. Do you practice safe and humane restraints, and exercise calm self–control when handling all pets for grooming services?

Pets:

  1. Do you have release forms available as well as client education in place for situations which increase the risk to either groomer or pet (senior, medical issues, behavioral, severe matting, etc.)?
  2. Are you and your staff able to identify common health, skin, medical and behavioral issues, and do you regularly refer those to the appropriate pet professional?
  3. Do you have plans in place to protect pets on tables, in tubs and cages, and during your care, and do you require your staff to practice them?
  4. Do you regularly record service notes including concerns which would affect the safety of the pet during the groom?

Safety Training:

  1. Have you or a member of your staff attended Pet Safety classes (CPR, Safety Certification, Disease Awareness, Safe Handling, etc.)? How often do you update your training?
  2. Are your clients aware that you have safety training, procedures and/or policies to protect their pet while in your care?
  3. Do you have written Safe Handling guidelines to share with clients and employees?
  4. Do you regularly review your safety procedures and risk–assess your facility, employees and handling of pets? (Congrats! You can check this box by reading this article and applying it to your own Safety Guidelines.)

Attention and Awareness

There is no substitute for attention and awareness when working with pets. In a service which requires a broad scope of skill such as pet grooming, we sometimes become oblivious to the small details. An old saying, “The devil is in the details”, is never more true than when working with pets. Paying close attention to even the smallest details and applying your full attention to every pet in your care is the best practice to ensure that every pet is safe for every groom.

I find that many discussions with pet groomers about pet safety are short and sweet. Groomers are proud of the services we offer and truly care for the pets we handle every day. Since pet grooming is a largely hands–on, learned apprenticeship–style career, many pet groomers have simply “learned by doing”. Having completed a practice a certain way for a number of years does not negate the fact that it may not be safe, wise or accepted by today’s pet owning public. Careful evaluation of your own safety practices will ensure that you and your salon are truly meeting the needs of your clients’ pets.

While not every groomer will have the same specialty—one may possess mad scissor skills, while another may specialize in cats or handstripping—every grooming business can build on the foundation of safety. Every groomer who provides services to a pet can be a superstar safety specialist at the same level. Give yourself a safety check–up—for the pets you service and for the clients who love them. ✂

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