Better S.A.F.E. Than Sorry - Groomer to Groomer Magazine

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Better S.A.F.E. Than Sorry

By Kathy Hosler

You turn on the six o’clock news and hear a story that makes your heart sink. Someone’s beloved pet died while it was being groomed. Immediately, everyone places the blame on the groomer—whether it is warranted or not.

The negative publicity of such events impacts all groomers. Owners hear these stories and begin to question how safe their pets are while they are at a grooming establishment. Sometimes there is such a public outcry that local and state legislators get involved. Legislation aimed at regulating or licensing groomers has been introduced in states all across the country. 

What’s so bad about that? Legislators often know nothing at all about the grooming industry. Politicians are concerned with the safety of their constituent’s pets, as are we, but that doesn’t make them qualified to control how a groomer operates their business. At the present time, no state requires groomers to be licensed, but the last thing we groomers need is to be regulated by people who do not understand our industry. 

In part, because of incidences happening in grooming salons over the last five years, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Government Relations (GR) Department has been very busy. The AKC GR has a team of nine full–time government relations and legislative experts, as well as federal and state lobbyists with years of experience on issues that impact the pet grooming industry. 

One of today’s most pressing issues is grooming safety. So it was a top priority when Barkleigh Productions approached the AKC about developing the Safety in the Salon Course to educate grooming professionals about safety measures and protocols in their workplace.


With the help of longtime groomer, founder of the International College of Pet Careers and AKC delegate Susan Divine Sholar, Barkleigh Productions and the AKC designed the AKC S.A.F.E. (Safety, Assurance, Fundamentals, Education) Grooming Program.

“Nobody knows this industry better than the groomers,” says Ms. Sholar.  “That’s why we don’t want politicians forcing us to be licensed. The purpose of forming the S.A.F.E. program was to support and showcase the grooming industry’s self–regulation effort through education.”

“Everyone knows the AKC,” Ms. Sholar continues. “It’s been in existence for more than 130 years. Being certified by this well–known organization brings a renewed credibility to your professionalism.”

The AKC S.A.F.E. Program is designed to establish standardized procedures in health and safety of pets in your care, and safety in the salon. After completing the program, groomers and salons can become certified. 

“The Safety in the Salon course is a three–part, comprehensive class that focuses on pet care, health, safety, accident avoidance, disease awareness, and sanitation,” states Ms. Sholar.

“Owners want to know that their pets are being cared for by competent, fully–trained individuals. Everyone who interacts with pets—from the receptionist to the bather and the groomer—should take the S.A.F.E. course.”

Completion of the AKC Safety in the Salon course entitles a participant to receive a certificate. Then, groomers who successfully pass the course test become AKC Safety Certified Groomers. Additionally, if they own a salon, their salon can be certified as well.

Groomers can take the S.A.F.E. course at grooming shows held across the country or they can take it online at

The program doesn’t just cover safety of the pets, it also focuses on salon practices you can put into place to assure groomer safety. The course teaches attendees how to avoid problems or accidents that could injure and possibly make you unable to work. And, we all know how financially devastating it can be if you cannot work.

Continuing education is a key component of the program. A groomer’s certification must be renewed every two years, and can be renewed online. The Salon Certification is to be renewed yearly. 

When they are considering licensing, states look at the training groomers have. If groomers and salons are certified by a well–known organization like the AKC, it lets the legislators know that groomers are doing everything they can to be the safest, most humane caretakers of their constituents’ pets. 

In some cases, when our industry demonstrates that there is self–regulation in place that provides its own certification and inspection, the states have been agreeable to not pursuing licensing.

It’s time. Time to invest in yourself and your future. Completing the course and becoming certified shows your clients, and the community, that the safety of the pets in your care is paramount.

You receive a frameable certificate and copy of the oath to display in your business. AKC S.A.F.E. Groomers and Salons also receive AKC GroomerFinder online benefits, one of which is a free groomer or salon profile on the website. It enables pet owners to find certified groomers and salons in their local area. More than 1.4 million people visit each month. This is a nationwide program. If you move, your certification can go with you. It is recognized in every state.

Don’t be featured as a tragic story on the six o’clock news. When it comes to protecting and enhancing your career and your business—it’s better to be S.A.F.E. than sorry. ✂️

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