Nothing makes me cringe more than turning on the television and hearing about an accident in a grooming salon.

Social media sites light up like Christmas trees with the bad news that yet another pet has been injured, or worse. My heart sinks in sympathy for the pets and their owners, but also for the groomer or establishment at the center of the unfortunate incident. I, along with a troupe of other pet professionals, have been on the forefront of our industry, monitoring many of these unhappy events.

I understand that accidents can, and do, happen. We are, after all, dealing with living, breathing creatures that all feel, act and respond differently to the grooming process. Some of the pets we serve can’t wait to run into the salon to greet their favorite hairdresser. Others act as if they are being abducted by aliens, leaving their owners wondering what actually goes on behind the doors of the “Temple of Groom.”

And when it comes right down to it, few pet owners really do understand what goes on. Let’s face it, when it comes to pet grooming, we do things to the dogs and cats that owners rarely, if ever, attempt at home. How many owners actually look in their dogs mouths to check teeth, or clean their ears, or trim their nails, or scrub between their toes, or demat and fluff dry their fur-kids? I can assure you, not many.

They all believe that grooming behavior is an instinctive trait and that all dogs are well behaved for. We, as professionals, know that nothing could be farther from the truth. We poke, prod and perform tasks that owners never dream of attempting. Pet grooming is a labor intensive job fueled by our passion and love of animals.

And while I totally understand that accidents can happen, some of the instances I hear about in the news are totally beyond my comprehension. And, just like any other industry, the consumer is looking for some kind of guidelines that spell out some kind of accountability when an incident occurs.

With that in mind, I am pleased to announce the formation of an industry effort that has been needed for decades and has been actively in the works for the past year. The Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Alliance (PPGSA) is a historic collaboration of grooming and styling professionals. It is an effort by groomers, for groomers, for the benefit of the pets we serve and their owners.

Many members of the Alliance are old, familiar industry friends while others have worked independently in the background. But what brought us all together was the obvious need to define and outline consistent guides for good, responsible care of the pets left in our charge.

Included are the three oldest, major, national pet grooming and styling associations in the United States: International Professional Groomers Association, International Society of Canine Cosmetologists and National Dog Groomers Association of America along with the California Professional Groomers Association and New Jersey Professional Groomers. Industry organizations such as the World Pet Association and retail partners like PetCo and PetSmart worked hand in hand with industry pet service providers like the American Kennel Club, America’s Pet Registry and Barkleigh Productions. This effort was coordinated by PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council). For those of you who may not know who PIJAC is, they are our voice in Washington. They are our legislative watchdogs.

These groups have all succeeded in putting aside their organization’s personal agendas and worked for the common good of the industry.

It was everyone’s desire to “put common sense to paper” regarding the standards of care taught and practiced by professional groomers. Its goal is to assure the uniformity of the care and safety standards endorsed by the Alliance member organizations through their certification and/or training programs as well as giving independent schools and salons a basic set of ideals by which to conduct their businesses. It will also be instrumental in helping to educate pet parents about the importance of care and safety standards when choosing a pet groomer and stylist.

Subject areas addressed include pet housing and handling, equipment and products, facilities and safety operations, with a focus on attentive animal care. These standards represent best practices gathered from Alliance members and others throughout the industry. They reflect a commitment to pet care based on professional experience and established practices.

These standards will not, in any way, govern or dictate your grooming style, methods or techniques. They will, however, outline what is acceptable safety and sanitation in our salons. If you run a clean, safe business, you are already there. These standards will help assure that every facility is implementing the best, safest practices for the pets, assuring their owners that their babies are in good hands.

It is hoped that these standards will be embraced by consumer advocacy groups in helping determine potential liability or neglect in the case of severe salon accidents. These standards will also be presented to any state wishing to enact legislation regulating groomers as consistently accepted best practices across the board in our industry.

The PPGSA will not offer a certification or training program but will approve of, and endorse, the certification programs many if its member organizations now utilize. These testing organizations are committed to incorporating these standards into their own programs. These standards are the “bones” of care in our salons. It will be the job of each individual certification organization, school, or legislature to “flesh out” the basic structure to meet the needs of their own unique programs. The Alliance will continue to meet regularly to review standards to ensure that they reflect current industry best practices.

Press releases have been sent out to make the industry aware of our efforts. We continue to polish our document and hope to have our finished product for presentation at GroomExpo in Hershey in September.  We welcome the participation and input of other industry organizations or interested individuals. You can simply reach out to a current member or contact me directly at [email protected] and I will share your input.

After years of acting independently, all of the members of the PPGSA are so pleased that there is a melding of everyone’s good ideas. This meeting of the minds is a major step forward in our industry, especially in the light of recent, negative publicity that has plagued us in social media. It has taken a year of working quietly, but it has all come together in a very good way.

The PPGSA looks forward to continuing its work for the pet grooming and styling community, filling a void that, we can all agree, has been needed for years.