Emergency Control Group permits dog groomers to open in Dysart

By Sue Tiffin

Dogs and their human owners alike are exhaling in relief as businesses offering dog grooming services are opening their doors again.

On May 11 Dysart et al’s Emergency Control Group released a statement after meeting to discuss new information from the province allowing more retail businesses to offer curbside service after emergency orders in March caused many businesses deemed non-essential to close.

“Today the Emergency Control Group met to discuss the latest information that the provincial government has released last Friday May 8 in regards to retail businesses to be open for curbside pick-up under schedule 3 of the Essential Business Regulations” reads the statement. “The Emergency Control Group agrees that dog grooming is permitted and would advise that social distancing measures should be put in place along with a policy to keep staff and clients safe during this still active pandemic. Operation guidelines for curbside pick-up should be followed as set out by the province. If you were to open your business it should be appointments only.”

Twylla McQuaid at Highland Dog Grooming was hopeful for such an announcement. She had closed her business in March with the emergency orders staying open to offer curbside pick-up of retail items such as dog food and thought she had found a way to offer nail trimming services in a contact-less way to keep both herself and clients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients would deposit their dog in the space between doors from the outside of the shop and doors leading into the shop with McQuaid letting them in for nail trims. Transactions were made via e-transfer and McQuaid wiped down all surfaces including doors between clients. But in April she said she was visited by an OPP officer following up on a complaint that she was operating outside of emergency protocols and the next week the municipality’s bylaw officer.

“The only reason I was doing it was because I know I have some dogs that have nails that grow back into their pads we have two [dogs] and their nails grow out so they can’t walk” said McQuaid. “There are a couple of older dogs that once their nails get too long they literally can’t stand up. Yes I knew I shouldn’t be grooming but if it’s an emergency I thought I was allowed to do it.”

McQuaid had been overwhelmed with clients asking for help via email and voicemail but complied with the bylaw officer’s direction. The provincial directive listed essential services as determined by the province noting: “Veterinary services (urgent care only) and other businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals including farms boarding kennels stables animal shelters aquariums and research facilities.”

“It just boggles my mind how [dog] daycares and kennels are allowed to stay open and vets can still have people in but groomers aren’t allowed to work because grooming is non-essential apparently” said McQuaid.

McQuaid said the challenge was frustrating for business owners noting she was using her savings to help stay afloat until she could reopen and also for pet owners who were nervous about injuring their pet by trying to care for their needs themselves. Highland Dog Grooming will be open to services again as of today.

“Being closed on March 23 was upsetting but understandable” said Chris O’Mara of Prettypaws Pet Boutique and Spa. “Not being deemed essential demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the unregulated grooming industry and the role we play in the health of dogs.”

O’Mara said services at Prettypaws can be “completely contactless” with new fencing allowing for a secure drop-off area no entry from pet owners into the building e-transfer payments and enough gloves masks disposable aprons and face shields available to staff for two months.

Many dog owners have struggled to provide routine home care said O’Mara who offered online guidance through Skype Zoom and FaceTime calls and posted information about proper grooming guidelines through his business’s social media page.

“Some of our clients are seniors and unable to do the maintenance” he said. “Some of the dogs we handle are difficult – we have a reputation for being the ‘last resort’ groomer for troubled dogs. It has now been six weeks… and things are getting dire for the dogs. Nails growing into pads sores around eyes and bums matting dermatitis. Our dogs who require weekly medicated baths to manage chronic skin conditions are suffering.”

O’Mara said that with permission from the municipality Prettypaws would open with their full range of services modified for physical distancing as soon as possible.

“Reopening will allow me to bring back three full-time employees but more importantly it will benefit dogs who are suffering” he said.

Robert Mascia municipal law enforcement officer in the municipality of Dysart et al said when a complaint comes through to bylaw enforcement it is reviewed whether it “neatly fits into one of the essential services. If not we will call the provincial enforcement hotline to assist in determining if the activity would be deemed essential or not.”

Someone charged with a “fail to comply with an emergency order” under Part 1 of the Provincial Offences Act could face a charge of $750 or if charged under Part 3 of the act could face up to one year imprisonment or a fine of not more than $100000.

“It is often difficult to determine what is considered essential due to specific circumstances for example who determines when grooming is considered urgent care for the health and welfare of the animal?” said Masica. “Often calls to the Enforcement Hotline are not helpful in assisting us in that determination. We always ask that owners inquire with the Public Information Hotline (1-888-444-3659) to assist in determining whether their business is essential.”