Paying for extras at pet groomer? You may not be getting your money's worth

Customers report injuries during visit to groomers

HOUSTON – (WKMG) Video from a West Houston pet store in which a groomer got rough with a Shih Tzu went viral in February.

That groomer was fired, but the video raised a lot of questions about training and oversight of pet professionals.

Marc Rooney said he took his 6-year-old Shih Tzu, named Dillon, to the grooming salon at a Petco last November for what was supposed to be for a routine trim.  

But Rooney said while in the store, his wife heard Dillon yelp in pain. When they rushed to the salon to see what happened, they found workers covering the dog's head with towels and they could see spots of blood.

"The vet flat-out told us that it looked like he was stabbed with a sharp object," Rooney said. "They suspected scissors, because we saw scissors were on the counter."

The Rooneys received a letter from Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. on behalf of Petco Animal Supplies Inc. that stated, in part, "On behalf of PETCO we would like to apologize for Dillon’s recent experience ... " 

Rooney said Petco paid the vet bill, but refused to pay for pain and suffering, calling it an accident and stating, "their investigation and the evidence presented do not definitely show that the eye injury and/or loss of sight were caused by the groom Dillon received at PETCO."

Pamela McCallum said her daughter's dog, Chloe, was also injured during a recent trip to the groomers. However, they used a small, locally owned salon.

"Her whole dew claw had been cut off," McCallum said. "They just put surgical glue on top of it."

McCallum said they were not told what happened until after they came to pick up the dog.

"Never let her know beforehand, never told her nothing," McCallum said.

Recent news reports across the nation confirm investigations are underway at major pet retailers Petsmart and Petco after reports of abuse and even a few deaths surfaced nationwide the past two years.

"If I saw someone cut and glued, I probably wouldn't go there. That's pretty bad," said groomer Tammy Culberson.

Culberson said she has been in the grooming business for the past 18 years, but started out in the hotel and hospitality industry.

"I do it because I love the pets," Culberson said. "You're not going to get rich doing this, it's very hard work."

Culberson said the groomers at her pet salon have all gone to school to be groomers.

"I've heard of accidents happening. I don't think intentional," Culberson said. "I haven't heard of anything because of lack of experience. And no one intentionally hurts or cuts or cuts a nail too short – it’s just as traumatic for us as it is for the dog or the owner."

But Culberson revealed you do have to make sure you're not paying for more than you need for any particular service -- especially in the boarding world, which she spent some time in. 

"Tour the facilities," Culberson said. "If they don't want you to come in, there's a reason."

"We advertised that all of our kennel technicians are certified, and they're highly trained," said Olivia, who asked to only use her first name.  

Olivia used to work for a popular pet boarding establishment, but said she quit because she could not continue to lie to the customers.

"They need to know that they're not getting what they pay for at all," Olivia said. 

Olivia and other former employees revealed that sometimes boarding facilities will offer you choices on more expensive packages for more playtime and potty breaks. 

"You were always expected to up-sell," she said. "We'd advertise that our play times were from 45 minutes to an hour, but in reality they are about 10 to 20 minutes. We'd advertise that they get three play times and five potty breaks -- they don't. They are the same as every other dog. They're going to get one or two play times and three potty breaks. So a lot of people were paying extra money for something they weren't receiving." 

"They should take them out enough that you don't have to pay for the extra," Culberson said. 

She recommends your animal gets its own kennel so fights don't happen.

"It's just too dangerous. I wouldn't want my dog around another dog," Culberson said. 

Both women admitted that sometimes dogs can get sick at these facilities, but not all places will tell you it’s happening.

[Click here to find a certified groomer near you]

"Boarding is a very tricky thing, so I would definitely see the facility, read the reviews," Culberson said.

She stressed that while accidents do happen, a groomer or boarder should never try to cover anything up. She added that you should look for a place that has high customer satisfaction and low turnover in staff. Once you find a place you are comfortable with, stick with it. 

Moreover, if a place doesn't feel right? Don’t use it.

Culberson said pet owners also need to take some responsibility for their pet's health and hygiene routine. For optimal results, trim claws at least once a month.

Culberson recommends good teeth cleaning to avoid future health problems, and said you can often brush your pet's teeth at home.

And if your dog or cat is hard to handle, communicate that to the dog groomer or dog boarding facility; don't try to hide it.

Your groomer and boarder need to know these things to determine whether they can, or cannot care for your pet.