Suffolk County putting pet groomers under the microscope

David Borders grooms Lily, an Airedale terrier, at Schoshire Kennels in Aquebogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
David Borders grooms Lily, an Airedale terrier, at Schoshire Kennels in Aquebogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The Suffolk County Legislature unanimously passed a bill last week approving the creation of a voluntary rating system for pet groomers.

The bill, sponsored by Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), is an expansion of a voluntary pet shop rating system enacted by the county in 2011 and aims to enhance pet safety by providing owners with information about groomers before they book services.

“You don’t need a license to groom a pet, nor do you need any training,” Mr. Calarco said. “By allowing groomers to go before this voluntary rating board, Suffolk County might be able to provide a little more oversight and give pet owners peace of mind.”

Mr. Calarco said he pursued the expansion of existing legislation after a resident complained about an “unscrupulous groomer” she said injured her pets during a primping session.

Participating groomers will be rated monthly by the same group that currently rates county pet stores: an appointed committee comprising representatives of the county Department of Consumer Affairs, the Suffolk County SPCA, a retired veterinarian and others involved in animal rights.

Steve Laton of the Suffolk SPCA said the committee sent letters to pet stores countywide in October about joining the rating system and that responses are “slowly coming in.” He’s confident the group can also get groomers to join.

“We’ll get the job done,” he said. “Once the law is signed by the county executive we can begin work ASAP.”

The existing pet shop legislation involves placing rating stickers on shop doors and windows, Mr. Laton said, adding that the group will also discuss the possibility of an online database for pet shops and groomers.

This week, two area groomers said they thought the rating system was a good idea but expressed concern about how ratings will be calculated — and by whom — and whether participation in the program will generate cumbersome paperwork or increase business costs.

“It shouldn’t be by a local [animal rights] group,” said Anthony Pollina, owner of DogTown in Southold. “They usually turn out to be very biased and it always becomes a ‘favorites’ game.”

Ideally, Mr. Pollina said, raters should be educated on everything having to do with pet grooming, including the types of cleaning products used on the animals, cages and floors. He’d also like his rating to be calculated over a three- or four-month period, with one or two monthly visits from different raters.

“For me that would be a greater benefit because [raters] would get more of a cumulative feeling or experience by visiting places over time,” he said.

David Borders, owner of David’s Dog Grooming at Scoshire Kennels in Aquebogue, agreed that a rating system is a good idea and noted that a lot goes into keeping animals in a groomer’s care healthy.

“You have to keep up on everything you have,” said Mr. Borders, a pet groomer since 1965. “You have to sterilize your blades, your clippers and your cages and you have to do this every time a dog come and goes. If [raters] showed up, I would certainly show them what we do.”

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