This Woman Wants to Regulate California's Risky Pet Grooming Industry

Dogs mutilated by scissors, strangled with their own leashes, or baked to death in drying cages are among the 1,200 California pets injured or killed every year because of groomer negligence, according to animal activists. For San Francisco teacher Hannah Hartman, such horror stories prove it's time for the grooming industry to be regulated.

Last year, Hartman's Shih Tzu suffered a dislocated hip after a routine grooming at a Novato Petco. Although the parties reached an undisclosed settlement, Hartman maintains that “nobody is held accountable” when dogs get hurt. Unlike many other trades, there are no formal training requirements to give Fido a bath. Hartman wants California to follow the example of Miami, New York, Connecticut, and Colorado, all of which regulate animal grooming.

She hopes to enlist state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to revive “Lucy's Law,” a 2012 bill named for a Palm Springs dog maimed during a grooming. The bill would have established state protocol for groomers but died in committee, a failure Hartman blames on lobbyists from Petco, PetSmart, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

So far, Hartman has not convinced Leno or anyone else to take up Lucy's cause. Leno — who received a 100 percent rating on the latest Humane Society legislative scorecard — insists his office has repeatedly engaged with Hartman, who “would be a more effective advocate if she learned that attacking allies is neither productive nor wise.”

Hartman faces pushback from big-box animal supply retailers, who say grooming protections are already in place. Petco requires a 12-week training course, while PetSmart mandates 400 hours of technical and safety training.

Pointing to recent examples of pooches wounded during grooming, Hartman says such protections offer more bark than bite.

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