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Sep. 27, 2021 | Monday
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Frustrated groomer says service is essential to many pets
Tania Sapielak, owner of The Mutt Hutt with her yellow lab Rubee. She says grooming is essential and wants to get back to helping animals. (Richard Harley)

Tania Sapielak of The Mutt Hutt doesn't agree with grooming services being shut down during the provincial lockdown.

She wonders why province did an about-face on whether grooming is an essential service.

During the first major lockdown, she said groomers fought to show grooming is an essential service, despite the initial optics.

It isn't always a matter of simply getting your dog pampered and looking nice. Some pets have a legitimate need for a groomer, she told The Lake Report.

"We went through all this last time, proving our point that it's a health concern, that matts can make dogs very sick. They can get infections, sores, long nails can break feet, cause arthritis."

And though she's not a veterinarian, she said often groomers are important in recognizing issues that require a vet's attention.

"We spot lumps before an owner would, because we're seeing the dog, we're handling them differently — we're seeing all what's underneath the skin. We're not diagnosing but we're recognizing issues and problems that we're sending the vet for that saves the dogs' lives. There's so many reasons why we are essential," she said.

"We're the front line of animal help."

June Mergl, owner of the Virgil Animal Hospital and another veterinary clinic in Niagara Falls, said she agrees groomers are essential for the health of some dogs.

"They provide a pretty important service in terms of keeping the dog's coat and skin in good condition. And that's very important for a lot of dogs that have dermatitis or all sorts of skin infections," she said.

"I know a lot of people would argue, 'Well, just take them to the vet.' But we're so swamped that trying to fit in a nail trim at an economical price for an elderly person" whose dog needs that treatment would be very difficult right now.

"Older animals that have problems with their nail growth need regular nail trims and the groomers do that on a regular basis, a lot cheaper than the vets can do."

She said in the past vets have had to only do "truly essential services."

"But there's a lot of breeds of dogs that have to be trimmed and if you leave them for too long a time, they can get in a lot of troubles, even with defecation, normal functions. The fur sticks there, they get blocked up, all sorts of things."

She said she doesn't agree groomers should be closed, adding it's easy enough for them to do the same contactless service as vets are doing.

"A grooming parlour could do that very easily. There's no problem with that. And you're not going to spread COVID by animals. It would be extremely unlikely," Mergl said.

While the province's new lockdown regulations have not permitted groomers to open, some municipalities have interpreted the regulations differently.

Niagara Falls and Thorold, for example, have said groomers can remain open.

Sapielak thinks it's not fair to NOTL residents and pets that require the service.

"Last lockdown, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake gave me a letter deeming me essential," she said. "And now I'm deemed non-essential. That to me is a contradiction."

She said she'd like to see groomers be able to work in a way that's complying with the law.

"Half the time we don't even see people. We can totally work in a non-contact environment," she said, adding there are lots of ways to pass dogs off without contact and payment can be done virtually.

"You go into Costco, there's like 200 people. To me it makes absolutely no sense."

"I'd like to see us be able to operate and offer the health and welfare that we give our clients," she said.

"I've been doing this 25 years, so I'm trained, I know a dog's anatomy, probably just as good as a vet would because I've been handling animals for so long. I know what's supposed to be there and what's not supposed to be there, what's concerning and what's not concerning," she said.

"I'm not a vet, don't claim to be a vet. But I do diagnose other skin issues that vets can't, because that's what I deal with, coat and fur."

She said her main concern is the animals.

"It's not about the money right now," she said. All groomers are concerned about the health and welfare of the animals.

"I want to be back to work, to help my clients. I want to make sure they're all maintaining their health."

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