The recent case of a Hampton groomer charged in the death of Teddy, a 5-year-old golden retriever, should serve as a cautionary tale for all pet owners.
Beth Bessemer, owner of Mrs. Doolittleâs Bath House on Route 1 in Hampton, was charged by Hampton police with two counts of animal cruelty on Sept. 19.
They allege Bessemer negligently permitted Teddy to endure unnecessary suffering at her grooming facility by leaving the dog in a crate with a heated dryer blowing on him and a noose around his neck, causing his death. Additionally, police allege an alternative theory that on the same date Bessemer negligently deprived the dog of necessary care and sustenance by leaving him unattended in conditions detrimental to his well-being, which caused his death.
For Teddyâs owner, Joanne Schwope, the death of her dog, who she considered a member of the family, was devastating. She dropped her pet off for a routine grooming only to return three hours later to learn that her dog was dead. âItâs just really odd not having him around anymore,â she said, holding back tears. âWe think about him every day.â
But for the North Hampton woman, the death was also a call for action to ensure no other pet owner goes through what she did. Sheâs pushing lawmakers to create licensing requirements for groomers in New Hampshire in honor of Teddy.
Locally and nationally, animal deaths at groomers are rare. But they do happen. And in each case, the owners of these pets were surprised to learn there are no requirements for groomers to obtain a vocational license. While you need a license to work in a hair salon and nail salon, you donât need one to be a groomer.
Legislation has been sponsored in several states to create licensing for groomers, but it hasnât caught on. Connecticut and Colorado have at least some regulations in regard to tethering dogs and leaving them unattended while tethered.
The Professional Pet Groomers and Stylist Alliance, in response to calls for regulations, developed its own professional standards of care that were adopted in 2015. The guidelines do not address techniques for grooming or styling an animal. Instead they focus on care, safety and sanitation.
Among the standards is to have non-slip table tops for dogs; safe and humane pet restraints; pets must be closely and frequently monitored during cage drying; and the facility must carry general and professional liability insurance and follow all local, state and federal guidelines, rules and regulations.
While the PPGSA itself does not offer individual memberships or certifications, the member organizations of the PPGSA have agreed to incorporate these standards into their own education, training and certification programs.
But pet owners should not rely on that alone and must be aware and do their part. The Humane Society of the United States offers several tips when looking to find a pet a groomer.
It recommends asking a friend, veterinarian, boarding kennel, dog trainer, pet supply store or animal shelter for suggestions. After selecting a groomer, it recommends checking the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the grooming facility. It also recommends asking the groomer whether their registered or certified by a grooming school or professional association, and the names of a few current clients to interview.
Other recommendations include checking online reviews and touring the facility to ensure itâs clean.
Schwope said her biggest piece of advice is for pet owners to do their homework before entrusting them with the care of their loved one.
“For people to just be aware, ask questions ask to see where their pet is going to be,” Schwope said. “Don’t take anything for granted, because I did, and that was my biggest regret.”