05/01/2012 06:05 EDT | Updated 07/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Dog groomers consider ways of regulating industry

Ontario dog groomers are looking into possible ways of regulating the industry, even though accidents involving pets are rare, the head of a dog grooming association says.

"It doesn't generally happen too often but it does happen," Becky Misener, president of the Ontario Dog Groomers Association, said about accidents.

The issue of regulating the industry has recently come up after the dog of an Ontario woman had its neck slashed during a session at a salon.

Currently, there are no regulations for the industry. However, people can get certified to become a dog groomer, which involves taking a number of written and practical exams. But certification is not required to open up a grooming shop.

In Ontario, an organization called the National Agency of Pet Grooming Schools has been lobbying for provincial legislation to require all dog groomers to be fully trained and licensed.

But Misener said a regulatory body may not necessarily prevent an accident from occurring.

"You can teach someone all the skills they want. It's their ethics," she said. "I personally think the importance should be put on the [grooming] schools because that's who's sending out the new groomers."

Dog groomers' association favours regulations

"There is a certain need for it," Misener said about regulations. "But who is going to do this for us. We don't want somebody that doesn't know the industry doing it."

Misener said there would have to be a lot of involvement from the dog grooming industry to come up with some regulatory structure "because the majority of people don't understand what we do in a day. The majority of people don't understand the proper care of a dog."

The organization is currently trying to get together dog groomers across the province to look into different possible regulatory avenues. It is looking at other self-regulating associations and also trying to decide whether licensing might be a path to take.

Misener said her organization's hotline has received only about six complaints over the last 12 years about dog related injuries.

"Most of the complaints they get are about bad hair cuts," she said.

Quite often, pets come into grooming salons in poor condition, she said, and if a dog is not used to getting groomed, then it will not be co-operative on the table.

"I would say, from my experience, there's more risk of me being injured than the pet being injured. They're not all co-operative. They have teeth."

Misener said pet owners should choose groomers who are certified and who have been referenced by veterinarians, trainers and neighbours.

Recourse following a grooming accident

Nick Wright, executive director of Animal Justice Canada, says that if your animal is injured in a grooming accident, the only real recourse you have is through small claims court.

"Because animals are considered in law to be property and not sentient beings that have intrinsic value, generally the amount you can recover is the costs you have incurred, whether it be vet bills or food or other related costs," Wright said.

As for regulating the industry, Wright said a balance must be struck between excessive regulation that puts undue burden on businesses trying to operate with the need to ensure that services are carried out in a competent and professional matter.