Scott and Elsa Wyskocil of Los Angeles took the 10-pound dog for a wash and trim last year, but Curly never made it home. He died after being placed in a hot dryer at C&C Pet Food for Less' grooming business, his internal temperature topping 109 degrees an hour after his death, documents show.
Veterinarians told the couple "'you probably don't want to hear this, but they cooked him to death,'" Scott Wyskocil said. "'When they put the heat on him, they forgot about him.'"
The couple settled a lawsuit for $10,000 with the business, whose owner did not return repeated phone calls from The Associated Press.
Dogs have been killed or injured by hot dryers, sharp clippers or their own leashes if left unattended during grooming, which doesn't require a license and has rules that vary by business.
Recent deaths at a Petco store in Virginia and a grooming salon in New Jersey have reignited calls to pass regulations governing the practice, with legislation pending in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. A California measure to regulate the grooming industry failed in 2012, but advocates hope to revive it.
Meanwhile, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council worked with three national grooming associations to craft safety and sanitation standards that can be used as the foundation for state laws, said Mike Bober, executive vice-president of the pet trade's regulatory association for manufacturers, producers, groomers and retailers.
The proposed guidelines on handling tools, dryers and animals themselves were finalized this week, and details will be announced at a pet retail trade show July 21.
"The best approach would be the implementation of uniform standards that all states could use as a metric for groomer certification," Bober said. "There needs to be something done so people feel comfortable that their pets are in good hands."
The recent deaths have stirred concerns, including one stemming from a divisive grooming tool: heated kennel dryers, which are cages with heating coils or an attached heating device. Some say big dogs with long, thick coats won't dry without them, and others say small dogs can die because of them.
At a Petco in Chesterfield, Virginia, a 2-year-old golden retriever named Colby died in a dryer in May. A veterinarian said it looked like heatstroke, but the pet retailer insists the dryer did not use heat and just blew room temperature air.
The company fired the workers involved, scheduled extra training sessions and got rid of enclosed kennel dryers, even though they have not used heat for several years, communications vice-president David Hallisey said. Petco still uses open-air kennel dryers and handheld dryers, he said.
Two retail giants operate the most grooming salons in the country. Petco requires a 12-week training course, and PetSmart mandates 400 hours of technical and safety training, plus annual recertification. PetSmart says it has only one kind of dryer with heat, and workers accompany pets during its use.
In the second recent death, a 10-year-old Airedale terrier named Harley was injured last month at a grooming salon in Bordentown Township, New Jersey, and no one called for help, police said.
When the pet owner came to pick up Harley, the dog could not stand and later had to be euthanized, authorities said. Police have not released details about what happened, but the business owner faces four counts of animal cruelty.
The pet industry will soon reveal uniform grooming standards, but any enforcement would be up to states that pass licensing laws.
"It isn't like there are thousands of deaths each year. There may only be a few dozen in a given year," said Bober, the advisory council vice-president. "When you compare that to the number of dogs, that's tiny, but an animal death is not insignificant or to be ignored."