Melbourne dog groomers booked out for months as pooches return for much-needed cuts

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Some Melbourne dog groomers say they will be booked out until next year after the easing of the city’s lockdown restrictions prompted owners to check their fluffy pets into salons.

Melbourne’s pet grooming industry was shut down for two months during the city’s stage 4 lockdowns, with commercial businesses allowed to open only a week ago.

The massive backlog of long-haired and curly-haired dogs needing a trim — coupled with mobile and home-based grooming services remaining closed — has raised animal welfare concerns that pets could suffer from matted coats, develop infections and be accidently injured by their owners.

Christine Hough, who owns a dog grooming and day care business in Melbourne’s south-east, said she was now mostly booked out until March 2021.

Ms Hough said her business received dozens of calls, texts and emails each day from customers looking to book their dogs in for a trim, many of whom were first-time owners of “designer” poodle-cross breeds.

“There’s a misconception that dog grooming is to make dogs pretty, but it’s a health aspect for a lot of the breeds,” she said.

“[Excess fur] has been in their eyes, their ears, their bums — it’s been a mess.

“They’ve matted down to their skin so there’s been infections of the skin.”

Demand off the chain

Trish Wileman said she had to turn away new customers until 2021, such was the demand at her salon in Whittlesea, north of the city.

Ms Wileman said because of excessive matting, some dogs had to have their coats trimmed very short, but they found it distressing.

“It’s a real shock for the dog,” she said,

“The owners have been feeling extremely guilty and really helpless.”

It has been a similar story for Rachael Garthe, whose three salons across Melbourne have been booked out for October and November.

Ms Garthe, who led a campaign calling for the industry to reopen, said a lack of properly trained grooming staff was also a challenge for the industry.

“It is very difficult to find a decent and reliable dog groomer — now it’s even harder, everyone’s flat out,” she said.

“It takes years to become very good at it — it’s a skilled job.”

‘They were really suffering’

The industry’s temporary shut down meant many dog owners took hold of the clippers themselves, in some cases leading to disastrous results.

Dr Jack Zaks, a vet in Elsternwick, said several dogs had been rushed to his practice after suffering severe cuts caused by owners.

Dr Zaks said dozens of other dogs were brought in suffering abscesses due to long and matted fur.

“It was a real welfare issue … the animals were really suffering,” he said.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive Liz Walker said grooming was “an essential form of care” for some breeds.

“Now that we are in the spring season, grooming becomes ever more important as animals go through their spring moult,” she said.

“Grass seed prevalence increases, flea activity increases, and seasonal allergies are aggravated.”

Not everyone can open

While large grooming businesses are glad to be open again, sole traders working from home or in mobile salons have not been allowed to reopen until at least October 19.

Andi Dolphin, who has run a grooming salon from her Ringwood North home for more than 20 years, said it was “devastating” traders like her had not been able to operate.

“I worked in stage 3 on my own. I am absolutely contactless. To not look at our setup and not consider us is really upsetting,” she said.

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Ms Dolphin said she had ample supplies of hand sanitiser and wore a mask and gloves while grooming dogs in her garage, which had a double-gate system allowing owners to drop-off and pick-up pets from a distance.

She has a waitlist of 140 dogs, each of whom bring in between $35 and $85 per grooming session.

JobKeeper payments had been helpful during the pandemic, Ms Dolphin said, but did not make up the shortfall in lost revenue. Ms Dolphin said she had been unable to access other government support schemes.

Mobile grooming salons in regional Victoria also remain shut, with the State Government saying it is trying to “limit the movement of people between multiple work locations to slow the spread of the virus”.

“The Victorian Government has consulted with a large range of industries across the state in developing the roadmap, and we’ll continue to consult with them as we safely work towards a COVID-normal,” a Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions spokeswoman said.

By Kristian Silva (Original ABC Article)