I-Team: Requiring pet groomers in Massachusetts to be certified, licensed


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Springfield man is raising questions about the safety of our pets when we send them off to the pet groomer. 

He said his dog was badly injured. The 22News I-Team discovered that in Massachusetts, your pet groomer doesn’t need certification or any type of licensing, but there are renewed efforts to change that. 

Josh Fontanez never thought a routine trip to his pet groomer would leave him rushing his 5-year-old Maltese Brady to an emergency veterinary hospital.   

DON: You mentioned too that the kids saw him when he initially came home. That must have been pretty scary for them.  

JOSH:  They freaked out. My oldest, my 9-year-old is a super empath, even with people, dogs, anybody, kids. He felt really bad. He was crying that night.

His groomer, which 22News is not publicly identifying, described the incident as a minor accident. 

“I’m like oh my God what happened,” Fontanez said. “And they’re like, well we um went go and trim around his face and his stuck his tongue out and we nicked his tongue.”

PREVIEW: I-Team: Should animal groomers in Massachusetts require proof of training and licensing?

Fontanez contends it was more than the nick. He contacted 22News and provided the I-Team with a picture he took of Brady in the moments after a portion of his dog’s tongue was snipped off. He managed to stop the bleeding and rush little Brady to an emergency pet clinic, but treatment for this type of injury is limited. The vet sent Brady home with a cone on his head. 

Turns out, you don’t need a license or certification to become a pet groomer in Massachusetts.  Lawmakers here at the Statehouse have tried to pass legislation to change that.  In fact, the 22News I-Team learned that a former State House Representative from western Massachusetts pushed for regulatory controls over the pet grooming industry back in 2013. 

Cheryl Coakley-Rivera is a pet owner.  She rescues dogs, so her passion is personal. Right now, she serves as the Hampden County Register of Deeds.  But in her role as a State House Representative back in 2013, she authored House Bill 680. 

She cited a case of animal abuse in Wilbraham where a dog groomer killed a poodle in her care – and later confessed to the crime, as her motivation for the drafting the bill. 

“We just expect the groomer to hold themselves out as a groomer,” said Coakley-Rivera. “That they have a license, the state has monitored them for proper hygiene, proper tools, and a background check. Right? But that’s not the case.”

Coakley-Rivera’s bill included a list of more than 50 regulations that included licensing requirements, yearly inspections of grooming facilities, and restrictions of the use of cage or box dryers, where heaters are used to dry a dog’s coat while crated. 

She’s hoping current representation in Boston will once again take up the issue in the next session.  State Representative Carlos Gonzalez told the I-Team he plans to draft new legislation this December that builds on Coakley-Rivera’s bill. 

As for Josh Fontanez, he says little Brady is back to his energic self. And for now, he gets doggy baths at home. 

DON: Are you going to be going back to that pet groomer?  

JOSH: Umm… definitely not.  

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