Several Ontario cities are asking the province to clarify rules around pet grooming services, saying current pandemic restrictions aren’t clear on whether businesses specializing in the services can operate.

Pet grooming businesses were ordered closed when a provincial lockdown took effect in late December, according to the Ministry of Health, but the services are allowed when required for the health and welfare of an animal. A vet may provide such services, the ministry said. 

Some cities said that has lead to confusion for businesses and pet owners. 

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton mayors and chairs said the provincial government needs to make the rules clear.

“In light of the inconsistent treatment that has arisen … a clear determination is requested so we can have clarity across the region and across the province,” the group said in a statement Monday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory had said last week that the city’s lawyers had been reaching out to the province on the issue. 

“I just wanted people to know that we are working on it,” he said. “We are having the lawyers talk to each other, trying to provide this kind of clarification that people have the right to have.”

In neighbouring Mississauga, Ont., Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the city will not issue fines or take other enforcement action against pet grooming businesses that operate using a curbside pickup system. 

“Right now, it’s not clear under provincial regulations whether dog walking and dog grooming are currently allowed in Ontario, with municipalities across the province interpreting the regulations differently,” Crombie said last week, calling on the province to amend the rules to clearly permit the services. 

Meanwhile, Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Iain Lovatt wrote a letter to Ontario’s chief medical officer of health expressing support for those who want pet grooming to be declared essential under current restrictions. 

“I have heard from many families requesting serious consideration be given to this request,” wrote Lovatt.

“I believe pet grooming can be done in a manner than follows public health guidelines with respect to distancing, mask-wearing, sanitation and ensuring the safety of the public and health of our pets.”

Lindsay Buccella, a dog groomer from Stouffville, Ont., said businesses like hers help keep pets healthy. 

Long dog nails, for example, can cause permanent skeletal damage if not trimmed and some pet owners may not be able to carry out that task themselves, she said.

While owners can bring their pets to vets for pressing grooming needs, some clinics may not take them because of limited capacity during lockdown, Buccella added.

“Vets are on COVID protocols and can only take so many dogs at one time and they’re overwhelmed with life-saving emergencies,” said Bucella, whose business is currently closed. 

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association said some vet clinics have longer wait times for appointments due to a backlog of cases from earlier in the pandemic and COVID-19 safety protocols.

Gerri Sefi, who owns two dogs, said one of her pets needs regular grooming that is difficult to do herself. 

“He’s very furry and hairy, and I can kind of chop bits around him, but I can’t really treat his ears properly,” said Sefi, adding that the fur on her dog’s backside also needs to be kept short, which she finds tough to do. 

“This is not about making an animal look pretty.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press

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