Insiders expose problems at Orlando-area pet boarding, grooming facilities

News 6 finds no regulation exists in Florida to oversee pet grooming

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – A Central Florida man says a recent trip to the groomer left his dog blind in one eye, and a News 6 investigation found that he's not the only one who has had such experiences at a groomer or boarding facility.

Marc Rooney says he took his 6-year-old Shih Tzu, named Dillon, to the grooming salon at the Petco in Titusville last November for what was supposed to be for a routine trim.  

But Rooney says while in the store, his wife heard Dillon yelp in pain. Rooney says when they rushed to the salon to see what happened, they found workers covering the dog's head with towels and they could see spots of blood.

"The vet flat-out told us that it looked like he was stabbed with a sharp object," Rooney said. "They suspected scissors, because we saw scissors were on the counter."

The Rooneys received a letter from Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. on behalf of PETCO Animal Supplies Inc. that stated, "On behalf of PETCO we would like to apologize for Dillon’s recent experience at the Titusville grooming salon." 

Rooney says PETCO paid the vet bill, but refused to pay for pain and suffering, calling it an accident and stating, "their investigation and the evidence presented do not definitely show that the eye injury and/or loss of sight were caused by the groom Dillon received at PETCO."

Pamela McCallum of Orlando contacted News 6 after her daughter's dog, Chloe, was also injured during a recent trip to the groomers. However, they used a small, locally owned salon.

"Her whole dew claw had been cut off," McCallum said. "They just put surgical glue on top of it."

McCallum said they were not told what happened until after they came to pick up the dog.

"Never let her know beforehand, never told her nothing," McCallum said.

Then McCallum and Rooney discovered the state of Florida does not regulate or oversee this side of the pet industry and that outraged them even more.

"They're not. Not at all, and it’s scary," McCallum said. "Anybody who has clippers and thinks they know what they're doing can open up a shop. It's terrifying! How do you know who you are dropping your dog off to?"

Rooney agreed.

“There should be training, there should be some sort of certification,” Rooney said. “I felt like a failure because I let him (Dillon) down.”

Recent news reports across the nation confirm investigations are underway at major pet retailers Petsmart and Petco after reports of abuse and even a few deaths surfaced nationwide the past two years.

So what really happens behind closed doors in the pet grooming and pet boarding industries? News 6 talked to both current and former workers to get you results. 

They expose what really happens - and tell you what you need to ask for before you drop off your precious pet.

"If I saw someone cut and glued, I probably wouldn't go there. That's pretty bad," said groomer Tammy Culberson, who owns and operates TLC Pet Salon in Apopka.

Culberson said she has been in the grooming business for the past 18 years, but started out in the hotel and hospitality industry. She is one of a dozen Florida groomers who is part of the National Dog Groomers Association of America Inc.

"I do it because I love the pets," Culberson said. "You're not going to get rich doing this, it's very hard work."

[WEB EXTRA: Find an NDGAA groomer near you]

Culberson said the groomers at her pet salon have all gone to school to be groomers. But she admits not everyone does, since there are very few schools in the state, and some have shut down. 

"I've heard of accidents happening. I don't think intentional," Culberson said. "I haven't heard of anything because of lack of experience. And no one intentionally hurts or cuts or cuts a nail too short – it’s just as traumatic for us as it is for the dog or the owner."

But Culberson reveals you do have to make sure you're not paying for more than you need for any particular service. 

Especially in the boarding world, which she spent some time in. 

"Tour the facilities," Culberson said. "If they don't want you to come in, there's a reason."

"We advertised that all of our kennel technicians are certified, and they're highly trained," said Olivia, who asked us to only use her first name.  

Olivia used to work for a popular pet boarding place in Orange County, but says she quit because she could not continue to lie to the customers.

"They need to know that they're not getting what they pay for at all," Olivia said. 

Olivia and other former employees reveal that sometimes boarding facilities will offer you choices on more expensive packages for more playtime and potty breaks. 

"You were always expected to up-sell. We'd advertise that our playtimes were from 45 minutes to an hour, but in reality they are about 10 to 20 minutes," Olivia said. "We'd advertise that they get three playtimes and five potty breaks -- they don't. They are the same as every other dog, they're going to get one or two playtimes and three potty breaks. So a lot of people were paying extra money for something they weren't receiving." 

"They should take them out enough that you don't have to pay for the extra," Culberson said. 

She recommends your animal gets its own kennel so fights don't happen.

"It's just too dangerous. I wouldn't want my dog around another dog," Culberson said. 

Both women admit that sometimes dogs can get sick at these facilities but not all places will tell you it’s happening.

"Boarding is a very tricky thing," Culberson said. "So I would definitely see the facility, read the reviews."

Culberson stresses that while accidents do happen, a groomer or boarder should never try to cover anything up.

She adds that you should look for a place that has high customer satisfaction and low turnover in staff.

Once you find a place you are comfortable with, stick with it. 

Moreover, if a place doesn't feel right? Don’t use it.

Culberson says pet owners also need to take some responsibility for their pet's health and hygiene routine. For optimal results, trim claws at least once a month.

Culberson recommends good teeth cleaning to avoid future health problems, and says you can often brush your pet's teeth at home.

And if your dog or cat is hard to handle, communicate that to the dog groomer or dog boarding facility - don't try to hide it.

Your groomer and boarder need to know these things to determine whether they can, or cannot care for your pet.

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