ASHLAND Many think of pet groomers as catering to the elite, but their services are the first line of defense in caring for family dogs and cats.

Yet no certification or license is required.

Several groomers across the state want pet owners to know the facts.

Brittney Valle is president of Kentucky Professional Pet Groomers Association.

The Louisville woman said the group, formed May 15, has more than 50 members, including several in the Ashland area.

“I do believe, especially after (the COVID-19 pandemic) happened, there was a big disagreement in the grooming industry, questions about what is essential and nonessential,” Valle, of See-Spot Grooming in Louisville, said.

“Anybody can hang a shingle and call themselves a groomer.”

Diana Salyers of Precision Grooming in Westwood said she has been waiting for a groomers association and was happy to join.

She said she believes Gov. Andy Beshear shouldn’t have closed groomers during the pandemic because groomers could offer contactless dropoff and pickup. She hopes the association can educate people on the importance of groomers and their training.

“People go online and take a quick course and become a dog groomer in three or four days,” Salyers said. “That’s not fair to those of us who went to school for three months to be certified, followed by two years of working with another groomer to actually learn the full trade.”

There is a difference between being licensed and being certified.

Some professions require licensing; pet grooming does not.

In addition, pet grooming does not require certification, but multiple companies offer certification programs groomers may take voluntarily.

Valle said some groomers earn multiple certifications and seek to continue their education. But she said getting licensing requirements isn’t the group’s goal.

“We hope to shed light on what we do as groomers,” she said. “We’re not in the public eye that much and there’s not much that sets us apart from people who don’t continue their education.”

Valle said groomers encounter animals who have experienced neglect and even occasionally physical abuse. Groomers look for sores from lack of brushing, ear problems that interfere with circulation, strange growths or skin infections.

“Skin and nails are the most important thing we look at that are medical,” she said. “We send them right to the vet.”

Groomers suffer from caretaker burnout, she explained.

“We send pets to the vet a few times a week,” she said. “Of course, caretaking of humans has a much higher burnout rate, but we suffer from it, too.” Valle said animal grooming is often listed as one of the 10 most dangerous jobs. Groomers also are at risk of carpal tunnel and tendonitis, as well as injuries from the animals they care for.

Valle said in the last decade, the nature of groomers’ jobs has changed.

“We used to function as independent contractors, so we weren’t really on the IRS radar,” she said. “About 10 years ago, they started looking at us and we were required to be employees. For the first time ever, people I work with had access to health-care benefits. It was an industry that was booming, but we just were in the dark ages.”

She said predictions are that in the next 10 years, four times as many groomers will be needed to handle the work load, as the number of pets in homes is increasing and the number of people leaving the grooming profession is greater than the number entering.

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