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Desperate pet owners: "When can pet groomers reopen in WNY?"

Pet owners say the animals' long nails & hair are causing safety/health concerns
Posted at 11:45 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:01:39-04

MEDINA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Donna Bieliski in Medina tells 7 Eyewitness News that she is at wits' end because pet groomers are not considered essential business and remain closed.

As a result, her 2-year-old small dog 'Sassy' has become overgrown and matted with hair. "The matting creates hot spots and Sassy 'nips' at me when I try to comb it out," explained the senior citizen. "It is horrible, just horrible."

Bieliski is not the only one upset. Other pet owners and groomers have also raised the question to CH7 about why pet groomers are not considered essential business?

Under a reopening plan put forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office, businesses in New York State are to be reopened in phases. Pet owners are wondering which phase pet grooming falls under and if there is a timetable?

According to NYS, pet grooming is allowed for emergency situations and when medically necessary. It has not been determined what phase of reopening pet groomers will fall under, but in other states, pet groomers reopened as part of phase two. That can still be affected by region as different parts of NYS will reopen at different times due the number of Covid-19 cases.

NYS Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul's office sent the following response:

"Pet grooming is allowed in New York State for emergency situations and when medically necessary. Pet groomers have not yet been classified as part of a phase for reopening. That is being discussed and plans are being reviewed for how to mitigate risk and how they should be classified."

Michelle Zak owns "Super Pawz Pet Grooming" in West Seneca. She closed following the 'NY on Pause' order but was not happy. Zak felt pet grooming already used high-levels of disinfecting to prevent the spread of diseases and parasites among the animals. "I was doing just fine and they closed me down," said Zak.

In mid-April, Zak spoke with Reporter Ed Reilly about the problems she was having in collecting New York State unemployment benefits. "The fact that my husband is out of work, as well, is very tough on us."

Since then, things have changed for the small business owner.

While she never did get her unemployment benefits, Zak obtained a waiver that allowed her to reopen as a essential business with strict requirements:

  • Only she and her immediate family are allowed to do grooming.
  • Customers are not allowed into the building.
  • Payment is arranged over the phone.
  • Pets are taken to/from vehicles while Michelle and her family wear masks.
  • The business needs to perform extra disinfecting (including on leashes and collars).

Being reopened is bringing its own challenges as "Super Pawz Pet Grooming" is being overwhelmed with calls from pet owners for help. The situation has Zak wondering why more pet grooming businesses are not being allowed to reopen to help relieve the burden.

Zak said allowing a pet's nails to get so long that they curl, can cause problems for the animal's paws. Matted hair is not only painful for the animals, but it can be a hiding spot for fleas and ticks - especially as we come into the season for those insects. In addition, Zak said some older people, or those with medical conditions, cannot physically do the grooming themselves.